At Michigan Medicine, we strive every day to be a top performer in academic medicine. To remain an innovator in all aspects of our mission – patient care, education, and research – we must exercise every tool at our disposal. One of those tools – and one which is too often overlooked – is our diversity.
At one level, building a diverse work force in medicine is important because the needs of those we care for are much more complex than just their medical diagnosis. Decades of work has shown that health in its broadest sense – from disease prevention to hospitalization to return to health – is improved by incorporating social and societal context into the care we deliver. There is no substitute for a health care team who understands how a person’s environment, from their family life, food they eat, to where they work and live, intersects with health.
In addition, a vast body of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and demographers have demonstrated that diverse groups simply perform better than non-diverse groups.
In a 2015, McKinsey and Company released a report, Diversity Matters, that investigated the correlation between diversity and company performance. After collecting data from hundreds of large organizations and thousands of executives in the UK, Canada, Latin America, and the U.S., they found a strong correlation between increased gender diversity and increased revenues. Specifically, companies in the top quartile of gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to report financial returns above their respective industry average. Similarly, companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to outperform their peers. While diversity goes well beyond gender and race, this research clearly highlights what different perspectives bring to the table.
The “why” is as intriguing as these results. Another study in 2009 focused on team dynamics. When an outsider was added to a group of fairly homogenous team members to solve a problem, their ability to arrive at a correct solution rose from 29%-60%. The more diverse teams reported more difficulties in reaching their solution, but their outcomes were better. Clearly, confronting differing opinions and perspectives – while not always easy – yields greater results.
While our tendency may be to shy away from conflict or dissension, open dialogue is a critical component to generating more innovative ideas and better problem solving — things we must do to be a top performer. I encourage you to wander beyond your comfort zone. Welcome a different perspective, a challenging opinion, or an unorthodox approach. Entertaining new and different ideas will only make us better.
Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, University of Michigan Medical School
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs
CEO, Michigan Medicine