Digitalization is one of the biggest topics of our time and technological progress is affecting all of our lives – whether you like it or not. Now coding has finally made its way to schools: comprehensive school students are being introduced to coding thanks to the revised school curriculum of fall 2016. But why is it so important that all students learn coding and what does it mean for equality?
I attended a technology panel aimed at women. During the discussion, a female programmer told us she feels alien in her team, which mainly consists of men. After all, women are a radically underrepresented minority in tech. This lack of diversity can lead to technology that only offers solutions to the problems of a single group of people – since no one will even attempt to solve a problem unless it’s recognized first.
This issue surely affects many of us, as these days most work is teamwork. The end result depends on the how well the team works together and solves problems together. When it comes to a single employee, creativity and successful solutions are born out of experience, motivation and good thinking skills. In teams, they are the result of successful synergy between the team mates – and this produces a better result than you could achieve just working individually.
Why do diverse teams do best?
The Groupthink theory was developed in 1972 as a method to research teamwork. The Groupthink phenomenon occurs when a team of decision-makers think too much alike, which creates an unusually strong and unwavering sense of unity. In this case, the group is unable to recognize alternate or more farsighted solutions to problems and, as a result, it is prone to making false assumptions or is at least susceptible to mediocrity. The team members are also often guilty of thinking in terms of stereotypes and hyping their own ideas. As an example, the Groupthink theory has been used to explain NASA’s infamous Challenger shuttle disaster. The shuttle exploded only a few seconds after its launch, killing its whole crew.
But are top results born out of the personal decisions of brilliant individuals? After all, throughout history, creativity has been associated with genius – that is, creative people are thought to come up with innovative solutions only because they are gifted. I hate to break it to you, but according to research, the key to innovation lies in diversity instead of good genes.
Research shows that teams in which critical thinking and debating are encouraged produce more creative results and solutions. Allowing critical thinking gives the team members a chance to dive deeper into the issue and come up with collective ideas that aren’t as predictable as if cohesion was greater. The most significant creative processes and change result from the group either thinking of a whole new framework for problem solving or finding an error in the plan no one has spotted before.
Coding provides new tools for versatile problem solving
According to technology devotees, technology provides a solution to almost any problem. We take an Uber instead of a taxi, Wolt brings us dinner instead of the moms from the Saarioinen commercials, and we conveniently take care of our bank business by tapping on our smart phones on the morning subway. When you really think about it, these are all very simple solutions to small everyday problems.
Lately I have been participating in women’s coding and technology groups and working as a volunteer at The Shortcut, a community where I teach coding to immigrants and refugees. The purpose of these groups is to inspire the members to take part in creating and developing technology instead of just passively consuming it. When more pairs of eyes take part in examining a problem early on, the field becomes more diverse and we are able to create better solutions to everyday problems.
For this reason, it is important to see diversity as a resource. Conflicts shouldn’t be seen as an indication of bad team spirit, but as positive clashes that can give rise to even better solutions. Creativity and innovation aren’t born out of a consensus – they result from differences between the team members. This is why it is so important to diversify the field of technology. Not everyone has to be a professional coder, but coding can help you learn brand new ways to solve problems and understand the ever-changing world.