When Does “Diversity” Live Up to Its Hype?

My blog-friend Tim Sullivan, when he was an editor at Princeton University Press, every so often sent me a book he had finished working on, including Scott Page‘s book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for awhile, unread. Bryan Caplan just took a look and came away impressed:

Contrary to many slanted summaries, The Difference doesn’t show that "diversity is good"; it carefully analyzes the conditions under which diversity lives up to the hype.

News flash: It turns out that one of the key conditions is individual competence. If you gather a diverse group of smart, informed people, they make each other better in a long list of ways...At the same time, however, Page shows that gathering the world’s ninnies and predicting "collective wisdom" is wishful thinking.

Sounds fascinating. I’ll be reading it soon.

On a somewhat related note, Bob Sutton has written interestingly on the ups and downs of group brainstorming.

2 comments on “When Does “Diversity” Live Up to Its Hype?
  • Good illustrations of the failure of enforced diversity can be found in many of the UN’s agencies. The country quota system can be overridden and routinely is, but as often as that, the recruitment is in line with quotas and the efficacy (or more accurately, the lack thereof) of some agencies is proof that it does not always work.

  • A good book which drove home this point for me was – The wisdom of crowds by James Surowiecki. It’s not a book on diversity per it discusses the circumstances under which “collective wisdom” works. From it, I was able to draw inferences about the circumstances under which “diversity” (in the traditionally used sense of the word) would work as well.

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