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Redundant Heterogeneity and Group Performance, Organization Science


Although diversity provides teams with a variety of advantages, the diversity-performance connection is not always positive. This paper identifies three performance issues that naturally result from diversity and suggests a potential solution for them. First, the positive effects associated with diversity often decay over time, due in part to the fact that heterogeneous people may homogenize with repeated exposure. Second, diverse groups are fragile and experience higher turnover than non-diverse groups. Recruiting similar (redundant) pairs within a heterogeneous group can solve these two problems, but also gives rise to a third: faultline fragmentation. We propose a different, structural solution: Redundant Heterogeneity (RH), in which team members are not only heterogeneous within a hierarchical level of a group or organization, but their diversity is matched by similar, critical team member characteristics at other hierarchical levels. Thus, we suggest that organizations and teams can take maximal advantage of diversity when each of their hierarchical subgroups are similarly diverse, on the same critical dimensions. Analyses of 23 years of panel data from the National Basketball Association (NBA) provided a first test of the effectiveness of this solution. We focused on professional players' experience with a particular style of play in their college careers as the critical dimension of diversity within these teams. Our findings indicate that RH led to better performance, for three reasons. First, the positive effect of heterogeneity among teams' core players on team performance decays more slowly for teams with RH; second, teams with RH are less negatively affected by turnover among core players; and, third, teams with RH exhibited more coordination and cooperation. The discussion section suggests how and why other types of teams and organizations can benefit from redundant heterogeneity.




Edward (Ned) Smith, Yuan Hou

Date Published



Smith, Edward (Ned), and Yuan Hou. 2015. Redundant Heterogeneity and Group Performance. Organization Science. 26(1): 37-51.


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