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The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies Hardcover – February 4, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Rather than ponder moral questions like, 'Why can't we all get along?' Dr. Page asks practical ones like, 'How can we all be more productive together?' The answer, he suggests, is in messy, creative organizations and environments with individuals from vastly different backgrounds and life experiences."--Claudia Dreifus, New York Times

"The Difference is brimming with so many intriguing insights and findings that I cannot do justice to them all."--Philip E. Tetlock, Science

"In The Difference, Page reveals how groups that display a range of perspectives outperform groups of like-minded experts. Diversity yields superior outcomes, and he proves it using his own cutting-edge research. Moving beyond the politics that often clouds standard debates about diversity, Page explains why difference beats out homogeneity. And he examines practical ways to apply diversity's logic to a host of problems."--Here is the City

"This is a fascinating and important book.... The Difference is a thought-provoking and stimulating read."--Diane Coyle, Business Economist

"[Page] redefines the way we understand ourselves in relation to one another. The Difference is about how we think in groups...and how our collective wisdom exceeds the sum of its parts. Why can teams of people find better solutions than brilliant individuals working alone? And why are the best group decisions and predictions those that draw upon the very qualities that make each of us unique? The answers lie in diversity...not what we look like outside, but what we look like within, our distinct tools and abilities."--Education Digest

"Page has written a book that offers a pragmatic defense of diversity practices, where having a diverse set of points of view in a group equates to better decision making. The book . . .illustrates the benefits of a different way of thinking about problem solving, providing people with conceptual tools to understand what lies behind some of the more popular treatments of topics and to reshape the public debate about the benefits and disadvantages of diversity."--Henry Farrell, Quality World

From the Back Cover

"Scott Page has brought to our attention a practically important proposition: diversity of viewpoints is of the greatest importance in solving the problems that face us individually and collectively. Diversity among a group of problem solvers is more important than individual excellence. Page's exposition remarkably combines lightness and breadth of knowledge with rigor and evidence."--Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel Prize-winning economist

"Scott Page knows more about diversity than anyone anywhere. In The Difference, he shows why diversity matters, how it leads to better outcomes, and most importantly why achieving the significant benefits of diversity requires thinking well beyond traditional categories such as race, gender, or ethnicity. Knowledge of this book should be a litmus test for educators and diversity trainers--if you haven't read it, you are just talking metaphor. Stop playing defense and start playing offense by buying this book."--Bill Miller, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, Legg Mason Capital Management

"Does diversity trump ability when it comes to problem solving? Scott Page shows that the answer is, at least sometimes, yes. You'd do better to add more diversity of perspectives to your problem-solving team than to increase the average ability of individual team members. Diversity in both experience and identity can spark a group's creativity. Page pursues the logic of diversity and shows why and when hiring people who differ can lead to a better bottom line."--Ian Ayres, coauthor of Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small

"The book is brilliant. Page has a dazzling eclecticism."--Max Bazerman, Harvard Business School


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691128383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691128382
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #748,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Are two heads better than one? Or do too many cooks spoil the broth? For a large class of problems, argues mathematician and social scientist Scott E. Page, two heads are better. That is the benefit of diversity, particularly cognitive diversity. Skeptical? You won't be after you follow Page's methodical, quirky and often funny analysis of diversity's logic. We recommend this book to readers who want a truly rigorous, formal description of how diversity brings benefits to organizations. Be prepared, however, to encounter much math-speak (for example when he asks readers to "Consider an arbitrary sno-cone design denoted by P"). The author also notes that some of the models showing the impact of diversity that he cites in the book have been tested via computer simulation only, and not in practical settings. Still, Page's results are innovative and beautiful, he maps out inviting avenues for further exploration, and brings welcome clarity to the important and contentious issues raised by human diversity.
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In support of his main claim that diversity trumps ability (page 148, and elsewhere), the author cites one real world example - Kasparov vs. 50,000 players - of a contest between ability and diversity. (page 138). But, Kasparov won.
In a book with the subtitle "How diversity creates better groups, firms, schools and Societies, " one would expect at least a half dozen real world examples. Although he alludes to a few real world examples of group problem solving (Bletchley Park, DNA and Watson-Crick-Wilkins-Franklin) it's not clear that he claims the successful results are the result of diversity. With regard to the discovery of DNA, credit goes to four intelligent, well educated scientists - hardly a cross section of society. (I've just started Brenda Maddox's book on Franklin, and she is no ordinary person)
The author does present some computer models, and some theoretical conjectures in support of his claim, but he does not support them with real world facts. He does begin to evidence some understanding that diversity has at least two dimensions - identity and cognitive, but I think he confuses informational ability with intellectual ability. Most chemists, physicists, engineers, biologists, and mathematicians share a high level of intellectual ability, but differ, because of their education and experience, in informational ability. It is no surprise, contrary to his statement on page 158, that a group of very able people with different informational ability are necessary to and often sufficient for the solution of difficult problems. IBM's development of the moving head hard disk drive in San Jose in 1956 was the result of a group of mechanical and electrical engineers, chemists, and physicists who were all extremely bright, but differed in their areas of knowledge.
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18 Comments 40 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Diversity matters, in law, in politics, in employment, in criminology, in sports, in media or entertainment, and in residential neighborhoods! But how? Why? When? Where? Under what conditions? For whom? These are the salient questions or issues addressed cogently by Professor Scott E. Page, using mathematical logic and rigorous empirical research. Instead of relying on vain rhetoric, legal gymnastics, simplistic anecdotes, and stylized moral platitudes, Page engages our thinking about diversity matters (such as affirmative action) with game theory and a plethora of experimental findings. Firstly, he contends convincingly (given the preponderance of the evidence cited) that diversity often matters more in problem-solving or in stimulating tangible innovations than reliance on individual ability alone. Secondly, he asserts that "the benefits of diversity also apply within individuals." In short, Page demonstrates that diversity is one of the most potent social forces available to human beings, vastly superior to the typical provincialism of homogeneity.

Page urges us to ponder the implications of diverse mindsets, toolkits, heuristics, and outcomes. Amazingly, he instantiates these complicated ideas into plausible theorems that constructively guide the reader's assessments. Obviously, the United States and many nations around the world have incorporated increasing, albeit exponential, levels of complexity and diversity due to immigration and ethnic heterogeneity. Given the demographic trends that are influencing the future of populations in societies worldwide, Page has taken us where angels and traditional intellectuals fear to venture! He points us to the positive potential of diversity as it is negotiated within schools, firms, and societies. This monograph ought not to be dismissed by any rigorous scholar, policymaker, community leader, and citizen grappling with the perplexities of diversity in the 21st century. It empowers!
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Format: Hardcover
Viva la Difference! Scott Page takes us on a really enagaging tour that examines why diversity matters. You thought the subject was simple? Well it is if you think in terms of the usual ways we pigeon-hole each other (gender, race) but as Page quickly shows us - diversity can be framed in many, many more ways: and more than that - he can show proof after proof for why it makes a positive difference.

What I love is his entertaining command of language, his knowledge of the subject and his clear enthusiasm for the topic. This is one of those books that, alongside the likes of Blink, Wisdom of Crowds and Tipping Point, deserves wide reading and social influence. In many ways it is an unabashed (and welcome) celebration of human-ness. Recommended.
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