A new book makes the intellectual as well as a moral case for diversity

Scott Page's "The Diversity Bonus" argues that seeking out employees with different experiences, preferences and identities can ultimately deliver dividends
August 16, 2017

The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy

by Scott E Page (Princeton University Press, £22.95)

The case for a diverse workforce is rarely properly understood. In The Diversity Bonus, the American social scientist Scott Page seeks to make an intellectual as well as a moral case for drawing on the widest pool of talent available. Page argues that, far from being a mere box-ticking exercise, seeking out employees with various intellectual approaches, different experiences, preferences, identities (both ethnic and gender) and educational backgrounds can ultimately deliver dividends—or indeed the bonus of the book’s title.

At the heart of this is an analysis of how teams work. Those with diverse interests and complementary rather than overlapping skill sets are more likely to come together and be able to solve intractable problems. In other words, sameness is bad for your business. This has, despite August’s row over the “diversity memo” at Google, been proven beyond doubt in the science and technology fields, which have been quicker to adapt than other areas, as is demonstrated clearly by some of the evidence Page laboriously details here. There is now a strong case for applying their approach more widely—from journalism to the law to politics.

However, none of this will be easy to achieve. Organisations often easily fall into predictable patterns of recruitment, and thinking outside the box is rare. Page calls for a real change of mindset right from the top. If the political argument for diversity cannot convince us, then we must, he writes, “look to logic and data,” if we are to make progress. While the book focuses a great deal on the American context, the strong need to strive for diversity spans the continent.

At times the book is a little too theoretical, with slightly inaccessible technical language. Nonetheless, the evidence is well presented by Page, who reiterates with his convincing analysis the importance of genuine inclusion.