Can Lack of Diversity Lead to Groupthink?

The following is a guest post from Leadership Consultant Marcus Baum.

I remember meeting with a Commander in the fall who explained to me that “we have a really diverse group of guys in the chapter.”

I looked at him with amazement and asked, “Really?”

His response was, “Well, for a group of white, middle (to upper)-class guys, we are pretty diverse.”

This so-called “diversity” was not present. Open minds and sound chapter operations also ceased to exist.  It would be inaccurate to state that this correlation is directly linked to a lack of racial diversity within the chapter, but it did get me thinking about the benefits that could exist with diversity amongst chapter members.

“Diversity” appears to be the buzzword floating around the offices of higher education professionals all around the country, and rightfully so. Most students hear the term “diversity,” have one definition in mind, but may not realize why having a racially diverse chapter can be towards their benefit.

In the study, “Theoretical Foundations for the Effect of Diversity,” published in the Harvard Educational Review, the authors identify the key benefits of diversity in a variety of higher education entities.  Here are some of the key points relating to learning outcomes and how they relate to student organizations:

Racial and ethnic diversity may promote a broad range of educational outcomes, but we focus on two general categories. Learning outcomes include active thinking skills, intellectual engagement and motivation, and a variety of academic skills. Democracy outcomes include perspective-taking, citizenship engagement, racial and cultural understanding, and judgment of the compatibility among different groups in a democracy.

Oftentimes people become focused on their immediate surroundings, failing to acknowledge the greater world around them.  This limited view will translate poorly when individuals enter the workforce, particularly an extremely diversified workforce.

The impact of diversity on learning and democracy outcomes is believed to be especially important during the college years because students are at a critical developmental stage, which takes place in institutions explicitly constituted to promote late adolescent development.

College serves as a vehicle for development amongst students.  Organizations, and students alike, limit their developmental potential by excluding others and limiting their exposure to different views.

Based on the article “Unlocking the Benefits of Diversity,” found in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science…

The authors posit that AIM (all-inclusive multiculturalism model) serves as a catalyst for positive and effective organizational change through the development of social capital and positive relationships at work and enables organizational members to grow to their fullest potential.

Many fraternal organizations suffer from accepting the status quo.  By creating an environment that values opposing and challenging views, chapters allow themselves to become open to positive, and much needed, organizational change.  Although there are probably diverse chapters that face similar struggles to the chapter I described earlier, the studies illustrate that they may have created an environment with an inherent predisposition to accept changes and improve their organization.

At the end of the day, chapters must find the best members for their organization, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing or any other arbitrary requirement for membership.  However, by creating an organization that has a racial composition disproportionate to that of the host institution, we naturally limit the ability of its members to grow to their fullest potential and become the individuals they truly are. And in reality, the mission of our fraternity is to foster the personal growth of each man’s mind, heart and character. Diversity, racial and otherwise, needs to be present for this to happen.

To learn more, visit http://www.sigmanu.org/programs/lead/allchapter.php to review the diversity LEAD session.

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