Diversity Composition and Team Learning: The Moderating Role of Error Culture

Research paper by Joyce Rupert, Astrid C. Homan, Karen A. Jehn, Robert Jan Blomme

Indexed on: 07 Mar '20Published on: 19 Jun '19Published in: Group Decision and Negotiation


Although there are many potential benefits to diverse teams, the way in which diversity characteristics are aligned in teams may influence whether teams exploit this potential. In this experimental study, we examined the relationship between diversity composition and the process and outcome of team learning by comparing faultline teams (in which diversity characteristics are aligned) with teams in which diversity characteristics cross-categorize each other. We investigated whether this relationship would be influenced by the teams’ beliefs regarding error handling (i.e., error culture). We assigned 268 participants to 67 four-person groups with faultline or cross-categorized compositions. We hypothesized and found that the relationship between diversity composition and team learning was moderated by error culture, only in faultline teams, not in cross-categorized teams. An error management culture (i.e., a culture in which members value the open discussion of errors) was found to promote inclusive communication and the team learning process in faultline teams. In contrast, an error prevention culture (i.e., a culture in which members believe that errors are harmful and must be prevented) decreased inclusive communication and the processes of team learning in faultline teams. Contrary to our expectations, we found a reversed effect for the outcome of team learning. In line with our prediction, cross-categorized teams were unaffected by error culture.