Cognitive Diversity

A few months ago there was a little brouhaha about lack of diversity in weblog authors, which caused a few ripples. Julia Lerman asks the same question about software development in a recent interview:


This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2005/05/cognitive-diversity.html

Does diversity include hiring VB programmers in an all C# shop? ROFL…

Ah yes, the “Steve” rule… http://weblogs.asp.net/alex_papadimoulis/archive/2005/04/22/403889.aspx

the “Steve” rule…

Too funny.

Does diversity include hiring VB programmers in an all C# shop?

Possibly; the idea of monoculture extends deeper than superficialities like race, sex, ethnicity, etc. If you have 20 developers with the same exact backgrounds and skills, what difference does it really make if half of them are women? Looking different is a pretty weak substitute for thinking differently.

There are a set of books Marcus Buckingham wrote or co-wrote that explore why diversity of talents is important. (First break all the Rules, Now Discover your Strengths, and The One thing you need to know.) It’s more difficult to lead a team of diverse people (chess vs checkers) … but the result can be much more effective. The books are oriented toward managers / sales … but the underlying information is universal. The second one has a one-shot per book online quiz that is super annoying in it’s restrictive nature (via a code on the book jacket) but is very enlightening.

The second book also lists all the categories of strengths Gallup generated from extensive polling data, my favorite is “Command” (which I don’t have) … “Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others.”

It’s best to select for diversity of fundemental talents. Experience and particular skill sets will naturally be diverse if you pick people with different talents.

It’s best to select for diversity of fundemental talents

Right; choosing diverse talents will also tend to naturally bring in people that are physically diverse as well. At least it seems more likely to me, anyway…

Calling All Chix0rs!
http://www.jamesbritt.com/2007/4/17/calling-all-chix0rz

I was once the only Oracle developer working in a VB software house.

The salesman who sold an Oracle system to their customer had already been sacked by the time I arrived.

I fully endorse mixing oil and water. It is good. We had Mr.I-Love-Microsoft here for years, whom I fought with on many occasions. Our boss (a lover of the obscure and therefore Linux) even contracted a counsellor for us. When MrMicrosoft left, I found myself speaking his lines! Sometimes I scared myself. He brought a balance to the force that is hard for us to achieve in his absence.