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Why Difference Is Integral To Business & Politics | HBS Professor Arthur Brooks

Harvard Business School professor and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks explains why difference is at the heart of healthy democracy and a competitive business environment


Thu Oct 22 2020



Difference and diversity plays an important role in this. “You won't be truly fulfilled or satisfied unless you have enough difference in your life. You need to surround yourself with people of opposing points of view, and become really comfortable with it, and only then will you have an appreciation of what you can learn, what your boundaries are, and what excellence really means.” 

From a business perspective, engaging with difference is akin to knowing and respecting your adversaries.

“One thing businesses have in common before they fail is that they don't have respect for competition. They don't see what's about to kill them.” 

Repairing political polarization

It’s not unreasonable to think that the US has never felt this polarized. 

Arthur believes the US is currently stuck at an impasse which he refers to as Motive Attribution Asymmetry—”You believe that your side is motivated by love, and the other side is motivated by hatred.” 

To restore unity, Arthur hopes that some major lessons can be applied to politics from business. The importance of dialogue, of engaging with differences, and of respecting healthy competition. 

“Competition matters because excellence comes when we test each other's ideas in a climate of disagreement and persuasion through cooperation and respect.”

Read about Dan Vallone, US director of More In Common, using his Harvard MBA to repair America's divided communities