Why we need diverse thinking in the age of AI


Great minds do think alike, but too many homogeneous minds can create hive thinking, which is something we need to move away from as a society.

Social media is a good example of this: it has created an intellectual vacuum in which people are constantly being fed content by people who think like them and lack exposure to different points of view. Algorithms tailoring content to our personal preferences are great when it comes to light-hearted, humorous videos, but not so much when it limits our perspective on the world and society.

Consequently, we are increasingly looking more and more inwardly on ourselves and the people we follow. This is already making us less diverse in our thinking and approach to life, as well as problem solving, and it will continue in the long term.

These issues also apply to the business world: lack of cognitive diversity in decision making process can lead to silo thinking, which with time curbs growth.

However, it doesn’t need to be that way. With the right data strategy and data analytics and management tools, business leaders can attract and encourage more diverse minds and input, leading to greater chances of steady innovation and growth.

The power of diversity when strategising

One of the business aspects the power of cognitive diversity is especially important for is business strategy design. Especially for organisations that are constantly looking to improve and ask themselves ‘what’s next?’. The power of cognitive diversity is very profound when it comes to designing business strategies, coming up with creative ideas, new products and services.

There are many great minds who studied human and market behaviour, including Matthew Syed, author of Rebel Ideas, who warns against the danger of having homogenous geniuses or experts in the room, as it is detrimental to innovation and growth in the long run, and independent thinker Vikram Mansharami, a frequent commentator on issues driving disruption in the global business environment.

Here’s a good example of where cognitive diversity has worked well. Gareth Southgate, the former England football team’s head coach, created the FA Technical Advisory Board consisting of unpaid volunteers, including Syed himself, that meet regularly to advise the coach on performance. This volunteer group is made up of non-footballing individuals, including a tech entrepreneur, a college commander and a cycling coach.

These people each provided their unique point of view and experiences. Together, they gave us a broad set of perspectives of performance improvement, as well as avoiding echo-chamber scenarios, where members of a team reflect each other’s assumptions back to each other.

Bringing the focus back to a world of business and analytics, combined with AI and now Gen AI, we can only achieve the best results, if we are able to derive insights from trusted and diverse sources of data.

We should use data to encourage more diverse thinking and remove the unconscious biases we all inherently carry with us. But also ensuring empathy, ethics and morals are part of the process – as this differentiates humans from the machine.

Qlik technology enables the democratisation of data, making it accessible for everyone within an organisation to use. We do this by bringing together complex data sets with diverse data points from multiple sources, understanding the relationship between different datasets, which can then be easily explored. Democratisation of data also means democratisations of the skills needed to understand the data, which is more important than ever in the AI era. At Qlik we keep this front of mind through our Data Literacy initiatives aimed at making everyone data literate, rather than a select few within an organisation. Empowering employees to read, analyse, and argue with the data, the better they will be able to contribute to an organisation’s growth.

Data driven decision-making is more likely to result in fair and equitable outcomes. With the right data and infrastructure, teams can encourage diverse thinking and foster a business culture that embraces different points of view. On the contrary, decision-making could be based on assumptions or stereotypes, which can in turn perpetuate biases and hinder diversity efforts – thwarting innovation in the process.

Why data matters

I often talk about how, from a tech perspective, data is at the core of bringing more innovation to business operations. But data by itself is not enough. We also need a diverse workforce with a variety of backgrounds that contribute to a culture of understanding, learning and exploration.

This, alongside insights gained through the right data analytics software, is the perfect recipe to ensure that businesses have all the tools to continuously grow and innovate.

James Fisher, Chief Strategy Officer, Qlik