The Power of Diversity of Thought

by | Oct 4, 2021 | Media

We live in a world of constant disruption.

It interrupts and destabilizes our systems and norms, impacting individuals, organizations, and indeed, all of our society. We face cultural, environmental, and technological disruptions on a daily basis and rarely do we recognize them until they’re on our doorstep.

Sometimes this is because people are willfully ignorant, trying to carry on as if the world around us isn’t rapidly evolving. But oftentimes, the rate of change is just so lightning fast, one technology replacing the next, people simply can’t contend with the new reality until they’re living it.

The more technology advances, the faster change occurs, and the easier it becomes to proliferate information, deluging our world in noise. Data. News. Fake news. The constant looming threat of change.

As well as what often seems like an inability to cut through the clutter.

These disruptions have become staples of our lives, the rapid rate of societal change often hindering progress rather than helping it. Decision makers can barely keep up with today’s challenges, much less plan and prepare for tomorrow. This leads to governments failing to predict and act upon threats to their nations and business leaders failing to position companies well for future survival.

Not to mention the sheer complexity of the problem sets we face today—issue after issue overlapping maybe a dozen different areas of expertise. Just look at artificial intelligence. We need computer scientists to understand it, tech giants to know how it’s being used today, governing bodies to determine how to monitor its use and sociologists to study its potential effects on society. Just to name a few.

So, we need a methodology. Something to help us anticipate change and offer creative, informed thinking to both prepare for the future and tackle these wicked hard problems.

Because the old way of solving diverse problem sets isn’t working and hasn’t for a long time. We live in a hyperspecialized society, and all too often, we default to one specialization at a time when more and more problem sets are interconnected and require both a right-brained and a left-brained approach—tapping into both creative and logical networks.

For this reason, we need mixed tables, a convergence of people with diverse expertise who wouldn’t ordinarily convene. These exist in some capacity around the world, but our special secret sauce for a mixed table involves inserting creatives along with subject matter experts and thought leaders to harness the most diversity of thought.

And why all three?

Just look at climate change. You need subject matter experts because all the creatives in the world can’t help if their ideas aren’t scientifically possible. You need a thought leader to guide the group and expand the overall thinking and scope. And professional creatives, such as screenwriters, are our secret sauce, because they’re the ones who can help subject matter experts break out of the prisons of their perspectives. They’re paid to think outside the box and work on a time budget, so oftentimes, they’re the ones with the most brilliant insights.

Whatever your approach, the key is to harness diversity of thought.

Which is why I’m so delighted to be part of the Concordia Summit. Because whether they call it a mixed table or not, they bring together different minds around complex problem sets. And my call to action for everybody is to invoke this diversity of thought in our problem-solving methodologies.

One mixed table won’t save the world. But leveraging the power of divergent thinking will create transformational solutions. And many mixed tables, bringing people together across partisan and cultural divides over the course of many years could help the world anticipate future complex challenges. And acting upon them now, rather than when it’s too late, could make all the difference for future generations.

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