We Do Better Than Me

In the previous article, we briefly discussed how diverse groups of problem solvers are being utilized to uncover innovative solutions. But in the Church, diversity has a history of leading to disagreement and division as evidenced by the suggestion we currently have close to 33,000 Christian denominations in the world.[1] Paul addressed our tendency to let diversity divide us rather than unite us in his letter to the church of Corinth, a city comprised of people from a variety of cultures and economic conditions. He spent over a year there teaching these new believers the ways of Christ only to later find out they had fallen victim to division and immorality.

He writes to the church at Corinth: “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (1 Cor. 1:10 NRSV). Paul went on to illustrate his point with the metaphor of the body where he painted a picture of the Church as a united body comprised of a diverse collection of parts, parts that enabled rather than prevented proper functioning (1 Cor.12).

Paul’s treatise concerning the benefits of diversity within the church echoes current research into optimal decision making methodology as researchers are uncovering the ways in which diversity contributes to better problem solving. A toolbox is a good metaphor to aid in our understanding of the benefits cognitive diversity brings to decision-making.

Each of us likely has a toolbox of some sort at home. The tools in this toolbox enable us to take on certain projects. A hammer enables something different than a screwdriver. A socket set enables tasks in which the hammer or screwdriver would be less than useful. And, if one needed to create a precise sized hole, not having a drill in the toolbox would prove quite detrimental.

This toolbox analogy is applicable to our cognitive capabilities as well in that each of us possesses a cognitive tool box of sorts containing a variety of tools.[2] Each of these tools provides us with certain problem solving capabilities. However, none of us is capable of carrying around a toolbox containing enough cognitive tools to know what is best in every situation. In addition, our proficiency with a certain set of cognitive tools predisposes us to view problem solving through the lens of those tools, which unfortunately creates a sort of error blindness to solutions other than our own. C.S. Lewis perhaps summed up the benefits associated with a diverse group of problem solvers best when he said: “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”[3]

Dr. Scott Page has identified four types of diversity within a group that are beneficial to innovative problem solving:[4]

“Diverse Perspectives: ways of representing situations and problems

Diverse Interpretations: ways of categorizing or partitioning

Diverse Heuristics: ways of generating solutions to problems

Diverse Predictive Models: ways of inferring cause and effect”[5]

However, doing our best to assemble a diverse group of problem solving individuals is not the complete solution, for there are certain conditions under which these groups arrive at outstanding solutions:

1) The problem must be difficult.[6]

2) Individuals in the problem-solving group must have some ability that contributes to the solving of the problem.[7]

3) No individual needs to be able to find the solution on his or her own; they just need to be able to offer a suggestion for improvement.[8]

4) The collection of problem solvers working on the problem must be large, definitely more than a handful of individuals.[9]

5) The group contains a diversity of opinions.[10]

6) Members of the group are independent of one another.[11]

7) Leadership of the group is decentralized.[12]

8) There is some method for aggregation of the results.[13]

9) Members of the group self-select, which also encourages participation.[14]

A diverse group of individuals working together under these conditions enables the best solutions to be revealed while at the same time limiting some of the negative consequences oftentimes associated with groups or committees such as groupthink. Groupthink occurs when members of the problem-solving group place consensus or getting along above discovery of the best solutions. Crowdsourcing works against groupthink as it encourages independence in the decision making process.

So, if we are aware of the ways in which diversity contributes to improve problem solving through crowdsourcing, what is it that might hold us as a community of Christians back from utilizing this methodology to uncover better solutions? Do we trust our congregations to make decisions? What gives them the authority? It is to these questions we turn in the next articles as we attempt to answer the question “On whose authority do we crowdsource?”


[1] Ostling, “Researcher Tabulates World’s Believers,” Adherents, http://www.adherents.com/misc/WCE.html

[2] Scott E. Page, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (New Edition) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 103.

[3] C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays On Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1994), 202.

[4] Page, The Difference, 7.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Page, The Difference, 159.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 161.

[9] Ibid., 162.

[10] James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds (New York: Anchor, 2005), location 312, Kindle.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.


After many years in the creative and business sides of television and music production on both the local and national level, Dr. Thomas Ingram now divides his time between research/writing and mentoring/coaching/encouraging others in their efforts to pursue God’s purpose for their lives. Ingram is the author of The New Normal: A Diagnosis the Church Can Live With. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Psychology, a Master of Business Administration in Leadership and a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies. You can connect with Tom’s work at www.thomaseingram.com or email him at tom.ingram@mac.com.


[14] Karim R. Lakhani and Jill A. Panetta, “The Principles of Distributed Innovation,” Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization 2, no. 3 (2007): 105.

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