“Evaluative Diversity and the Board” published in Board Leadership

July-Aug 2016 Issue of Board LeadershipAn article published in the July/August 2016 issue of Board Leadership: Innovative Approaches to Governance presented the GRIN model using the same pictures found here, but acknowledged that two implications for governance also follow from the models of evaluative diversity presented in Predisposed, Teamology and The Righteous Mind. A common theme runs through all four models: “no one can be all things.”

The article was paired in this issue with “New Ways of Looking at Democracy,” an edited extract from Brett Hennig’s forthcoming book The End of Politicians. Hennig’s article suggested that “democracy” originally referred to systems in which leaders were selected at random (what he calls “sortition“) and that selection of leaders through election or appointment has since degraded democracy.

Hennig pointed out that random selection increases the perceived legitimacy of leaders because it makes leaders more similar to the communities they lead. Randomly selected leaders would not be mostly male or largely committed to donors, political parties, and political reputations.

This argument for sortition is undermined by the first implication of evaluative diversity: It would be naive to attempt to protect diversity by selecting representatively diverse leaders, since people of certain evaluative types are less likely to represent others who share their own type. In other words, the discovery of evaluative democracy disconfirms the theory behind representative democracy.

Using the GRIN model as an example, when two people with the same goals, loyalties and information apply negotiator evaluation or institutional evaluation perfectly, they will vote in exactly the same ways, so they will perfectly represent each other. However, the more perfectly two people apply gadfly evaluation, the less likely they are to reach the same conclusions. Thus, as we approach greater evaluative ability and alignment of goals, loyalties and information, a board with five members of each type would effectively give five times as much vote to each negotiator or institutional board member as it does to each gadfly board member. The system would be rigged against natural gadflies.

Democracy is possible, but representative democracy is not.

To avoid systematically handicapping citizen of particular evaluative types, the governance system must somehow resolve disagreements without having to put issues to a vote. The primary job of leaders should not be to vote, but rather to resolve disagreements through such mechanisms as evidence, empathy, creativity, and humility so that votes need never be taken. Such dispute resolution is democratic because it involves the entire community, and boards should involve the entire community, rather than expect to find all necessary ability within itself.

Hennig cites Scott Page’s, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies as providing evidence that “diversity trumps ability when solving problems and producing innovative ideas.” Both articles agree with Page that diversity is valuable, but the evaluative diversity article claims that the better way to protect that diversity is through monitoring (as one would protect diversity in an ecosystem) rather than merely shifting power among leaders. This is the second implication of evaluative diversity for governance: Boards should attain the benefits of evaluative diversity by extending current financial accounting practices to include monitoring of organizational culture.

Boards already require organizations to measure and report their income, debt and assets on a regular basis. If there are dramatic changes in these measures compared to the previous period or deviations from expectations, then the board sounds an alarm—management will be replaced if it cannot explain/correct the discrepancy. This is how managers are held accountable to serve the organization well.

But an organization is not merely a money machine—a healthy organization brings together people of diverse evaluative types, so good management must also include assuring that none of the different kinds of contributions gets systematically blocked. Such assurance would produce a balance between evaluative types, and shifts in that balance could be measured in terms of shifts in cultural variables such as the organization’s unity, consistency, creativity, and competitiveness. If there are dramatic changes in these measures compared to the previous period or deviations from expectations, then the board should sound an alarm just as it would for shifts in financial measures.

By pairing the two articles, Board Leadership highlighted what happens when there is not enough science guiding governance. First of all, the resulting governance-failure produces frustration which is well-documented in the sortition article—only genuine frustration with current governance could justify replacing elected/ appointed leaders with randomly selected leaders. Second, even though the frustration is caused by a lack of science, it does not necessary motivate increased investment in science. Hennig and I personally discussed the opportunity to protect diversity through monitoring two months before we wrote our articles, yet our articles still offered contrasting recommendations. Hennig offered no argument for or against the use of monitoring to protect diversity, and no one forced him to address that possibility . Thus, the lack of science produces not only frustration, but also permits confusion about how to resolve the frustration.