A Q&A with author Scott E. Page
What are the wider implications of your book?
America is a place that prizes ability. Diversity is seen as a second- or even third-order effect--multicolored sprinkles atop the cake if you will. My book shows in stark, clear logic that diversity produces benefits far greater than mere symbolism. In fact, collective diversity may contribute more to progress than individual ability. And yet, I think a lot of people don't really believe deep down that diversity is beneficial, but they feel it's the politically correct thing to say. This book shows that it's logically correct as well.
Where can your ideas be applied?
My book has implications for how organizations and firms manage diverse workforces, whether they are diverse in identity or vocation. It should change how people think about hiring and admissions decisions.
What is "The Difference" anyway?
It was a great college band in Ann Arbor in the mid-1980s and a reason why I originally didn't want to have it as the title of my book. Seriously though, the difference is the recognition that when we look at all the cool stuff around us--iPods, cedar-planked salmon, Lego, and the Clapper--we have to chalk up a big chunk of the credit to our differences. Diversity is the difference between us sitting around a fire talking about where to find the next deer and doctors keeping my father alive through open-heart surgery. The difference refers to the change in the bottom line: collective diversity produces benefits.
How have the companies you consulted with responded to the need for diversity? Have they created any policies to harness this power?
I've worked with both companies and universities (which maximize endowments rather than profits). Some have used the logic of the book to rethink hiring practices--to think in terms of toolboxes, not measuring sticks. Most have begun to use examples from the book in their training sessions. In particular, there is a game called "Sum to Fifteen," developed by Herbert Simon, which demonstrates how diverse perspectives can simplify hard problems, which is too fun not to use.
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File created: 1/22/2008