Dialogue Q2 2020

Page 84



Rebel, with a cause A fresh look at the science of diversity proves to be a rich source of inspiration and gives much food for thought, writes Patrick Woodman

Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking Matthew Syed John Murray

When it comes to inclusion there can be a tendency to focus on the personal: on the demographic markers we use to measure diversity, and on the attitudes of individuals towards diverse populations. Yet, as Matthew Syed makes clear in Rebel Ideas, the real genius of diversity lies in its effects at a systemic level. A two-time Olympian and award-winning sports journalist, Syed is also a well-regarded business writer with a taste for social and behavioural science. His breadth shows in Rebel Ideas. Eye-catching case studies illustrate his main themes: the CIA’s failure to anticipate 9/11 illustrates how a lack of diversity creates “collective blindness”, while the 1996 Mount Everest climbing disaster shows the dangers of dominance dynamics and social hierarchy. Syed draws insights from social science experiments to show how our behaviour is shaped by powerful cultural norms – with profound implications for the success, or even survival, of our organizations. Syed shows that most of today’s innovations are “recombinant” – based on creative combinations of existing ideas or technologies. He illustrates how intelligent individuals can combine as unintelligent teams, or “teams of clones”. By contrast, intelligent teams, or “teams of rebels”, develop collective intelligence by drawing on different cognitive abilities – so long as they share a common cause. It is from such teams that innovative “rebel ideas” are generated.

Intelligent teams, or “teams of rebels”, develop collective intelligence

Spotting the opportunities for such ideas can take an outsider mindset (studies show that entrepreneurs are disproportionately from immigrant backgrounds), or, at least, conscious efforts to encourage the expression of diverse viewpoints. Syed points to Amazon’s practice of producing “good memos” that demand executives give detailed consideration to decisions before hearing what others think; similarly, the notion of ‘brainwriting’, as opposed to brainstorming, could help avoid the tendency for employees to close their mouths once they know what the boss thinks. In the final chapter, Syed proposes that organizations seek to combat unconscious bias, utilize shadow boards as a way of “lifting the conceptual blinkers” that can affect established (and ageing) executives, and promote a giving attitude – but Rebel Ideas is not a practical manual. It is a fascinating guide to the power of diverse thinking, and a brilliant source of inspiration for leaders keen to create more inclusive cultures. — Patrick Woodman is editor of Dialogue


Need help with time management? Try Harvest, writes Perry Timms “There is no time management, only energy management”, has become something of a personal mantra for this reviewer – but Harvest shows there’s still value in a time-tracking app. Let’s face it: most days are a blur of meetings, calls, events and emails, only rarely featuring that other stuff we call ‘work’. Harvest provides a way of logging your activities, so you can improve how you manage your energy and focus. Harvest has a particular benefit: it can synchronize with your project management or task applications, like Dialogue Q2 2020

Basecamp, Trello, or, in my case, Asana. This helps you identify the energy you need, based on the time you devote to particular pieces of work. What’s more, you can add your team, so you have sight of their workloads: Harvest also links to Forecast, the project and resource management app, to help with allocating time to people. Being able to include time for breaks, learning activities and other factors helps make it clear that you don’t expect people to deliver on tasks the moment you assign them. There are lots of productivity apps out

there, but Harvest is a simple start-stop time tracker that happens to integrate with the tasks you set, and the schedule you create, to give you more say on how you use time and energy. That’s something that could benefit us all. — Harvest is available on Android and iOS. www. getharvest.com — Perry Timms is an independent HR/OD practitioner and CIPD advisor on social media and engagement. Follow him on Twitter @PerryTimms

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