Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke to the students of Auburn University—his alma mater—on Thursday. According to university newspaper The Plainsman, Mr. Cook’s speech was titled, “A Personal View of Inclusion and Diversity.”

In his speech, Mr. Cook made the case that diversity is important from a capitalist standpoint. He said, “The world is intertwined today, much more than it was when I was coming out of school. Because of that, you really need to have a deep understanding of cultures around the world.”

Diversity of Professions, Too

Interestingly, he also expanded the usual definition of diversity beyond cultural, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation.

We believe you can only create a great product with a diverse team. And I’m talking about the large definition of diversity. One of the reasons Apple products work really great – I hope you think they work really great – is that the people working on them are not only engineers and computer scientists, but artists and musicians.

It’s this intersection of the liberal arts and humanities with technology that makes products that are magical.

These are themes advocated for and advanced by Steve Jobs, who often spoke of the intersection of technology and the arts, or technology and the humanities. Mr. Jobs felt it was important, for instance, to design office buildings in such a way that fostered accidental meetings between people of all disciplines and professions within a company. He did this first with Pixar’s headquarters, and then again with Apple Park that is set to open later this year.

In Walter Isaacson’s excellent The Innovators (Amazon, iTunes), he showed us how Steve Jobs studied Bell Labs, where such accidental meetings were key to that AT&T branch’s success for decades.

Tim Cook

It’s an interesting take on the importance of diversity. As Apple CEO, Mr. Cook has been vocal in the fight for marriage equality and other more politically-fraught areas. And it couches the concept of “diversity” in a way that may help some people reframe the “diversity” concept.

Diversity of thought and background can combine to form better ideas and solutions. This is true for society, corporations, academia, science, and anywhere else you care to look.

He added:

In order to lead in a diverse and inclusive environment, you have to allow that you may not personally be able to understand something someone else does. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

For example, somebody may worship something else as you. You might not be able to understand why they do that. But you have to allow that the person not only has the right to do that, but they likely have a set of reasons and life experiences that have led them to that.

There’s more in the full article from The Plainsman.

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Bryan: There are those who believe that the efficacy of diversity as a driver of innovation, problem solving, no less than as a source of attraction, learning and growth, is self-evident, and are often-times disappointed if not surprised to find that the rationale for working towards a diverse and more inclusive environment must still be argued. Such settings include those of Apple-centric discussion fora, in which, occasionally, someone voices objection to diversity as an artifice of pointless political correctness, while at the same time using a product of Apple’s creativity, itself the product of applied diversity, as a tool to… Read more »