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  • David Bloomfield

An evening with Matthew Syed talking about his new book Rebel Ideas

I absolutely love all of Matthew Syeds books: Black box thinking (a book I like to gift to my friends) and Bounce. He also wrote you are awesome which me and my daughter (aged 7 at the time) read together and had a wonderful impact on her, realising her talents are the result of hard work and how she can continue to develop them further by meaningful practice and desire. My particular favourite is with her new found knowledge telling my wife that she has a fixed mindset!

His new book is called Rebel Ideas and I was fortunate enough to attend an evening with him to learn more

In a nutshell the book is about the power of diverse thinking.

Here’s what I learned from the talk

There are two types of diversity:

  1. Demographic diversity: class, age, sex, ethnicity etc

  2. Cognitive diversity: different perspectives, ways of thinking

There is a significant cross over between demographic and cognitive diversities. When people come from the same demographic they tend to identify with each other and think the same, which leads to cognitive conformity.

Where groups lack cognitive diversity they begin to agree more and more and become confident of their ideas, exploring only a few alternatives of the sometimes infinite options availability to them. Ideas can never accumulate when we become narrow in our thinking. It’s therefore critical to put approaches in place to break through our unconscious biases with such examples as blind CV screenings and silent brainstorming or brain writing whereby the group avoids being influenced by the most senior figure in the room.

We naturally like to hang around people that think like us. We unconsciously gravitate towards people that think like us, which in turn brings together a group who congregate around the same ideas and therefore significantly reduce the options which are open to us and miss the opportunity to think differently. This is often displayed in an extreme way for example in politics, whereby a common reaction for alternative opinions is dismissive without listening, effectively saying that I will only take you seriously if you are part of my tribe.

Smaller networks or organisations have some natural diversity as you are less likely to be able to fine tune your immediate group to be just like you.

Successful people / organisations have to work hard to move away from the “we know it all” mentality. It can often become the default culture of certain industries to believe that we have all the good ideas or answers to our problems and fail to look outside to other sectors for inspiration to what other industries are doing and how they are tackling their challenges. Most innovation is about bringing different ideas together from different domains.

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