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A business case for different thinking - Nimi is featured in RIBAJ

Nimi reviews Matthew Syed's book Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking for RIBA Journal.

'Traditionally people form hierarchical structures. This looks at how to do things differently, with research about how people thrive, how people exchange ideas, and how people think. There’s a lot about sharing information, having an open dialogue, and having time to reflect and think how you can learn from mistakes. Companies like Facebook and Google put a lot of time into fostering this sort of environment.

As it discusses these issues, the book gives lots of detailed examples, such as how a lack of diverse thinking was a blind spot in CIA intelligence in the run-up to 9/ll. They found it harder to understand the mindset of radical Muslims because they had very few people from Islamic backgrounds (indeed any ethnic groups) within the organisation.

It also looks in great detail at a disastrous Everest climb in which many people died to find out why it went so wrong. It seems there was blind faith in the leader of the climbing group, with others not feeling comfortable enough in their own expertise to share their knowledge, maybe out of a fear of questioning authority. For example, one member of the team was a weather expert who may have had a better understanding of the weather conditions than the leader. And someone else knew that the oxygen levels were lower than was stated. We learn how important it is to foster the right, open-minded environment so you can share information, and how important it is for leaders to learn how to listen and accept that they might not have all the answers.

I’d recommend Rebel Ideas. It’s helped us to understand that diversity within teams, organisations and professions isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a good thing to do in terms of getting better outcomes. Personally, I find it quite refreshing to read that it’s okay to go against the grain and to do things differently, and that there’s a real value in doing that.'

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