The Advantage of Diverse Thinking Groups

The Power of diverse thinkers

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Professor Scott E. Page, an American social scientist and his colleagues, have used computational experiments to study the decision-making performance with complex decisions. He found that random ("diverse thinking”) groups of problem solvers can routinely outperform groups of experts.

This happens because experts tend to have a consensus approach to problem solving, whereas a diverse group are likely to use a much broader range of tactics. They can conceptualize problems in new ways and increase the potential solutions available to them. Experts can still play a role in addressing complex problems. However, it is better to have a diverse group of them.

Reference:
Hong, L. & Page, SE. (2004). Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high ability problem solvers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101, 16385 – 16389. 

Diverse thinking - the antidote to 'groupthink'

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The term Groupthink was coined by Irving Janis (1918 - 1990). If a group becomes overly cohesive they may minimize conflict and rush to consensus instead of properly considering alternative options.


Warning signs for the presence of groupthink include:

  • Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the consensus
  • Illusions of invulnerability
  • Illusions of unanimity 
  • Characterizing opponents as fundamentally flawed
  • Non-conformance is regarded as disloyalty


Diverse thinking groups have difference in  their mindsets and worldviews. They can avoid the unchallenged decision-making characteristic of groupthink by making decisions based on facts instead of influence, authority or group allegiance. 

Diversity concepts

Diversity - defined

Chinese lanterns as an example of diversity

Diversity (noun) The condition of having or being composed of differing elements; 

variety

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Diversity is truly multidimensional

Blue orange showing that diversity includes some characteristics that are not externally observable

Diversity is far more (diverse!) than more externally observable such as gender, age, ethnicity and even sexual orientation or disability/ability. There are numerous other characteristics that could be considered - such as different ways of addressing problems (cognitive diversity), differences in experiences, skills or beliefs. 

Diversity is entirely dependent on context

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An individual is not inherently diverse or non-diverse, instead the presence or degree of diversity is related to who an individual is compared to.  

Diversity of thought - defined

A group of people who have different backgrounds

The concept of diversity of thought is based on the idea that thinking is shaped by our culture, background, experiences, and personalities. 


Reference:

 Diversity of Thought. What is it, and why is it gaining so much traction? http://www.diversitywoman.com/diversity-of-thought/