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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling argument for diversity
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...
Published on May 25, 2007 by Rolf Dobelli

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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing
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...
Published on June 16, 2012 by Erik


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling argument for diversity, May 25, 2007
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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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Horizons in Diversity, March 20, 2007
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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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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing, June 16, 2012
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This review is from: The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (Paperback)
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. Similarly for the development of Telstar at Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1961. Not only is the need for diverse informational ability unsurprising in such endeavors, it is astounding that anyone would find it surprising.
On page 159, the author says that if we have a difficult, unsolved math problem, we would want to ask a diverse collection of mathematicians. He has a point, in that providing a network to link the problem with potential solvers is a powerful idea, and somewhere in his book he makes reference to such a network. But it is individual ability that solves the problem, and tying in diversity is unnecessary. Is Shouryya Ray diverse?
There are other problems where a high ability and a modicum of informational diversity is necessary and sufficient. Development of the theory of relativity, polio vaccine, an online bookstore, an online payments system. Most real world examples show one or two very capable individuals (two or three heads are better than one, if they are the right heads) creating breakthroughs of significance. Edison; Bell; Wright Brothers; Salk; Hewlett and Packard; Gates, Ballmer and Allen; Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Dr. Scott's book will provide comfort to the politically correct whose lives are ruled by emotion and belief, but will fail to pass muster with realists who ask for proof.
I'll put my money with Damon Runyon, and bet on the wise and discerning of great ability.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scott Page's writing is fresh, thoughtful and provocative. This book is a dash of pepper., June 26, 2007
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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important work on diversity, May 12, 2007
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Jonathan Brown (Fair Oaks,, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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I am not a fan of much of the work on diversity. It tends to distort reasonable choices and is imbued with a host of PC language which makes gross leaps of faith. But I believe very deeply in assuring the widest range of people the broadest range of opportunity. Scott E Page, a faculty member at Michigan has done a wonderful book which in a careful way demonstrates significant benefits from encouraging a wide variety of backgrounds and approaches to participate in decisions. Page is a researcher, so he carefully lays out his research. But he also adds to it a thoughtful framework for his thinking.

This book could be read in parallel with The Wisdom of Crowds, James Suroweicki's excellent book on the increasing need for shared decisions and the ultimate ability of rightly structured groups to make better decisions than individuals. But Page adds to Suroweicki's original ideas. I bought several copies of Page's book for my friends.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book, August 26, 2007
The Difference is a surprising book in that it is written in a manner that is is approachable by a fairly broad audience, but it does not sacrifice much in the way of the rigor that is expected from a book written for an academic audience. I am glad that this is the case, as this book deserves a wide readership. It provides a systematic case for the practical benefits of diversity. Insofar as we can think of ourselves as facing sufficiently difficult epistemic problems - particularly those of prediction - we can make ourselves better off by ensuring that our groups of problem-solvers are diverse in relevant respects. Page puts forth two major claims in the book, but unlike most, his claims are backed both by computer simulation and mathematical proof. The first claim is that diverse agents can do better in predictive problems than homogeneous groups. The second, far more interesting claim, is that diverse groups can do better than groups comprised of the most "able". Naturally, these claims must be understood within their scope. Page is scrupulous about demonstrating when these theorems obtain and when they do not.

This book is particularly exciting for its potential to change the frame of several large debates. Insofar as his theorems can apply to real social situations, we can see that, for purely epistemic reasons, we all have something to gain from diverse teams and societies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Diversity Makes a Difference, August 2, 2008
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In his latest book, "The Difference", Scott Page does a magnificent job of tackling the issue of whether or not there are any real benefits to having a diverse and inclusive learning or workplace environment; or is it all about political correctness. Page takes a scientific approach to showing how and why it is important to have people teamed together who see things differently and process information differently. He defines, models, and links both identity differences and cognitive differences. He shows how diverse teams often come to more creative and effective solutions than teams composed of people who all have similar backrounds,education and experiences. This book takes a complex subject and turns it into easy reading.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Diversity Equation, April 6, 2010
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This review is from: The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (Paperback)
If you want true, mathetical proof that diversity leads to greater innovation and to better business solutions, Scott Page's brilliant book is for you. Feed your inner geek -- you will just love the bona fide mathematical equations complete with root numbers, co-efficients -- a trigonometric paradise. And if trigonometry was your high school academic Waterloo, Page is such a lucid, spirited writer that concepts of what he is proving will leap off the page and the seemingly incomprehensible equations will trigger a "Cool, I'm glad he proved that!" Finally, the payoff in the last fifth of the book -- which is all about application -- is sweet and powerful.
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21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Misinformation and Superficiality, April 26, 2010
The Difference is an okay book. Not great. It is saying the same thing over and over, using examples that for those in sciences or business might be interesting. However, those who are well read in the humanities or any area of social science will find this book rather boring and trivial. The most problematic aspect of the book is the lack of thoroughness and validity of the background research for the book. One example of this sad reality occurs in Page's recounting the story of the search for DNA-The Double Helix. The story is used to demonstrate the usefulness of diversity of cognitive perspectives in scientific inquiry. The author commits errors that stem from a common problem in 'pop' writing -- that of incomplete research -- not reading multiple sources to check accuracy and validity of a story or idea. Perhaps the author should have co-authored the work with someone with a DIFFERENT perspective to help with the accuracy and validity of claims. The inaccuracy in this case occurs when Page asserts that Rosalind Franklin took 'fuzzy' pictures and then summarily dismisses the gender dynamics at work in this slice of history by saying that Franklin not winning the prize was not the result of her being a woman, but rather was the result of her being dead at the time (check your facts Mr. Page--her pictures are still considered amazing and those fuzzy pictures led directly to the discovery of DNA). And yes, Franklin was dead when the Nobel Prize was awarded, but she wouldn't have received it had she been alive because she never knew that her colleagues had 'borrowed' her X-Rays and a report without her knowledge or permission. She thought that Watson, Crick and Wilkins (the third winner of the prize) had come up with the solution on their own. There deception and the unethical use of her work was covered up for years and Watson himself later admitted that the treatment of Rosalind was unfair. Was the bad treatment of Franklin the result of her being a woman? Most historians of science now believe that it is very likely that she was excluded both because she was a woman and also because of personality clashes among the DIVERSE minds in the lab. All of this to make the point that the book is not well researched--and while it has a couple of interesting ideas that could be useful those ideas are superficially treated. The book is for an audience that has not read much outside of business or technology in the last two decades.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the Feel-Good Slogan!, June 2, 2014
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Early in his career, political scientist and economist Scott Paige was messing around with a mathematical model of different groups trying to solve problems, when he noticed something: groups modeled to have smart members did only just as well - sometimes worse - as groups who had moderately smart but diverse members. What does that mean? Diversity might be equally important to group problem solving ability as the ability level of individual group members. So, Paige decided to go beyond the nice "Yay, diversity!" slogan, do some more math, and put this theory to the test.

This book is the result. Section 1 explains the elements that make up diversity - that each person brings different vantage points, interpretations, heuristics (ways to solve problems), and predictive models to the table. Section 2 explores the mathematical - yes, this book proves a real challenge to people like me - proofs that diversity aids the predictive ability of groups. Section 3 discusses what happens when we switch from problem solving via diverse problem solvers to voting with diverse values and preferences (it doesn't go so well). Section 4 discusses the empirical literature showing that (or to what degree) Paige's mathematical models bear out in real life. Section 5 discusses implications for schools and firms (things like admission and hiring) as well as public policy.

As others have noted, this book is heavy on the math. That's good because it puts some hard science to the intuition about diversity's benefit. But it also means that the book, at times, is a real challenge. Now, in some ways, it is obvious that the idea that diverse groups solve problems better on average than homogeneous groups; when problems are complex and have many facets, it is likely that groups will do better when different folks notice different things and approach aspects of the problem differently. But Paige puts some math formulae to this, like his own Diversity in Prediction Theorem (the squared collective error equals the squared individual error minus the diversity of the group). To put the DPT differently, diverse groups will do no worse in their averaged-together prediction as any individual in the group does on theirs. This is not a slogan, reminds Paige; it is a mathematical certainty.

But not all diverse groups are working to predict something (the size of a heifer, the order of NFL draft picks, next month's computer sales). Some groups deliberate about what public (or company) policy should be, and their diversity is less in how they solve problems but in what they value (less in what next month's computer sales should be and more in how the company should try to expand its market share). In these cases, I"m afraid, Paige not only suggests that diversity of values brings costs that can easily outweigh the benefits, but has not many kind things to say about democracy. (Kenneth Arrow long ago proved that democracy often fails to aggregate preferences in a way that satisfies a majority. Others have shown that when given more than two options, people will often decide their 'votes' strategically rather than based on true preferences). Anyhow...

The long and short is that Paige gives a lot of support to the idea that diversity is good, especially in helping us solve collective problems. But this means diversity of how we think, not NECESSARILY identity diversity. So, those with diverse sexual preferences, or different sexes and genders, or different ethnic backgrounds, will only make a good group to the degree that those differences actually map to differences in cognition (does being gay help this person in some ways think differently than straight people? The answer, says Paige, is "Sometimes.... only when this differences has led to different experiences that might have led different people to develop different cognitive toolboxes.) Also, while diversity is good when it means that people trying to solve the same problem come at it from different angles, it is less good - has costs that outweigh benefits - when people differ in fundamental values, such that they are not trying to solve the same problem, but disagree on what the problem is.

This book is really insightful. It is very short on practical application for Paige's theoretically dense writing (section 5 is short compared to sections 2 and 3). But if you take the time and energy to get through the book attentively, it is guaranteed that you will think about the world and diversity a bit differently. Scott Paige takes a well-worn idea and slogan - diversity - and added some substantive grounding to our intuitions about it.
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The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies
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