On Diversity

A few weeks ago, Toyota unveiled an innovative new design for its next generation Hydrogen engine. The response was mixed: Ranging from great enthusiasm from Hydrogen proponents, to massive skepticism from EV (Electric Vehicle) advocates.

It got me thinking about the value of diversity.

First, our worldview is shaped by how we filter information. Although we have access to the same data set, diverse views often come from the data we choose to ignore (noise) and the data we choose to acknowledge (signal).

Second, diverse perspectives are only useful if they are based on, or connect to domain specific knowledge: The opinion of a beekeeper about the safety system design of a nuclear reactor should be ignored. However, the beekeeper may have very useful insights on how urban planners can design the cities of the future.

Third, the value of diversity is at its maximum when it’s used to nurture an eco-system of singular, independent and focused entities, which have very different belief systems. For example, an ecosystem with 100 independent, yet diverse school teachers, is much more innovative and robust, than an ecosystem which consists of one organization with 100 dependent school teacher employees. This is the case, even if this organization is run by a very diverse leadership team.

The biggest contribution to diversity is to promote leaders which all have two things in common: The wisdom to recognize the limits of their own knowledge, and the courage to allow others maximum freedom to operate outside these limits.

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