EXAMINING SCOTT PAGE'S RESEARCH ON HOW "DIVERSE" PROBLEM SOLVING GROUPS CAN TRUMP INDIVIDUAL ABILITY
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
When I heard that Professor Scott Page was coming to Atlanta to the Carter Center, I got real excited. His work, researching and exploring diversity and inclusion in teams of individuals, has been such an inspiration to my campus and community work. I learned this important lesson about developing diverse teams from Scott Page years ago when I attend the 2009 State of the Black Union conference. My mentor, Harvard Law School professor Lani Guinier argued at the forum we should redefining “merit” as something that occurs at a group level as well as an individual level. During this 2009 panel talk, she referenced the work of Scott Page, (professor of complex systems, political theory, and economics at University of Michigan,) who has developed formal models demonstrating that diversity trumps ability. That is specifically, a diverse group of people with different expertise, different experiences, and different backgrounds will be more creative and effective when developing solutions to problems than a more homogeneous group of individuals with the highest degree of “merit” in the conventional sense. His new book, The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy, offers a number of solutions and raises a number of questions regarding the power of cognitive differences: What if workforce diversity is more than simply the right thing to do in order to make society more integrated and just? This talk was sponsored by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Our Compelling Interests series. The panelists included Janine Cabrera-Velde, training and communications specialist, Emory University; Andrew R. Davis, global chief diversity & inclusion officer, The Coca-Cola Company; Gail Evans, executive vice president, CNN (ret.); and the professor himself Scott E. Page, Leonid Hurwicz collegiate professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and moderated by Celeste Headlee, host of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s On Second Thought. I appreciated this panel. The panel had me reflect on the work I do as an Innovation Fellow at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning’s Student Innovation Fellowship Program (SIF) and President and Founder of the Greatest MINDS Society on Georgia State University campus. The forums, panels and conferences are important as we try to relay different teaching methods and strategies for a diverse student body. These two programs prove and reaffirms that as students, faculty and staff we can work together to make us challenge our own assumptions of racial identity. This would make a more welcoming campus that embracing embraces diversity and inclusion.
At the Student Innovation Fellowship Program, I and other graduate students have taken the approach that of gathering a broad range of diverse community members and stakeholders to share ideas, knowledge, strategies, and resources with one another to relay different teaching methods and strategies for a diverse student body. SIF is based on the theory that though an interdisciplinary approach we can address the most pressing problems on our campus and classroom, a diverse group of problem-solvers is always the best tool to use. The SIF program at Georgia State University supports Professor Page’s research in working with diverse group members to solve societal problems through teaching and technology. I believe this overall approach more broadly can build the capacity of individuals, community-based organizations, and our community more broadly to address the persistent problems facing our under-served urban communities.
As President and Founder of the Greatest MINDS Society at GSU, Scott Page’s research has also transcended and inspired my work with student organizations on GSU’s campus by inviting diverse individuals with different perspectives and viewpoints to speak on panels. This organization has promoted campus-wide discussions on race, class and gender and how to students to utilize their experiences in forming their college pathway to success. The mission of Greatest MINDS Society at Georgia State University is to promote scholarship, diversity, excellence, leadership and high achievement among African American and minority student populations and groups (undergraduate and graduate) on campus. Our work has been very successful. Students from all races and ethnicities participate in our events, activities and symposiums. Moreover, we noticed that our discussion was deeper when we embraced race, class and gender perspectives. These two organizations prove that students, faculty and staff at GSU can work together to make us challenge our own assumptions of racial identity.
I suggest we all should take a look and read Scott Page’s books “The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy” and “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies” as an inspiration to make a more our teams for diverse and to encourage more efforts on campus that promote diversity and inclusion.