Lesson 1.4

Visible vs Cognitive Diversity

Dive into this topic by watching the video, followed by key explanations below.


Key Concepts:


Cognitive Diversity literally means brains that are different than one another.

  • Our neural pathways and connections are formed by our life experiences, what we learn, and how we see things.

  • If brain scanning technology was better, we could just look at people’s brains and be able to tell if they’re likely to contribute cognitive diversity to a group.

  • Since we can’t do that, we have to rely on “proxies” that hint to us that someone’s perspectives or heuristics might be different than ours.

Looking different is a surprisingly powerful hint that we might think differently.

  • Visible things like age, height, skin color, ethnic features, gender, beauty, and physical ability (among many other things) can be good indicators that we have probably lived slightly different (or perhaps wildly different) lives than one other.

  • How you look affects how you are treated, when you are included or excluded in different situations, and how hard or easy certain things have been for you vs. others.

  • We all have challenges in life. This is not a contest. But when it comes to teamwork, knowing that we have lived different lives, driven in part by our physical differences, should get us excited about what we each can uniquely contribute to our teams.

Ultimately, perspectives and heuristics are not visible. Visible diversity only gives us a hint that we ought to explore deeper.

  • Cultural differences, geographic differences, and other background factors that lead us to have different life experiences are often not apparent on the surface.

  • Sometimes visibly different people can have remarkably similar life paths for reasons you can’t know—unless you learn their stories.

  • Figuring out what kinds of differences are most relevant to a given situation can be challenging. We’ll learn more about how to tackle this later on in this program.

  • Using superficial differences as proxies for cognitive diversity can be a shortcut in a pinch, but we ought to be more thoughtful if we want to maximize our chances of successfully exploring Problem Mountain together.

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