Posted: 19 Oct. 2021 3 min. read

The power of opposites

If given the option, would you choose to work with someone who is similar to you and shares similar views, or someone with a unique perspective?

Research suggests that better decisions are made by diverse groups than homogeneous ones, but that the group will be less confident in those decisions¹. Why might this be? Perhaps it’s because making decisions with people who are similar to us feels easy; if everyone is on the same page from the beginning it must be the right page, surely? As for confidence, what individuals feel gets multiplied in homogeneous groups.

Instead, making a decision with people who have different perspectives can feel like a challenge. As people voice divergent perspectives disagreements are likely. At the end of the day, if a decision is to be reached, compromises will need to be made. So although the decision may be better – for being the most vigorously debated and considered - it doesn't always feel better.

Teams need to question whether they would prefer to make an inferior decision that they feel really good about, or a superior one that they’re not fully onboard with. Although most people would say they want the superior decision, actions don't always support this. A classic study on devil's advocacy has shown that despite the improved performance teams gain from the presence of a devil's advocate, when given the option to lose a team member, he or she is the person they're most likely to oust².

Further, there's working with someone different from you, and then there's working with someone who’s opposite to you. By definition, the more of a Driver you are, the less of an Integrator (and vice-versa). Likewise, the more of a Pioneer you are, the less of a Guardian (and vice-versa again). Working with your Business Chemistry ‘opposite type’ can be most challenging of all partnerships, but it also offers the greatest opportunity for providing complementary value. 

Many teams that we work with realise that diversity can make them stronger, but when times get tough we all need a bit of a reminder why it's worth the effort. During these times we like to get people thinking about the unique value that their opposite type brings. Openly recognising the value that our opposite type brings helps build goodwill among colleagues who may struggle working together. We asked the Business Chemistry types to brainstorm the value brought by their opposites and here are some of the highlights:

We Drivers love Integrators because they…

  • bring a collaborative spirit to the team
  • keep an eye on team morale
  • encourage us to by inclusive and consider diverse views.

We Integrators love Drivers because they…

  • keep us moving forward and making progress
  • are not afraid to challenge us
  • encourage competition in a way that develops us.

We Guardians love Pioneers because they…

  • bring energy and passion to each interaction
  • are optimistic and encourage us to take risks
  • are full of new and interesting ideas.

We Pioneers love Guardians because they…

  • help us keep track of the details
  • serve as a reality-check
  • keep us out of trouble.

Does your team need a little extra incentive to embrace working across types? We can get so easily fixated on the challenges we experience when working someone different to us so let’s take a moment to focus on the positives, and how we can benefit from these partnerships.  Why not carry out this exercise during your next team check-in and feel the love?
 

Endnotes

1Phillips, K.W., Liljenquist, K.A. and Neale, M.A. (2009). Is the pain worth the gain? The advantages and liabilities of agreeing with socially distinct newcomers. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 336-350.
2Boulding, E. (1964). Further reflections on conflict management. In R. L. Kahn & E. Boulding (Eds.) Power and Conflict in Organizations. New York: Basic Books.

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Key contact

Jessica Dooley

Jessica Dooley

Senior Manager

Jessica founded and leads Deloitte’s Business Chemistry client practice for the UK and North South Europe member firms. A business behavioural tool designed to help teams communicate and collaborate better for greater success, Business Chemistry is a proprietary self-assessment tool used to support boards, executive, and senior leadership teams across the FTSE, private, and public sectors. She helps teams understand each other’s working styles; hold honest conversations; be better leaders of diverse teams; build plans for enhanced collaboration; team deliberately for a common purpose; and build trust quickly to achieve strategic and organisational goals. The book ‘Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Relationships – a guide to putting cognitive diversity to work’ was released in the US and UK in May 2018.