Prior research on workplace diversity has examined the relationship between diversity and group outcomes. In particular, diversity has shown to have potential benefits (e.g. innovation) and detriments (e.g. poor group processes) on group outcomes. However, the relationship between diversity, communication openness, conflict and group innovation has been sparsely documented. The present research addresses this gap in the literature by examining the relationship between diversity (ethnicity, age, gender), group size, conflict, communication openness and group innovative outcome. Specifically, communication openness and conflict are proposed as mediating the relationship between diversity (ethnic, age and gender) and group size on group's innovation.
Data triangulation - observations, interviews and surveys - was the research design employed in collecting data for this research. Data were collected in three stages. Stage 1 involved observation of group processes for innovation. The sample for Stage 1 comprise of undergraduates enrolled in an internet marketing class and human resource management class working on an innovative product. The internet marketing class was working on developing a new website, one that had not been formatted before. They were observed working together twice a week for five weeks. The human resource management class was involved in designing a job description for a hypothetical situation. They were observed once a week for two weeks. Seven group observations were conducted in total. Samples for Stage 2 were also undergraduates and postgraduates enrolled in engineering, communication and internet marketing classes. Altogether eleven interviews were conducted. Stage 3 employed a quantitative survey to test the model of the mediating effects of conflict and communication openness on innovation in diverse workgroups. 310 participants were involved in this survey of different age, gender and ethnicity. Multiple regression was employed as the analytical tool to test the relationship between the hypothesised variables on the model.
Results from the present research support a link between communication openness and group innovative outcomes. Although other hypotheses set for this research weren't supported, these findings provide contributions to the minimal amount of literature available on group processes on innovative outcomes. These findings provide insights that are important for organisations, managers and group members who are working with a diverse group to produce an innovative outcome.