Confession: When Scott Page‘s book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies came out, I assumed it would be a flabby, politically correct snooze-fest. Since I don’t like flabby, politically correct snooze-fests, I didn’t read it.

But about two minutes into Page’s lecture (full video) at the Collège de France, I realized I was dead wrong. Scott Page is the real deal – hard-headed, straightforward, and engaging. As soon as I got home, I read his book. Contrary to many slanted summaries, The Difference doesn’t show that “diversity is good”; it carefully analyzes the conditions under which diversity lives up to the hype.

News flash: It turns out that one of the key conditions is individual competence. If you gather a diverse group of smart, informed people, they make each other better in a long list of ways. Given my enthusiasm for the GMU lunch, I couldn’t agree more. At the same time, however, Page shows that gathering the world’s ninnies and predicting “collective wisdom” is wishful thinking.

Of course, Page’s full story is much more complicated. Individual competence isn’t the only thing that matters. But despite the packaging, Page’s work is in large part a reproach to the legions of academics who take the cognitive value of diversity for granted.

P.S. Here‘s video of the entire Collective Wisdom conference.

HT: John Alcorn