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Rebel Ideas

Diversity has been a business buzz word for a good quarter century in the companies I have worked with. So what can this book add to the debate? Matthew Syed posits diversity is more than gender, age, culture and sexual orientation.

He says its competitive advantage comes from cognitive diversity: people who have outsider mindsets, think differently, ask challenging questions, see perspectives the in-crowd miss.

There are pros and cons. Diverse groups are more difficult to manage because they are likely to be more confrontational, with plenty of disagreements during debate that the leader needs to manage. They are more likely to make good decisions for the business, but also be less certain about the benefits of the decisions they make.

In comparison, homogenous group members are nicer to each other during discussion and debate, more likely to agree with each other, and more certain of their opinions. However, their decisions are more likely to be poor, with significant consequences for their organisations.

How then to bring out the best decision-making in your team? Syed recommends pivoting between dominance and prestige techniques. Prestige leaders earn respect, signal their status by wisdom and liberate their followers, creating cooperation. Dominance leaders do the opposite.

I have significant criticisms of this book – outcomes are simplistically attributed to single causes when in reality there will be multiple causes. Positions are justified by just one piece of research.

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