Rebel Ideas looks at the importance of cognitive diversity – the ability to think differently and frame problems in novel ways – in the context of intelligence operations, mountaineering, politics and business, arguing that it substantially improves collective intelligence.
Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed
Rebel Ideas is a highly thought provoking book by Matthew Syed.
Looking at examples from various different industries and experiences, Syed explores how incorporating diversity of experience and perspective can improve the collective intelligence of a group by bringing different forms of expertise and thought patterns to the table.
First published in 2019, the book has dozens of practical applications for government, business, sport and personal development, stressing just how important it is to understand, accept and seek out different forms of intelligence when building a smarter organisation.
Below are some of the key insights from the book.
- Organisations are affected by collective blindness when too many forms of like-for-like intelligence create groupthink around a complex problem.
- Responding to 9/11, the CIA was subject to a high level of cultural blindness as a result of their strict recruiting process and lack of cognitive diversity.
- By contrast, the codebreakers at Bletchley Park succeeded in cracking the Enigma code by bringing together not only mathematicians but linguists, philosophers, literary professors and crossword solvers under a single operating goal.
- Even when you have collective intelligence, independent thinkers can defer to dominance without constructive dissent. [Mountaineering]
- The aviation industry is a good example of how Black Box thinking can improve outcomes with constructive dissent [Black Box Thinking]
- Without competing perspectives, humans have a tendency to be left in a bubble [filtered experience, cult] or develop an echo chamber where narratives are produced that discredit all counter narratives [extreme politics]
- As humans are naturally diverse in many ways, the ‘average’ choices can often be counterproductive to the individual [desks, diets, cockpits] creating an opportunity to customise in line with individual perspectives.
- Looking at evolutionary psychology, it also seems that nature has harnessed the power of cognitive diversity selecting for adaptations that allow us to communicate and share ideas rather than work in a silo.
- Consequently, it’s possible that we are only so smart because we have learnt to combine perspectives from different areas.