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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Using Diversity For Advantage

For John, BLUF"You end up with firms recognizing that cognitive diversity is a strategic asset."  Nothing to see here; just move along.

An interview with University of Michigan Professor Scott Page, author of a new book, The Diversity Bonus:  How Great Teams Pay Off In The Knowledge Economy.

Here is how the article starts out:

Knowledge@Wharton:  What drove you to research this topic?

Page:  It’s a little bit of a C.P. Snow moment.  He was the British academic who said there are two academies: science and arts.  Within the University of Michigan or almost any university, you’ve got people in the humanities and in the arts and philosophy departments talking about the need for inclusion on normative grounds, a sort of moral case for a more integrated society.  Over in computer science and ecology and business, there are all these people showing in a knowledge economy this incredible value from people who have different perspectives, different ways of looking at problems, different tools.

On one side of campus, there’s a whole bunch of people talking about the pragmatic benefits of diversity.  On the other side, people are talking about the normative benefits.  They weren’t communicating with one another.  I saw this as a real opportunity for a fruitful conversation.

Knowledge@Wharton:  Don’t you think this “right thing to do” mindset about diversity feels a little patronizing?

Scott Page:  It does in a way.  We want our firm to look like America or have people that come from all these different categories, as opposed to asking whether we are bringing in people who can help us fulfill our mission or be better at whatever it is that we do as an organization.

Well, he had me at C P Snow, one of my heroes from my youth.

Here is the sum of the argument.  If your job is to take down trees, you want the best ten lumberjacks, regardless of race, creed or nation of origin.  If you are working on a project with a lot of complexity, from designing a new building to developing social media to building a space launch vehicle, you need diversity of input because of all the "what ifs" you have to deal with, including the unknowns that someone from a different background might have a clue about.  And, you need free discussion, so you don't miss the "O Ring" problem.

Hat tip to Wharton Knowledge.

Regards  —  Cliff
-2, Sun 0.0

  There is a Lowell connection here.

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