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Transversal CEO calls for cognitive diversity at Inclusive Innovation conference

Transversal CEO calls for cognitive diversity at Inclusive Innovation conference

Heather Richards, CEO of Transversal, spoke about the value of recruiting personnel with diverse skills and perspectives at a technology conference in Cambridge.

The Inclusive Innovation conference, organized by Cambridge Wireless, took place on 19 September. It featured speakers from Cambridge-based and international companies including Amazon, Wayra, ARM and Citrix. Topics ranged from gender in the tech industry to the unimportance of age (with a memorable presentation from a 15-year-old software developer).

Transversal’s presentation focused on encouraging diversity of ideas – cognitive diversity – through recruiting people from different disciplines into technology development. Heather, who is a graduate in literature and philosophy, stressed the sometimes underrated contribution of employees from a liberal arts background. Many facets of software design, she pointed out, intersect with the skills of the humanities, such as taking account of human factors in design or turning raw data into a meaningful story. Heather posited that STEM is more powerful when it becomes STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

More generally, Heather spoke about the value of cognitive diversity to ensuring a continual and varying flow of ideas. While some of those ideas will conflict, she said, it’s through conflict that ideas are winnowed and refined. Heather noted that one way to foster cognitive diversity is to “hire and encourage the whole person” – to value people not only for the skills and experience immediately relevant to their role, but for everything else they can bring to the table. Tech companies, she recommended, need to hire people with real interests outside work. Not quite the traditional stereotype of the computer geek, but essential for businesses whose key currency is innovation.

For more information on the Inclusive Innovation conference, see the official event page.