In Other Words, Weakness is Strength

Thought Diversity

Creating Thought Diversity: an example.

The following example explains one way a thought-diverse team might be assembled. Five candidates were interviewed for two vacant positions on an NOC cyber-analysis team. All candidates were shown the same ML-based analytic output and asked the same 10 questions.

Many organizations would have assigned Alice, Pablo, and Pierce to a team because they garnered the highest cumulative scores, 50%, 60%, and 70%, respectively. It is safe to assume that Alice, Pablo, and Pierce all think alike. However, Abegbe’s answers reveal an important nuance. While Abegbe was the overall lowest scorer, he correctly answered the two questions the other candidates incorrectly answered– Q1 and Q8. As such, Abegbe presumably brings a different way of thinking to the organization. Hiring Abegbe and Pablo, who approach the questions differently, will increase the team’s capacity for creativity. In short, organizations should assemble analytic teams with innovation in mind. This oversimplified example amplifies the need for organizations to recruit people who ‘challenge the status quo and are self-driven pursuers of their imaginations. The goal is to push, prod, cajole, share, inspire, and enrage as needed to give life to everyone’s best ideas.’ (Hirshberg 1999)

From “Moving Big Data Analysis From a ‘Forensic Sport” to a ‘Contact Sport” Using Machine Learning and Thought Diversity” in the Journal of Information Warfare, Volume 14, Issue 2, April 2015. Published by the US National Security Agency.


5 thoughts on “In Other Words, Weakness is Strength

  1. This oversimplified example amplifies the need for organizations to recruit people who ‘challenge the status quo and are self-driven pursuers of their imaginations.

    No. This oversimplified example suggests the following experiment: Are there people who consistently A)score lower than top test performers, and B)nevertheless score higher on the questions that even top performers get wrong? And are these people identifiable as a group by phenotypic traits or exotic sounding last names?


  2. IOW, what the Diversity Evangelist is saying could be true in contingent circumstances. But it is an empirical claim, which is never put to the test. Because everyone knows what will happen as soon as you put it to the test: You will get real cognitive diversity, which really will help solve problems. But it will not be the results the evangelist is looking for.


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  4. Couldn’t “thought diversity” be accomplished by having teams made up of different specialists with different roles? You could then test applicants for aptitude at their potential role, and choose the highest performer.

    Also, I have not seen many successful & long-lived teams filled with people who believe it is valuable to “push, prod, cajole & enrage” other team members on a regular basis. It sounds more like a recipe for continuous primate status squabbles disguised as “challenging the status quo.”

    Liked by 1 person

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