The Need For Diversity of Intellectual Thought
With the whole deal about the (now ex)Google employee who wrote about diversity in the tech industry, I read several very interesting articles. They covered very different view points and did not agree with each other but one thing in particular stood out. The CNN opinion article (http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/07/opinions/google-employee-manifesto-against-diversity-opinion-randazza/index.html) written by Marc Randazza said this,
“I just also happen to think that the company that looks for diversity of intellectual thought is, in the end, going to be the company that has greater success.”
That struck me. Diversity of intellectual thought. We don’t hear that phrase come up in day to day life but it is something that should be focused on more.
How Do We Define Diversity of Intellectual Thought?
“Diversity of intellectual thought” is a very hard phrase to define. The phrase includes the words, “Diversity” and “Intellectual”, both have multiple meanings. The dictionary definition of “Diversity” as defined by Merriam-Webster is,
“The condition of having or being composed of differing elements. The inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization”
Alright, we can deal with that. How about Intellectual? “Intellectual” defined by Merriam-Webster is,
“of or relating to the intellect or its use”
Not very helpful. How about “Intellect”?
a: the power of knowing as distinguished from the power to feel and to will: the capacity for knowledge
b: the capacity for rational or intelligent thought especially when highly developed
- a person with great intellectual powers
So combine the definitions that make the most sense together and you get,“The condition of having rational or intelligent thinking, composing of different types of viewpoints, perspectives or opinions in a group or organization”. Now that’s the dictionary definition that I cobbled together however that doesn’t mean I like it.
My definition looks a little different, “The idea that a group has the capacity to look at a situation from multiple perspectives and make intelligent choices based off of those perspectives”. I think this does a better job of defining the phrase for me but you have to decide for your self.
Diversity is a subject that has a lot of barbed edges and can lead to many problems if not handled correctly. So, I’m not going to get in to that (perhaps another article?). Instead, I’m going to focus on why applying intellectual diversity in our day to day lives has so much benefit. Intellectual diversity doesn’t always have to mean different profiles of people, it could also mean simply different perspectives. Recently, I joined the National Honor Society and our induction party’s speaker was Zack Geary, the president of our local city club (and a great guy to know) and he talked about several things (as he mentioned in his Instagram post).
A post shared by Zack Geary (@captainzackgeary) on Apr 17, 2017 at 9:46pm PDT
The part I want to focus on is the oranges. Now according to this website, this story was originally published in the Santa Monica Business Journal in May of 1996, however I could not find the archives online so I am quoting directly from Meditationtools.com,
“Once upon a time there was a mother who had two children. One day, the kids came to the mother fighting. There was one orange left in the house and they both wanted it–typical of small children. What is a parent to do?
Some parents say that they would take the orange away and send the kids to their rooms for fighting. Most parents say that they would cut the orange in half, giving each child an equal share. Finally, the parents with more experience, anticipating a further argument over which half each child wants, would improvise. By allowing one child to carefully cut the orange in half, and then letting the other child choose the half he or she wants, parents give the incentive to the child who cuts the orange to be as fair as possible, since he or she suffers the loss if the halves are not equal. Seems fair.
Luckily, this particular mother is a mediator. She takes the orange from the crying children and asks them why they want it. When asked, one child expresses the desire to make orange juice. The other is baking muffins and needs to shave the peel into the recipe. The children, with the help of their mother, compromise. By allowing one to make all the juice he or she wants, giving the leftover peel to the other only once every drop of juice has been squeezed out of it, the other gets the entire peel intact. Both are therefore satisfied.”
The take away from this story is that there are three perspectives to this situation, you could send the children away, split the orange equally in half, or you could simply ask what they want and give it to them. When Zack was telling this particular story, I immediately though about just cutting the orange in half, it made sense. In reality though, the answer took a little more work then that.
The Real World
If the world were full of people who would cut the orange in half when confronted with this problem, the children would not get what they want. However, if we have a world full of people who would divide the orange based on what the children wanted it for, if confronted by a situation where there is only one orange and both children need it, they would not be able to solve it. Obviously this is over simplification, but the lesson still applies in real life. It is important to look from different view points in order to solve a problem in the most effective way possible.
You can’t run a company with just one viewpoint or perspective. When faced with a important decision, it would crumble. That is why it’s important to have multiple perspectives (also known as diversity). Those perspectives often will conflict with each other, but overall if people share their perspective, problems would get solved quicker.
The article at mediationtools.com went on to say,
" In our society, we are raised to think that when there is a conflict, one person has to win and the other has to lose. We are not accustomed to working out win-win solutions. It is harder to do. It requires more effort. The outcome, however, is worth it. By working together, cooperatively and collaboratively, we can come up with better solutions, whether in parenting, in employment settings, in business transactions or even in lawsuits. "
If the person who released the Google memo had brought the 10 page document directly to Google’s heads, then the results might have been different. It is hard to say how, but I believe by having a respectful conversation about this we can improve the workplace.
Notice how I say, intellectual though and not simply thought. A thought might be, “Democrats suck, I hate them”. A intellectual thought, as an arguably better way to voice opinions, might be, “I have a sever dislike for Democrats, they believe in a larger tax gap between classes and I disagree with that”. Okay maybe that is a little overkill but you get my point, you are going to be much more influencing and professional if you have an argument you can actually stand by and have evidence for (I could easily back that fact up no problem).
That is why I find people like Donald Trump so concerning. He does not back up what he is saying with actual facts and often the facts actual point to the opposite of what he was saying. The issue of education is a large topic I will also save for another time but its a big problem. Only 32.5% of Americans 25 or older hold a college degree of some sort . That seems low to me, but when doing research, only Norway has a higher rate at 35%, that is crazy. Now, granted a college degree does not necessarily mean you are intelligent, I consider it a good indicator. I am willing to bet that if we applied an intellectual thought process to our election, the outcome would have been different by at least a few percentage points.
I have been reading a few articles on why Donald Trump won, and what he said to convince people he would be good at the job. It is very interesting to see that most Trump supporters don’t take him seriously. Granted there are a few that take everything literally but most don’t. I think, not only are we living in a post-truth world, we are living in a post-literal world. People don’t take things literally or seriously unless they are on “the other side” and that is a problem.
I also consider intelligence to being able to refer to things as what they actually are. For example, recently Trump was quoted as threatening ‘Fire and Fury’ against North Korea if it endangers US. What the heck does that even mean? It could mean literal fire or a missile strike or a full on military invasion, we don’t know. Now Obama and others are guilty of symbolism but we need to take a look at how it is effecting our democracy. I believe it is harming our grasp of what actually needs to get fixed.
Intelligence is critical, it helps determine when someone is lying and when someone is telling the truth. Intellectual thought helps you determine what potential solutions to problems are. Diversity allows you to use intelligence of a individual to make a overall beneficial situation. The world is crazy right now. There is not much we can do about it. But we can try and make intelligent choices that ask everyone for help. Take everything you read or hear with a grain of salt, you never know what is actually true. Diversity is one of my core values, as is intellectual thought. We need to look at a problems from as many angles as possible and tackle the one that makes the most sense.
Be Kind to one another, show respect, and expect the unexpected.