Make More Diversity
A Spoiler-free Review of Matthew Syed’s Ambitious “Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking”
From riffing on human evolution to solving weight-gain to analyzing the Al-Qaeda psyche, Matthew Syed’s ambitious, erudite, brave new book does it all in style. Flooding the reader with impeccable insight gleaned from diverse fields (see what I did there?) — psychology, behavioral economics, nutrition, academics, biology — Syed elevates “diversity” from an oft-overlooked checklist to the crux of the human condition.
“Over the last five million years, human brains grew from around 350 cm, comparable to a chimp, to 1350 cm, with the bulk occurring in the last two million years. This expansion only hit 200,000 years ago due to the constraints of the female birth canal, a key part of the primate body plan. If the baby’s head grows too big, it can’t get out. This is why natural selection favored intense cortical folding, high density interconnections, infant skulls that remained unfused in order to squeeze through the canal, and rapid post-birth expansion.”
As brave as it's brainy and as holistic as it’s honest, this book gives the reader a new lens to view the world. It forces us to question why diversity in thought, expression and action is a feature, not a bug. How hiring an ethnic employee in your multinational company isn’t “diversity” but fostering a culture of constructive dissent, is. Why intelligent individuals come together to form stupid groups that make witless decisions. Why conforming to and mirroring your peers at work is likely costing the company millions in lost revenue. How the act of sexual reproduction itself is diversity-in-action. How standardization — of tests, scores, dress-sizes, diets — is nonsensical and why personalization instead, is the future. Why being social leads to 100x more innovation than being smart ever will.
His thesis: diversity is often viewed as a politically correct, moral and social cause that comes at the cost of performance, be it at an individual, organizational, cultural or national level. It is, as he fervently depicts in 275 pages, the fundamental fabric of our existence and a vital prerequisite for natural selection, human motivation, innovation, business performance and political stability. And to do this, he leans on a spectrum of “rebel ideas” — the logical fallacies of the KKK, the treacherous terrain of Mount Everest, the prescience of the bloke who invented suitcases with wheels, the fall of Route 128, how ideas have sex, and a plethora of other case studies. Wolfing down this #content in a week inspired me to write about the topics he explores in the book — dominance dynamics, the perils of homophily, the blind irrationality of echo chambers, the wisdom of diverse crowds — so much so that I promise to follow this review up with a detailed article replete with actionable takeaways for my Medium followers.
Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking
Shared via Kindle. Description: Where do the best ideas come from? And how do we apply these ideas to the problems we…
Read this to close-out 2020. Or start 2021. It’s smart, informative, optimistic and ambitious. It’ll enrich your cognitive toolkit, broaden your horizons, challenge your status-quo and look resplendent on your bookshelf. If nothing else, it’ll convince you to buy a glucose sensor.
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