Businesses are increasingly embracing the idea that “inclusion inspires innovation.” That was the message that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook shared in a recent tweet and video link. What has been less promoted is an argument that diversity makes people smarter. Gregory Rodriguez, founder and publisher of Zócalo Public Square (a project of the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University), recently shared his thoughts about that premise in the Washington Post.
Rodriguez begins by sharing the often-referenced work of Robert Putnam that shows that “if you live in a more diverse community, you’re less likely to trust the people in it.” However, the silver lining, as Rodriguez notes, is that millions of people “overcome the social distrust that diversity can foster.” And in so doing, more thought and brainpower is required to navigate the multiple perspectives, experiences, and worldviews that can exist in shared community.
He cites a number of studies to promote this premise. These range from the data that homogeneous juries consider less information than diverse juries, and that diverse groups engaged in problem solving more accurately assess their level of performance than homogeneous groups (who report higher levels of success than is often accurate).
Of course, the presence of diversity alone does not make people smarter. As we note in many Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities programs, it is the leveraging of diversity to foster inclusion that is the heart of Rodriguez’s argument. We say over and over that “inclusion requires intention” — and as Rodriguez tells us, that intention is actually making us smarter.