Keith Fowler

The Power of Diversity in Network Leadership

Where do you keep your ketchup? In the cupboard, or the fridge?

Business leaders worldwide are waking up to the power of network leadership. Some say inspired by the technology driven community of supporters created by the 2008 Obama Election Campaign.

Whilst a traditional hierarchical leadership structure has been the favour since the industrial revolution, advancements in technology are giving birth to network leadership models in organisations.

After all humans are social animals, and most of us work at our best and gain better results in groups. But why is this? And what is behind network leadership that is making it such an attractive supplement to traditional leadership?

From my own experience in forming and building networks, one factor above all stands out…


Particularly when problem solving.

Diversity means that we get different experiences and perspectives on the table. And these tend to produce more ideas, more information, and better solutions.

In addition, and more significantly; research carried out by Katherine Phillips at the Kellogg Business School has shown that diversity triggers an extra level of care in information processing. Group members will put in more thought and seek to exchange all information in order to diffuse the tension associated with a lack of homogeneity in the group.

It seems that we are compelled to work harder when our disagreement is with a socially different person.

So back to the question…Where do you keep your ketchup?

If you live in the UK or the USA then the odds are that you keep your Ketchup in the cupboard.

If you live in another part of the world, you probably keep it in the fridge.

What’s powerful about Diversity in Network Leadership is that even a small difference in perspective can lead to very different consequences.

For example, what happens when you run out of ketchup?

If you keep your ketchup in the cupboard, you may be more likely to reach for the vinegar as an alternative. If you keep your ketchup in the fridge, perhaps you reach for the mayonnaise.

As Scott Page has highlighted, a network made of identical people will always tackle a problem in the same way. Diversity gives you a better chance of securing a more effective solution.

Diversity is your secret sauce.

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