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Cognitive Diversity

Lesson 4 from: Creating and Leading Incredible Teams

Shane Snow

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Lesson Info

4. Cognitive Diversity

Lesson Info

Cognitive Diversity

Cognitive diversity starts with perspective. So, we're gonna begin with a little hypothetical exercise. You have baked a cake for your eight best friends. You're throwing a party. You love these eight friends equally and dearly. So, you want to cake this cake into eight equal slices. Now, for whatever reason the knife you're using is enchanted and it's gonna disappear after you make three cuts in the cake. So how do you cut this cake into eight equal slices with just three cuts? See the wheels turning. Alright, so most people attack the cake. I've asked a bunch of people this question. Most people attack it like a pizza. You cut it in half, cut one. Cut it in half, cut two. And then the third cut, you attempt to do that way and you realize you need four cuts in order to get eight slices. So, that's not gonna work. And besides, two friends are gonna know you love them more. So how do you do this? How do you cut this cake into eight equal slices? Now you can't do squiggly, crazy calculus...

cuts because your friends have to know you love them equally. Anyone have an idea? I did not know the answer to this. Every once in a while, someone automatically has the answer. And once you see it, it's obvious. What you do is, you cut the cake in half. Cut it in half again and then with your third cut, before the knife disappears, you turn the cake on the side and cut it all the way through. This makes eight equal slices. Some of them have less frosting, but those friends understand you tried your hardest. This is literally an exercise in turning the problem around and changing the perspective of the problem in order to solve it. A child who's looking at the cake from this level might actually get that answer very easily. Someone who's used to turning things around in their mind might actually get that answer very easily. But either way, if I present the cake to you at this level, from this perspective, you're more likely to see a solution to this problem. So there are lots of things that lead to perspective in our own brains. The way that psychologists describe or define perspective is the way we encode the world into our own internal language. So if you think about that. Anything that you see, you're processing it and storing it and figuring it out from your own internal point of view. Now this point of view is shaped by all sorts of things. First is literally language. Right, the language that you hear in your head when you see something. How you describe it affects your perspective. But also, physically, what height you are, whether you're a child or an adult, whether you're in a wheelchair, whether you're standing up, can affect your literal perspective on how you see a situation. If you have some sort of disability or if you're colorblind, those are very literal things. But there's other things inside of our brains that lead us to encode the world differently and these come from who we are and our life experiences. So you can imagine growing up in one generation versus another, seeing something and thinking of it differently. You can imagine if you're a geologist and you here the word rock, first thing that comes to your mind is gonna be different than a teenager hearing the word rock. So, I could go on with some more examples. If you walk down the street and see a building on fire. If you had your house burn down, your perspective on how you process that event, is going to be very different than if I walk by and I've never had my house burn down. And also very different than if you're a Fire Fighter. The way that you see the world is going to change. And there are things that are part of our experiences that form these perspectives. And some of them are just part of our identity. How you identify yourself. How people identify you. How people look at you, how they treat you. How they include you or not is going to develop this mental mosaic that helps you process the world and see it a little but differently. This is where you start to see in America when we use the term diversity, what we're usually talking about is race or gender. We're usually a little too scared to just say those things. Diversity is different things. Things that are different than each other. But visible, physical, or demographic diversity actually has a lot to do with the perspectives that we develop throughout our lives. Someone who looks at you a certain way every time you walk in the room cause you look different, that's gonna change the way that you look at situations. So that's the first part of our mental tool kit. And we underestimate the kinds of things that can lead to different perspectives. But having a different perspective might just help, depending on the problem, you see the problem a little differently. We're gonna get into that. Second half of our mental tool kit. Something called heuristics. Some come join me back at the party where we're eating the cake. We have six glasses and for some reason, three of them are full of milk and three are empty. And for whatever reason, again, magic. We want to alternate these glasses so that they go full, empty, full, empty, full, empty. But you can only touch one glass. So how do you alternate these glasses full, empty, full, empty, by only moving one glass? And most people when I ask this question, they try and do this. They grab this glass and they move it here. Then you realize that these two glasses are still next to each other. And so how do you arrange this? When I first encountered this problem, 15 minutes where I was like, how do you possibly do it? What's the trick? Do you take this glass and put it here? No, then there's two. But then, I've asked a lot of people this question. Anyone who doesn't get it, which is usually about three quarters of people who can't figure this out. If I say, pretend that your day job is a chemist. So, you're a chemist, you get home from work and now you have to solve this problem of how do you alternate these glasses of milk? Full, empty, full, empty. Yeah, see Vlad's got it. You actually take the second glass and you pour it into the second to last glass and put it back. You've only touched one glass. This is, again, a literal example of part of our mental tool kit that can help us solve a problem a little differently than other people, it's called heuristics. Now heuristics are approaches to solving problems. They are rules of thumb or are strategies or are techniques that we use to confront a situation. Now every situation that we confront in life is going to be different. Sometimes we'll have heuristics that are perfect to just handle it, solve it, obvious. Sometimes, you have to work a lot harder cause we don't have that built-in rule of thumb. So, I don't know how many of you came up with the answer to the milk thing, yeah. So sometimes you think about something long enough and you get it. And sometimes, it'll just be something that's a blind spot. For me, both of these puzzles, I was like I have no idea. And you know, I'm not a dumb person. It's just I don't have in my mental tool kit automatically the approach or the perspective to solve those problems. So there's lots of examples of things that can lead to different kinds of heuristics. Some of these are similar to what we talked about with perspectives. Someone's included you or excluded you from certain scenarios growing up or living your life. You may have developed or not developed certain kinds of heuristics. One of my favorite examples is when I, for Dream Teams, studied police partnerships, or buddy cops. And you look at the way that, well, fun statistic. There are about 12% of active duty police officers in America are female. So, 88% are male and yet, women cops are six times less likely to shoot someone. So there's fewer of them, but way less likely to shoot someone. So you might say, actually, why don't we just have more women cops? Seems like a good solution to the problem of too many police shootings and wrongful shootings. I think there, in the decades of research I looked at in statistics, there was one wrongful shooting by a woman cop in America in like 20 years or something like that. Sorta crazy. Why would that be? Part of what the theory is, is that if you grow up. And I interviewed a lot of high ranking female F.B.I. officers and A.T.F. leaders and cops and detectives and the universal answer that I heard over and over again. The theory is, if you grow up your whole life realizing you have less upper body strength than most men, which is statistically true, your first approach to solving a problem is not gonna be muscling through it. So if you have a door that you're trying to break down or that you can't get through, male cops will tend to try and kick it down or tend to try and force it open. Whereas female cops will tend to try and compromise the person who has the key. So you're lived your whole life having to with physical problems like that, find a different solution. This develops heuristics that turns out that if we had only female cops that would not be good for solving crimes and catching bad guys either. The combinations, the partnerships, that have male and female cops are the most interesting. So you have someone that can kick down the door. You have someone that can automatically figure out how to compromise the person with the key. It turns out that just having those different people there gives you more, potentially, heuristics to attack problem solving together. So it's been show that police partnerships that are mixed gender tend to come up more easily with solutions to problems, which is pretty cool. But other examples of things that lead to heuristics that are different. Where we were trained. Where we were educated. What schools we went to. What programs we went through. What I learned in Journalism school is going to be very different than what someone learned in design school, for example. There's also just the way that you grew up. So I grew up with a father who was an engineer and was always taking things apart. And so I learned really clever ways to take things apart and to use duct tape to make things, right. So I have approaches to some problems that are more of a hacker approach than other people. Which turns out to be a problem sometimes with my roommates when I wanna fix the ceiling fan in some really unconventional way. And Brandon who is actually very good at handyman stuff has a better way to do it. But these are the kind of things that lead us to having these different approaches to solving problems.

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