Kellogg Evening & Weekend MBA students explore the importance of diverse teams in a zombie escape room

Can Zombies Emphasize the Importance of Team Diversity?

by Nicolas Krohne, E&W 2018

The Kellogg MBA and the return on experience

Reflecting on my own Kellogg journey, the learning and insights that I am taking away from this experience far exceed my initial expectations from when I started the program several years ago. I understood there was a degree of flexibility in choosing a part-time MBA program, but I never realized the impact of learning both theory and concept one evening in class and then applying what you learn the next day at work. This type of experience not only enabled me to realize results and measure progress but also contribute and add value to my team and company.

I personally chose Kellogg to get a uniquely different type of education. Most notably known for its team-based approach, Kellogg fundamentally believes teams outperform individuals. One of the most important aspects and key learning from my Kellogg experience is the importance of leveraging diversity to build a high impact team.

In talking about diversity of perspective, I know I bring a certain perspective to the table based on my personal/professional experiences which have shaped my career. Born and raised during my formative years in Bogota, Colombia, working in the airline industry for a global premium airline and having functional experience in finance, strategy and commercial, I knew my unique journey would enable me to contribute during my time at Kellogg. And this is one of the many reasons I chose to co-lead and chair the Diversity and Inclusion Club during my first year.

The importance of diversity and inclusion in building a high-performing team

Diversity is a very broad term. It can be someone who professionally comes from a different industry or it can be someone with a different functional expertise or it can even be a different form of diversity. Diversity can also be broken down into various dimensions, definitions and types. When people think of diversity, most people tend to think of surface-level diversity: age/generation, religion, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race and sexual orientation just to name a few. There is however another dimension to diversity known as deep-level diversity and this can take the form of one’s attitudes and opinions, beliefs and values, information, knowledge, personality traits, social networks and professional status.

Having a diverse team with a varying degree of differing backgrounds and expertise can improve team learning because distinct perspectives can easily be shared, discussed and debated while preventing the risk of groupthink. By having diversity of perspectives within a team, you can not only identify and challenge biases and groupthink, but also limit a team from establishing a fixed mindset while avoiding echo chambers. Diversity of thought and experience can also drive innovation, seeking the most optimal solution to any problem.

With strong inclusive leadership and consideration for driving effective collaboration and open communication, teams can slowly build trust and establish psychological safety. This leads them to understand, clarify and accept different viewpoints. In turn, by appreciating diverse perspectives, opinions and beliefs, a team can look to formulate and design a broader, more comprehensive and holistic plan of action or carry out a more robust strategic business initiative. At Kellogg, you become part of a culture of collaboration and team work which is extremely important in the real world. Sharing information, you want to make the most informed decision and choices and that can only take place through a high degree of collaboration and teamwork. At Kellogg you collaborate, engage and work on business cases and situations with highly motivated classmates who come from diverse cultures, geographies, backgrounds, industries and functions. In turn, you are able to distill order to achieve the best outcome or goal in a situation.

There are many experiences both in the classroom at Kellogg as well as at work where I have been able to apply what I have learned. However, one of the most memorable experiences comes from a social experience outside of work or the classroom. It comes from the highly popular escape-room game that I partook alongside several Kellogg friends and our significant others. Escape rooms have become a very popular activity, during which a team works together to solve puzzles and find clues before a one-hour time limit runs out. Our group in this instance comprised a team of eight: four men, four women and six different ethnicities coming from various industries, professional backgrounds and functional expertise, as well as an array of educational experiences.

In this particular escape room, we were not only racing against the clock, but we had a zombie in the room that kept impeding our escape efforts. It was the collective effort of such a diverse group of individuals, coming from different walks of life, backgrounds, education that led us to have the second-best record time and escape the room in 42 minutes. Whether it was a fellow team member’s military background — which helped us with the logistical aspects of connecting the clues — OR the ER doctor’s focus on communication and management of the task at hand as well as requesting help along the way, OR even the dentist’s high proficiency in dexterity and being laser-focused on the smallest of details in helping us solve the number of puzzles — everyone contributed.