Forget culture fit. Your team needs culture add

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Let’s imagine that, in another life, you want to start an indie-pop band.

Not just any old indie-pop band. Your band is gonna be called Death Cab for Cuba, and your sound is gonna be totally fresh. Like no one’s ever heard before.


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But say you decide, for the sake of unity, that every member of the band has to play a keyboard. And they all need to have grown up listening to the exact same music as you. And you’re all going to be wearing matching uniforms. Just for good measure.

Is there any conceivable way this band is going to achieve that fresh, new sound you want? Of course not!

And yet in business circles, the conventional wisdom on teamwork is basically that absurd. We bust our assets trying to recruit people identical to those already on our teams. Six like-minded bros make a great frat. But what about making progress?

We worry that different personalities and perspectives and ways of approaching things will create conflict, so much that even when we do staff up with different kinds of people, we have a tendency to fear the friction that results. But that friction turns out to be the very thing that helps groups of disparate people become more than the sum of their parts!

This is where the whole corporate diversity management thing so often falls down. I once had dinner with an incredible woman who oversees diversity hiring at one of the world’s biggest banks. She told me, shaking her head, how painful it was to see the company hire all these great college kids—all sorts of backgrounds; all sorts of ideas brimming in their heads—only to watch them gradually remolded to “fit” the culture of the organization.

They came with unique insights and voices. She heard those voices fade unless it was to echo the company’s “accepted” way of thinking.

Why bother recruiting an amazing, diverse pool of players for your band if you’re going to force them all to play the same chords?

Nah. To make a new sound you don’t need more carbon copy guitarists. You need a violinist. And a DJ. This is how we create the future.

Shane Snow is an entrepreneur and author of three books. Get more posts like this in his Snow Report newsletter.

This article first appeared on Linkedin