Lehigh University
Lehigh University

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Want Innovation? Diversify Thinking.

It’s well publicized that when creating innovation teams, managers should consider team members’ diversity of knowledge – marketing, accounting, etc. Yet, Corinne Post, assistant professor of management at Lehigh University, says managers also should consider a team’s diversity of thinking, or the different ways in which team members process information.

In a recent study, Post found how people think can impact, positively or negatively, the innovation of a team. Her study, “Deep-Level Team Composition and Innovation: The Mediating Roles of Psychological Safety and Cooperative Learning,” was published in Group and Organization Management.

“There is an assumption among managers that diversity of knowledge improves innovation, but that’s only a starting point,” she said. “You also must consider team members’ thinking styles.”

Post, who studies diversity management, performance and innovation, surveyed innovation teams – teams working on product, process and service innovation – at 83 large U.S. industries. With an unusually high response rate of 90 percent, she was able to measure how team members, along with others outside the teams, perceived the teams’ success.

She found that team members’ thinking styles indirectly influence team innovation by shaping teams’ interpersonal dynamics.  “Having more sequential, analytical thinkers on a team decreases team innovation by inhibiting psychological safety, while holistic, connective thinkers improve team innovation by facilitating cooperative learning among members,” Post said.

“The findings from this study are especially noteworthy because they show that the relationship between team members’ cognitive styles and team innovation is independent from the relationship between knowledge variety and innovation,” she said. "Therefore, it is important for managers forming innovation teams to consider not only the functional knowledge, but also the thinking styles that individuals bring to the team.”

Story by Sally Gilotti

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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