Value of Diversity – Similar Conclusions, Different Roadmaps (Short Post)

(Short posts are small pieces of info that resemble, you know, what blogging was supposed to be like.)

Diversity (of all forms) is valuable for a lot of reasons both locally (disrupting status quo) and globally (equality), but I’d like to quickly note one reason I think diversity is important that goes underappreciated.

If you are a master at Task X and someone else in your company is also a master at Task X, you might think that is redundant, and it is. But what isn’t redundant are the paths you took to get to there, most likely, and the further divergent they are, the more value you can extract.

Example: In most things in my career, I am informally educated. I studied mostly economics and philosophy formally in college; everything else I learned on my own through self-study, on-the-job learning, mentorship, and so forth.

This is not true about many people I hire. Many of them took engineering, biomechanics, and kinesiology classes in college. Some of them took biomechanics classes and worked in a lab, so they understand both the theory and the practice behind motion capture and reporting behind it.

However, I built my own lab years ago and assembled my current one with zero college education on the topic. How I got to the same understanding as people who work under me took a much different path, and when we run into roadblocks, our differing viewpoints on how we got there allow us a diverse set of ways to attack the problem.

If everyone learned how to become a master at Task X using the same roadmap, it would be hard to find people that stood out as problem-solvers in unknown situations. It would be randomly distributed according to some nebulous problem-solving ability; perhaps IQ would play a role here.

But if you have people who do similar things but in diverse ways, people naturally think about the problem differently, which enables you many pathways to solve problems.

I can speak for myself and my company: Having a good spread of classically educated people in addition to self-starters with little formal education has been a major boon to our productivity and creativity, as people can learn from each other on why they think differently, and incorporate a little from each side themselves.

The same is true about socioeconomic backgrounds, experiences in life, etc, etc, which can all map to racial diversity, gender diversity, and many other types of diversity. Your upbringing forms much of how you think about the world, learn, and attack problems, and having a swiss army knife of variable tools is far more valuable than a homogenous set of screwdrivers.

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