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Why every office needs a Dwight Schrute

From Monday's Globe and Mail

When teams have a member who's different than the rest, they make better decisions, new research shows ...Read the full article

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  1. Shiyam Pillai from Mississauga, Canada writes: Hilarious. Dwight Shrute lends to office progress.
  2. Baad Daddy from Still Cold Here, Canada writes: And what if one is Dwight Shrute? Any advice?
  3. Stan W from Winnipeg, Canada writes: The 'distinct background' the study used was not a person with a 'different background' in the common sense of the phrase in Canada, in particular not in the type of 'diversity' Canadian legislation mandates.

    The distinct background in the study was an outsider, not a person of a different gender, sexual preference or ethnic group, but merely someone from a different fraternity or sorority.

    That translates in the corporate, government service and academic workplaces to a 'new hire', 'a transfer' from another branch, etc.

    That is the key thing we miss in Canadian workplaces.

    We go for so-called 'diversity', but what we too often get is people of different genders and races, with one personality type.

    There has been no recognition in Canadian HR circles that, when it comes to functional diversity, personality types do run across races and genders, and a very very multi-cultural office can be as vanilla as typical office.

    Likewise at executive levels in companies, you tend to get people of different genders and races -- but overwhelmingly with the same upper class or upper middle class backgrounds, self-serving ethics and morals, and senses of entitlement.
  4. Stan W from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Baad Daddy asks: 'And what if one is Dwight Shrute? Any advice?'

    I've had a long and varied career in information technology as a contract worker, new hire, and new team member. This is the advise I would give you as a new person on a team.

    You'll help your team and the company more by being unafraid to bring up new approaches to problems and asking new questions.

    But you'll be making them do more work. You'll be asking them to think and make an effort, rather than simply doing what they've always done. Some of your team mates won't like that. And your manager may not like it either.

    All the general guidelines for getting along in groups is even more important when you are an outsider. Remember to focus your arguments on your points, and avoid personal attacks. Criticize in private, compliment in public.

    Be a diplomatic outsider, but make your points. Being too deferential or too diplomatic may make you look good in the short term, it may be more comfortable, but a smart manager will see you are not really contributing.
  5. Laura B from Toronto, Canada writes: Stan W, you make a good point. Too often companies treat 'diversity' like a balance sheet of ethnicity and gender, giving no thought to personality type.

    I question the 'Schrute effect' mentioned in the article though. I once worked with a guy that was astoundingly like Dwight Schrute. I had to laugh at him sometimes but he was a total knob.
  6. Stan W from Winnipeg, Canada writes: Dwight Schroot is not an outsider on 'The Office'. Dwight was with Dunder-Mifflen's Scranton Branch at the start of the series.

    The outsiders are the people who came later.

    Dwight Schroot is just a weird in-group member. He is weird and anti-social, but his weirdness is tolerated because he is an established member of the group.
  7. Sask Resident from Regina, Canada writes: Government agencies especially try to limit the chances to hire Dwight Shrutes or people with outside ideas. Senior bureaucrats spend a huge amount of time trying to protect their positions and outsiders could challenge them. One way is to ensure most new hires are people already within the government and trained to think within a narrow range. The US government service is less constraining since the very top echelon changes each change in administration and the large number of National Guard and ex-servicemen.
  8. Mikey Gault from Super Artist, Canada writes: The premise of this article is true. In my teams, I often include card carrying NDP members because its interesting to hear how all my company's problems are because of Israel.
  9. Jeff Michaels from Toronto, Canada writes: Is are children learning?!
  10. Roger Cooper from Canada writes: Everyone on 'the team' is 'socially distinct,' which is a good thing, since otherwise our workplaces would closely resemble a Borg hive.
  11. Steve French from Windsor, Ont, Canada writes: Bulloney. They reward camp-followers and yes men.
    Alternative viewpoints are culled from the 'team'.
    What fantasyland business camp is this written from?
  12. Kevin Desmoulin from TO, Canada writes: If you think about boards and committees and organizations in general, they are very insular with the focus on fitting in and say the right things, go along with the pack.

    Their is really no balance, bc the people in charge usually look for people that will support what they believe to be right or true.
    Now they are people who realize that this is wrong and does not serve the interest of the people or organization they represent and some change, actual change is coming.

    Some boards I know are horrible, People sitting in position for years, no new blood, no one giving anyone else a chance or an opportunity to show what they got and the worse thing about it, they in charge.
  13. Sue W from Canada writes: Sask Resident from Regina, Canada writes: Government agencies especially try to limit the chances to hire Dwight Shrutes or people with outside ideas....

    Another reason why unions are detrimental to progressive workplaces. It's a closed shop, with little turnover, with a lack of infusion of fresh ideas, new ways of doing things. It's a group-think environment led by leaders who have done virtually the same job for 20-30 years, conditioned to rely on their binders of policies and procedures and can't see the forest for the trees.
  14. christian charette from Canada writes: "He sits down at the table and it's awkward."

    That's what she said.
  15. Unabashed Opinion from Toronto, Canada writes: Interesting result, One aspect of my own research looks at heterogeneous and homogeneous decision-making groups at senior levels in organizations. One of my CEOs says that s/he (sorry, can't identify the gender of this CEO because of confidentiality) brings in diverse voices from various levels and places in the company when s/he realized that all that was being heard were the same five to seven opinions. The opinions weren't necessarily bad, but it became predictable, and didn't enable new ideas and innovation. By changing up the group of five to seven whose advice s/he sought, and introducing people from various levels, tenures, and nominal responsibilities, different questions tended to be asked, and different perspectives were introduced that would not have been otherwise.

    Although the methodology of this experiment is somewhat artificial and cannot replicate the complex dynamics of a real office environment, I buy the conclusion - diversity in thought and experience is vitally important for business success.
  16. Peter North from van, Canada writes: results are highly task depencdent. there is also an efficiency factor. does the extra speed and cost of having an outsider in the decision-making process outweigh the decision's other effects?
  17. rm Nickel from ex ott, Canada writes: Iconoclasts of the world unite - you have nothing to lose except boredom. Regretfully Mr French is probably more correct - iconoclasts must be culled because they won't embrace received cant. They rudely ask why? My large bureaucracy dumped the ole boy network and replaced it with the ole girl network and as in Orwell's ANIMAL FARM; in the end there was no difference. Executives hire in their own mode and hence real change does not occur.
  18. BC Philosopher from Canada writes: Unfortunately outside opinions and diversity are usually smothered. Most people with new or different ways of thinking are pressured to join group think and over time they eventually do.

    For myself I'm still trying my best to introduce new/different thoughts in my work place and challenge assumptions, but its something that I have to do with very careful steps.

    My supervisor generally dislikes anything that involves new work or challenges existing conceptions, and considers any outside opinion either excuse making or irrelevant, so it is an uphill battle. Good management in the end makes all the difference.
  19. Peter North from van, Canada writes: Unabashed Opinion wrote: "Although the methodology of this experiment is somewhat artificial... "

    more weak arguments, jargon, and BS that could only come from a consultant. what bollocks.
  20. Nick Wright from Halifax, Canada writes: The intro says "different than the rest"? I think it should be "different from the rest"; "different" is not a comparative word, like "bigger" (than). One from the grammar department . . . ;-)
  21. Zoe Morrow from Canada writes: Who's Dwight Shrute???
  22. Elizabeth Huggins from Toronto, Canada writes: Bravo for putting the spotlight on group diversity to benefit broader decision making and problem solving capacity.

    That said, the use of the word diversity in the article, specifically, "different backgrounds", ethnicity, gender and personality is a limiting definition I believe.

    Diversity of thinking style - the fundamental strategy of one's thinking - ought to be included in the definition of diversity. Thinking style has been diagnosed, studied and proven effective in group diversity and change management since 1960 at the Occupational Research Centre in the UK by Dr. Michael Kirton. (Note: Commentor is a registered, advanced user of Dr. Kirton's KAI Inventory and Theory).

    Dr. Kirton's work, further details the "coping behaviour" required by all when newcomers with "thinking styles" radically different than the group are introduced without proper training and skills.

    Managing change by introducing diversity and especially thinking style diversity can be most productive when all are trained appropriately to understand the new thinking and have the means - the strategic criteria and process - for improving the idea or solution, accepting it or rejecting it without negatively affecting group dynamics.

    Having worked in the area of thinking style diagnostics in the context of diversity and change for many years I have witnessed awe inspiring improvements in group productivity and innovation. And to be able to do this work purely on the basis of thinking style without clouding the agenda with gender, ethnicity and "backgrounds" is refreshing.

    Here's to making sure the word "diversity" broadens beyond its current stigma of gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.
  23. Jeff Michaels from Toronto, Canada writes: What's a battle?!
  24. Winston Churchill from London, Canada writes: You know, I've never found this entirely to be true. Members of the group or people coming in who are different are either: a) honestly different (they are from some other country, are Anglophones in a Francophone milieu etc); b) really weird, or below the curve; c) haven't found their level yet and should (and will) be promoted.

    That last is the oddest sort of difference -- when you realise yourself that you yourself, or when you have a subordinate who, looks more like your boss's boss than any co-worker at the same level.
  25. Eric Jackson from United States writes: Everyone on this site seems to agree with the article, I thought I would disagree to enhance the discussion.

    I mean seriously is this not the biggest bunch of BS you have ever read?

    Diversity is crap, people do not like those different from themselves, when you mandate diversity in the workplace or elsewhere people pick people of different races and colors who still think and act like them.

    You always see college profs wanting to hear the views of liberal gays, liberal African-Americans, liberal union workers, liberal politicians, liberal artists, etc., when do they ask for a Conservatives perspective? Exactly, they don't want people who are different, they want people who are the same but look different so they can pretend they are "more open" then they really are.

    Also if this argument were true that those who are different enhance a group then it counters calls for Public education. It this were true, we should switch from public mind robbing schools to diverse private schools.

    My experience is groups are not as open as suggested. When working in software startups, it is a bunch of innovative, rude, cursing, womanizing male programmers that develop cool stuff fast, the second a woman is hired for HR or whatnot, the office gets stuffy, you cannot talk freely about how you boned your wife or gf last night and as more stiffs are hired it gets worse, the company switches to keep the product unchanged from innovation. This article is BS.
  26. James Harton from Auckland, New Zealand writes: Interesting article, however it would be nice if you actually proofed it before publishing it. You undo the good work of interesting content by having poor grammar and spelling.
  27. Theo Zivo from Canada writes: Eric Jackson from United States writes: ...You always see college profs wanting to hear the views of liberal gays, liberal African-Americans, liberal union workers, liberal politicians, liberal artists, etc., when do they ask for a Conservatives perspective?
    I guess it depends where you went to school, Eric, and what your courses were. In my own personal experience at two different universities here in Canada, there was never any issue of hearing from conservatively-principled perspectives. They were usually the loudest and most insistent of the group, and (depending on the course and professor) would often shout down those who had different opinions.

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