We recently came across an article in Wired Magazine by Peter Thiel (of Paypal fame and early investor in Facebook) with some very interesting conclusions.
Briefly, he mentions how the best and brightest of our society tend to shoot for elite universities like Harvard, where they then proceed to interact with people more or less just like them and, as the years go by, they tend to reinforce their own principles and become more and more similar. This may seem both obvious and good. We agree that it is obvious. Most of us associate with people similar to ourselves, and studies have been performed to show that most people do the same around the world.
The second point, that it is good for the best and brightest to keep hanging out with the best and brightest, however, might not be so good. Thiel points to a study of entrepreneurs, which showed that those who associated with the most varied groups of people (in different clubs, associations and different activities) tended to be the most innovative. He then ties this back into Harvard, where he says the lack of interaction with diverse people (not necessarily diversity of race or gender, but of interests, goals, etc.) will limit the potential of these best and brightest. He ends with: “Perhaps Bill Gates knew what he was doing when he dropped out of Harvard.”