June 3, 2004
News & Opinion: Think different
This means that good group decisions aren't about compromise or consensus, but instead about aggregating a host of different individual judgments into a single collective judgment. This is, for example, what the stock market does -- compressing the judgments of millions of potential and actual buyers and sellers into a single price -- and it's what Google does, when it surveys Web pages to figure out which site has the information you're looking for.
Diversity -- at least in the sociological sense -- is something we often pay lip service to, but it's more than a nice idea. Groups that are genuinely diverse (in a cognitive sense) can also be genuinely brilliant. Scott Page (here's a Power Point presentation of some of his ideas), a political scientist at the University of Michigan, has done these remarkable experiments with computer agents, in which he's shown that groups composed of some very smart agents and some not-as-smart agents actually do a better job of problem-solving than groups made up of only smart agents (and the groups also do a better job than any single individual). And the great organizational theorist James March said that it was key for companies to keep bringing new people into the fold because even though they know less, it's likely that what they do know will be different from what everyone else in the company does. (Here's a nice blog post about March's work.)
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.