Scott PageScott is quite a renowned academic having written a great book on complex, adaptive systems and perhaps an even more insightful text on 'The Difference - How the Power of Diversity creates better groups, firms, schools and societies'. He's a collegiate professor at the University of Michigan and an external faculty at the Santa Fe institute.
The Keynote - Leveraging Diversity in Parallel: Perspective, Heuristics, and OraclesIn his talk, Scott helped the audience see the two sides of the diversity debate:
- Two heads are better than one.
- Too many cooks spoil the broth.
- You can't sum up people by using things like IQ tests - it's like putting measuring tape around people's heads and saying one person's head is bigger than the other. People are more multi-dimensional than that.
- The most common solution isn't always the best solution. In the 'Sum to Fifteen' card game, you can use an unconventional method to win, by looking at it as if it were tic-tac-toe. This is a different perspective and the varying perspectives that people bring are part of their toolbox.
- In an experiment of 20 best people in a certain arena and a group of 20 diverse people, the diverse group almost always wins. "A diverse group will almost always outperform an alpha group."
- 'Problem solving is ideas having sex together.' People have different heuristics or 'rules of thumb' to solve problems. The combination of these heuristics usually generates newer ideas as well. For example the parts for a combustion engine existed years before we even thought of the damn thing.
- Diversity is the combination of different perspectives and heuristics. The conditions for diversity to work better than homogeneity is that:
- the diverse groups has really smart people who can tell what their heuristic is (and have a good reason for it);
- the problem they're solving is complex.
- crowd error = average error - diversity
One of the big problems with training is that it teaches you one way of doing things. On the other hand I think training and education needs to educate people more about the purpose of doing things. If smart people with diverse perspectives and heuristics approach the problem they'll more likely come up with a better solution than what we consider the push-button oracle. I really want to chew on this some more - because I feel I'm encountering more and more non-diverse group think each day.