Copyright © 2012 Corvus International Inc. All Rights Reserved
It is not best that we
should all think alike;
it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races.
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)
All Kinds of People
In my close to 40 years in software, I've seen a lot of different kinds of people working in the business. In the early days (that would be the 1970s), in the North of England, the company I worked for hired Physics and Math majors like me, Mechanical and Electrical engineers, at least one Anthropologist that I know of (and write about in the the article). Heck they even employed music majors to write software.
And this was not a bad thing...
Scott W. Page's The Difference [Princeton University Press 2007] pointed out that collections of different thinkers usually perform better than even high powered groups of similarly oriented experts. The reason is fairly straightforward: the best problem solvers often think quite similarly so there is little benefit in having more than one of them. They can also engage in a nice comfortable groupthink which does not tend to explore different options and alternatives that might be more optimal. Scott even asserts that ...diversity trumps ability.
He is not the only one to note this. Edward DeBono years ago provocatively stated that smart people are often not good thinkers. Specifically, he noted that:
- If you are really intelligent, who needs to actually think? There is a pride element that goes along with high intelligent that can be limiting
- Highly intelligent people can quickly arrive at what appears to be a very good solution very quickly
- Smart people can articulate their position well and defend it against changes and challenges--this defense actually tends to entrench the position
Different People Think Different*
There isn't much point in having too many people who think similarly. Since they tend to come up with similar answers, there's not much benefit to having more than one of them.
Howard Gardner identified a number of different "intelligences" that are quite different ways of processing information. They are:
- Logical-Mathematical: dealing with abstraction, numbers and similar reasoning
- Spatial: internally visualizing space and spatial relationships
- Linguistic: words, written and spoken
- Kinesthetic: bodily motion and sense of touch and feeling
- Musical: sounds, rhythms, tones
- Interpersonal: relating to people
- Intrapersonal: introspective and self-reflective
- Naturalistic: dealing with the natural world
- Existential: possibly even spiritual (see this article)
As you can imagine, people with these different information processing modalities can come up with quite different answers when looking at the same problem. Scott Page asserts that teams can create much more optimal and powerful solutions from hybrids of these answers.
If we have teams of different people.
*I borrowed this grammatical construct from Apple