Diversity and the “best qualified” candidate

job interviewWhy should we care about diversity in our search processes? Because diverse work teams can make better decisions, solve problems better and help us tackle the tough problems we face in higher education.

Last summer Todd wrote about a book by Scott E. Page, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Page presented the idea that diversity can be equally important–or even more important–than ability in problem-solving teams.  Page calls this idea “wise crowds” – the idea that multiple perspectives on an issue can generate better solutions than one expert on their own. Of course, not all crowds are wise. But the book makes a compelling mathematical case for the benefit of diverse viewpoints when addressing large and complex issues.

As leaders in higher education, some of his conclusions are worth considering. For example, when building research teams he says that “hiring students who had high grade point averages from the top-ranked school may be a less effective strategy than hiring good students from a diverse set of schools”  (p. 173).

I was reminded of this book when I attended a recent workshop for search committee members. (Anita talked about the workshop in her last post). We discussed the idea of “best qualified” from a variety of viewpoints, especially in the context of creating diverse pools. If Page is right, then the strategy of seeking broader pools of candidates to include people who bring new viewpoints to the table is not only the right thing to do, but also makes the most business sense.

What definitions of “best qualified” have worked for you?

–Dee Anne Bonebright

To Learn More:

Scott E. Page presentation  (Part 1):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6W57-Ii5Ug

Scott E. Page presentation (Part 2): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfKGqgJoF-8



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