There is a strong movement towards greater team diversification when it comes to solving complex tasks and challenges as we live the digital revolution. We call this archetypal diversity within a team the “Background Pool”, the reserve of socio-cultural backgrounds that can guarantee the solidity of the most challenging solutions. However, raising a team's Background Pool could only sound like a poetic speech made by the greatest prophets of progressivism, is now in fact increasingly revealing a pragmatic, scientific and concrete conception when it comes to find solutions.
In an article published by BBC in 2019, journalist Matthew Syed initiates a debate on how the CIA could have had a better chance of anticipating the 9/11 attacks, due to the constant concrete and direct threats that Al Qaeda was making against USA .
The general idea of the article is that homophily - the common phenomenon in recruitment processes where people tend to hire professionals who think (and generally look like) themselves - has created an immense barrier in the view of those involved, causing them not see what (now obvious) was in front of them.
The profile of the vast majority of members hitherto recruited by the CIA followed basically the same checklist: men, white, Anglo-Saxon, American, of Protestant religion.
The team that was generated was certainly very united and comfortable with the hierarchy and decisions in general: background reservation, or, as we call it, Background Pool, is a parameter for assessing socio-cultural diversity existing within a place or organization.
Still according to Mattew, “it is validating to be surrounded by individuals who share the same perspectives and beliefs. In fact, CT scans suggest that when other people reflect our own thoughts, it stimulates the brain's pleasure centers. ”
However, in the reverse pole, the weight is blindfolded.
This archetype of people recruited by the CIA, for its collective socio-cultural background, could never understand how an apparently ragged man, bearded to the chest, lowered by a firepit inside a cave on the edge of Afghanistan, could pose a real threat to America.
As almost every Muslim knows, Muhammad sought refuge in a cave after escaping his persecutors in Mecca. For a Muslim, a cave is sacred. Islamic art is full of images of stalactites. Among all the rest of the symbology. Bin Laden was no ordinary wanderer, he was a strategist, and his strategy was an absolute blind spot for the homogeneous CIA team.
In other words: you only notice the problems of public transport when you can no longer drive your car. A team made up only of car drivers will hardly be able to produce good results for a public transport problem, even though it uses several sources and focus groups for research.
it is necessary to be said that this also does not mean that every organization must comply with quotas for any and all types of socio-cultural background in its team, the Background Pool is not a marketeers checklist for some advertising dazzle, which would also be as “plastic” and phony as impossible. What we stand for here is just that you should do your utmost to avoid the opposite: build a homogeneous team.
Once again, after the digital revolution, we started to live in a non-linear, connected, multidisciplinary and unpredictable society and this makes mandatory the existence of increasingly heterogeneous teams for the effective development of any task.
The graph developed by the renowned Korn/Ferry demonstrates well how the two possibilities perform: more homogeneous teams and more heterogeneous teams (teams with a bigger ou smaller Background Pool).
There is a tendency for a faster start in teams with a lower reserve of antecedents, but incomparable to the chance of more solid results from a team with a greater reserve of antecedents.
In business universe, for example, in addition to having the potential to generate new ideas IN FACT, teams with a larger Background Pool in more advanced stages can produce, in a more direct way, products much better oriented to the broad consumer market. Of course, we should not confuse research with specific focus groups, which implies the exact opposite of the researched, but not the researcher. Nor can we forget that the market itself is increasingly heterogeneous.
Furthermore, it is worth remembering that although we are dealing with this issue now, after centuries of segregated linearity, this is not, in fact, a novelty: apparently, a large Background Pool sucess originated in a large Gen Pool sucess, still in the pre-history: according to anthropologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes, in her in his recently published book "Kindred. Neanderthal life, love, death and art", new hypotheses shows that the end of this human species reveals that its disappearance is related to the greater interconnection of the Sapiens group while Neanderthals would be more isolationist.
Nowadays big companies like Microsoft or Nestlé are the ones that invest the most in a bigger Background Pool. As they are “pull-queue” companies, this attitude can already be considered a trend. According to a study published by McKinsey called “Diversity Matters”, there are four major advantages of having a reasonably diverse company: greater potential for innovation, products more oriented to the consumer market, advantage in the search for talent and greater employee satisfaction.
We take the liberty of including one more: it helps to prevent the team from getting confusing themself with the public. It is common for the individual to think of himself as a user when proposing a solution, even if unconsciously, all that one person can count on in life is with his experiences. In a homogeneous team the tendency is for a pattern to be installed more vehemently. Although individuals on a team with a larger Background Pool are also subject to the same individual vices, it is impossible for them to replicate collectively.
It is worth mentioning the speech by Priscylla Laham, Vice President of sales at Microsoft, who in its simplicity is extremely sophisticated and summarizes this article well: “if we do not have something internally that approaches the diversity of the Brazilian market, it would be difficult to create solutions that serves the Brazilian market ”.
As simple, precise and direct as it sounds.