Diversity: the mother of innovation?

“Diversity turns out to be the mother of invention (not necessity, as the mechanists thought).”
— David Ogilvy

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wider lessons that can be learned from IDDS and the frenzy of invention and creativity that was exhibited during the summit. It was pretty amazing over the month or so of the conference to see projects evolve and change as participants threw around feedback and new ideas. A prime lesson that I took away was the importance of diversity in your design teams. Not the touchy-feely, we do it because we have to PC kind of diveristy but cultural, demographic, technical, and cognitive diversity. It’s tough to get new breakthroughs when everyone has the same training, the same way of tackling a problem, the same world view etc.

From the Boston Globe:

Diversity, it shows, makes us uncomfortable — but discomfort, it turns out, isn’t always a bad thing. Unease with differences helps explain why teams of engineers from different cultures may be ideally suited to solve a vexing problem. Culture clashes can produce a dynamic give-and-take, generating a solution that may have eluded a group of people with more similar backgrounds and approaches.

From my friend Frans Johansson’s book (Medeci Effect) as paraphrased by Lois Kelly at Foghound:

Diverse teams drive innovation. (Research shows that diverse teams — people from different fields, cultures, perspectives — are much more productive than homogeneous teams. In the first couple of weeks homogeneous teams are more productive, but then the diverse teams kick in in high gear.)