Cognitive Diversity & Dissonance

by Edward Henkler on February 10, 2015

If you like the themes of my posts and have not yet seen The Imitation Game, I’d highly recommend scheduling it. There were so many relevant themes touching on the differently abled, cognitive diversity, building strong teams, and making difficult choices for the greater good. In case you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s a wonderful tale of Alan Turing and how he defeated the Enigma machine. This machine, which created a reputedly unbreakable code, facilitated Nazi communications for the first half of WWII. The movie stays remarkably close to the actual events and you can learn more about Alan at this Wikipedia profile article. I’ve done a bit of online research and it seems that the movie may have portrayed Alan a bit differently from the actual person. Keeping that in mind, my comments are based on the “movie Alan”, not necessarily the real one.

Cognitive diversity and disssonace

One thing that is certain is that Alan didn’t fit into the mainstream mold. He was homosexual at a time when that was completely unacceptable. He was chemically castrated to avoid prison and some believe that eventually led him to commit suicide at age 41. He was brilliant and the movie portrays him as a socially awkward individual with a suggestion that he was on the autism spectrum. He was uninterested in help from others as he firmly believed no one else was smart enough to help. The “movie Alan” frequently says he can’t explain things to others as they wouldn’t be able to understand.

The solution he pursues is brilliant but he still can’t succeed alone. This seems like a great place to interject an African proverb, which I first read in The B Corp Handbook by Ryan Honeyman. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together.” Alan is finally convinced to build a team. His approach is unconventional as he seeks people who can complete crossword puzzles quickly. They have common skills but very different backgrounds, creating a very cognitively diverse team. The team even includes a woman which was very unusual at the time.

It’s a wonderful movie about a man and a team that may have shortened WWII by several years and saved hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives. In case you choose to see the movie, I won’t explain the difficult choice which Alan makes.

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