- Paperback: 456 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised ed. edition (August 31, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691138540
- ISBN-13: 978-0691138541
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies - New Edition Revised ed. Edition
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"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
"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)
"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)
"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
"The Difference is a very good book. I recommend it to all intelligent readers, especially to those who have not gone beyond the 'diversity' of political correctness. . . . Read this book."---Will Carrington Heath, Independent Review
"Though filled with three dimensional graphs, computer simulations, and other quantitative exercises that some will find intimidating, the book has the great advantage of being accessible to the nontechnical reader, at least one willing to invest considerable time and effort in following its clear but often complex reasoning. Where The Difference clearly succeeds is in bridging the gap between the more arcane technical literature found in the professional economics journals and writing intended for a general audience."---Russell K. Nieli, Academic Questions
"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
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
"The book is brilliant. Page has a dazzling eclecticism."--Max Bazerman, Harvard Business School
"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
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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.
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.
Looking at some of the reviews now (2017) I see that a number of folks missed a critical item in team building/group selection: diversity of view point cannot come at the price of ignorance. If one is working in, say, genetic engineering, it is pointless -- and not within the paradigm of Page's "diverse group" -- to add an art student or a dog trainer if that person is without a useful background in genetics or engineering. As it has turned out, a knowledge of nanobots -- this year they are chemical but in a decade or four, perhaps they will be some other substance-- has proven to be very useful, as has expertise in virology. But both need to be combined with at least a speaking acquaintance with genetics.
As to its purported focus, it provides academic, empirical, and statistical support for diversity, not necessarily racial or ethnic, with the premise being that diversity of viewpoint within groups is powerful, so much so that it trumps individual excellence.