The key question in diversity research is how differences between group members affect work group process and performance. Over 50 years of research have made clear that diversity can have positive as well as negative effects on performance, but research and practice are still struggling to formulate models that are able to make sense of these diverging effects and that offer clear guidance in how to manage diversity. The Categorization-Elaboration Model (CEM) addresses this issue. The CEM proposes that the effects of work group diversity on group performance should be understood in terms of two processes that have independent and interactive effects: elaboration of task-relevant information and social categorization. Diversity may have positive effects on performance to the extent that it engenders the exchange and integration of task-relevant information (elaboration). At the same time, diversity may be detrimental to performance to the extent that it engenders “us-them” distinctions (social categorization) and intergroup biases – especially because these intergroup biases disrupt information elaboration processes. The CEM also identifies the factors on which the occurrence of elaboration and social categorization processes is contingent, factors that may offer clear angles for the management of diversity.
Daan van Knippenberg is Professor of Organizational Behavior at RSM Erasmus University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. His research interests include work group performance, especially work group diversity and group decision making, leadership, in particular the roles of self and identity, and of emotions, and social identity processes in organizations. In his inaugural address he argues that the effects of work group diversity on group performance should be understood in terms of two processes that have independent and interactive effects: elaboration of task-relevant information and social categorization. He outlines how an integrative model of these processes may explain inconsistent findings in diversity research and provide clear directions for the management of diverse groups. In this respect, he advocates in particular attention for group members’ understanding of work group diversity. Daan van Knippenberg is co-founder of the Erasmus Centre for Leadership Studies, and Associate Editor of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes and of Journal of Organizational Behavior. His research is published in such academic outlets as Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Annual Review of Psychology.