How to Create Unity on a Diverse Team
We're gonna talk about maybe one of the most important questions that comes up after we get into all this stuff that we've talked about. We need cognitive diversity, we need friction, we need open-mindedness. Basically we're making the case for why great teams are built of people who are very different than each other, but then how do we make that sure we're unified, right? The team can't be chaos, right, and that's a very easy thing to have happen inside of a team that has all of this potential energy. Harkening back to the very first thing that I talked about, we have all of this potential but all these problems in the world with destroying each other and potentially destroying each other because of the very same thing which is our differences. So how do you create unity on a diverse team? I'm gonna start with the story of some little rascals. There's a study that was done in the 1950s called the Robbers Cave study. And basically what they did was they took a bunch of scouts, a bunch...
of 12 year olds, and they put 'em in this camp, but there were two groups, and they didn't let the two groups know about each other. The first group, they decided their name was the Eagles. They sort of dubbed themselves this name, and they were having scout camp for a little while. The other group, they called themselves the Rattlers. Same thing, the other side of the valley, they were doing their scout camp thing. Now the camp counselors set this up as sort of this devious experiment where they wanted to see exactly how these kids would get along. This is designed by one of the fathers of social psychology, trying to understand how people interact and what causes them to do different things. So they're experimenting on these unsuspecting 12 year olds. The Rattlers and the Eagles, they're doing their camp scout thing, and eventually the counselors start to make them aware of each other. And the very first thing that they do when they become aware of the other group is they decide the other group is not good. That same in group, out group thing we've been talking about. The Eagles called the Rattlers, Stinkers. The Rattlers called the Eagles, Communists. Great insults back then. And they started having little tiffs. They started sabotaging each other's tents, they would throw food at each other, they would yell things at each other, they would try and hog the baseball field, all that. Kids are mean. But it sort of devolved into this us versus them thing, which, you know, happens to humans when we have our different groups and we see our identity as part of a very specific group. Well at a certain point, the counselors decided to sabotage the water supply and everyone, the Eagles and the Rattlers, depend on the same water supply. So the counselors say, hey kids, something happened with the water, we have none, we're all gonna die, unless you help us find the source of the problem. And so the source of the problem was they just shut off the water at the top of the mountain where the water pipe led to. They knew that the kids would eventually discover this. So the Eagles went one way and the Rattlers went the other way, and they went, they explored, they tried to find the problem with the water supply and they all ended up at the top of the mountain where the problem was, and then they told the counselors, we found the problem, they fix it together, but then they went down the hill in their separate groups. But this is the first little thing that was starting to get at the counselors were trying to help them understand that they were all actually kind of a part of the same group. So they sabotage the water supply, the second thing they did was they ask the boys for money. They said we have this movie that we think you're gonna like a lot, it's called Treasure Island. Great movie, you're gonna love it. But we don't have enough money to rent it from the movie store, so we need you scouts to pitch in whatever change you have, and the groups were not the same size, I think there were nine in one and 11 in the other, but they decided, the boys negotiated, they said, you know what, each group will pay the same amount, even though it's not the same amount per boy, we'll do that because we want Treasure Island more than anything. So they rummaged up a few bucks and they bought Treasure Island and they all watched it. They sat on different sides of the room because they hated each other, but they still watched it. Third thing that the counselors did is they sabotaged the truck that had all the food in it. So the truck was supposed to bring the food to the mess hall or whatever it was, and they pretended like it didn't work. It's stuck and he's trying to start it and it won't start and the boys realize that one of them had a rope and if they all pulled hard on the rope, then maybe they could drag the truck forward and actually the counselors said if the truck can move far enough, that will jump start it, the wheels need to spin. This was all faked. So the camp counselor's sitting in there while the boys are pulling the rope with the truck with the rope, and he starts the engine, everyone cheers, and they say, we won the tug-of-war against the truck. And this was the first time that the boys started using the word we in this scenario. So they do more and more of this and the moral of the story is by the end of this camp adventure, the camp counselors had tricked these boys not only into first separating themselves and wanting to kill each other, but then into combining and seeing themselves as part of a bigger group. And on the way home, on the bus, they all sat together, they sang songs together, and they started realizing actually after a certain point in this experiment that they could be useful to each other even though some were Communists and some were Stinkers. So the thing that came out of this study is something called superordinate goals which is the idea that if you have a list of goals, every human being has kind of a list of priorities, goals that you have in your life, and you could rank order those goals that every individual has. So maybe goal number one is not to die. Maybe goal number one is actually for your family not to die, but all those goals go all the way down to, I need a drink of tea. I would rather not die more than I'd rather have a drink of tea, but everyone kind of has that running list of goals in their head. Now your superordinate goal is the goal that's at the top of whatever list of options you have at the moment. So when this group of boys had a superordinate goal between them, having the food in the truck was more important to them than throwing rocks at the Rattlers and watching Treasure Island was more important than paying an equal amount per capita, they'd rather have the movie than they'd rather have the extra five cents. So superordinate goals is something that they, they used studies like this in the early days of social psychology to basically get at the idea of Independence Day, which is that when the aliens come to destroy the earth, we forget about the borders between our countries and we forget about the slights that we had with each other, no matter how big, we put those aside because we'd rather save planet earth. Now every team that is working on something doesn't necessarily have a superordinate goal that is as big as saving the planet, but as we see in the Robbers Cave study, there are superordinate goals that in a moment in time can supersede our other goals. The other thing that they did that was interesting in this experiment, they discovered that the boys started to do what's called mutual differentiation. The longer that they had to work together on these superordinate goals, they realized, if we're gonna get the truck started and the food, which we want most of all, then we need to figure out who among us has the best things to contribute and rather than hating them for being different, appreciating that they have that different thing to bring. So the boy who had the rope, both sides, the Eagles and the Rattlers, appreciated him. This manifested in a whole bunch of other, they did all sorts of experiments on these kids, but there was one boy who was particularly good at cutting meat, which they all liked because they wanted to have a barbecue. They realized that the different groups knew different camp songs. They did this on purpose, the counselors taught them different camp songs. When they learned that each other had different camp songs, that that could be fun for each other if they taught each other, then they traded songs and they saw mutual differentiation as an advantage. So basically the sum up of this little devious experiment on these kids is that if you put groups of people in the right scenario, you have the right interactions, then we can find things that we not only have in common, but we can use that common goal as an excuse to appreciate their differences rather than try to avoid them or get rid of people who are different. So often in our work or in our life, really in society, again, harping on Congress, the goal becomes getting rid of the other side rather than finding something the other side can contribute to our culture or to our thing that we're working on and leveraging that. Now I would guess that 12 year old scouts probably have enough in common and are not as jerks as much as a lot of adults, that they can do this a little bit easier than people arguing about really intense political issues, but inside of our companies, the same things can apply, inside of our teams.