Idea generation sits at the heart of business and marketing. But intelligence is hampered by a lack of diversity. Discover what a school of fish taught us about expanding our thinking with collaboration.

Two social psychologists from the University of Michigan took two groups – one from Japan and the other from the United States – and showed them video clips from underwater scenes.


Both groups were asked what they saw. Their answers were profoundly surprising.


When asked to describe what they had seen, the Americans talked about the fish. The Japanese talked about the context. It was as if the group were seeing different scenes.


So what was happening?


In his recent book Rebel Ideas – The Power of Diverse Thinking, Matthew Syed explores this further and what was happening here is called Perspective Blindness.


Each group saw an incomplete picture – the lack of diversity in each team was a weakness. So they did another test with a combination of a Japanese and an American. Together they perfectly described the scene. Together they had a collective intelligence.


In the agency world, a marketing agency’s strength is that it may well have lots of experts. But its weakness is that its team is full of experts in similar fields, from similar backgrounds and education. They are lacking diversity – meaning they are in danger of becoming an unintelligent team.


How do we get round this? We need cognitive diversity. We then stop seeing just the fish and see the bigger picture.


To achieve cognitive diversity, an intelligent team working on a brand challenges must include consumers and stakeholders. Different perspectives working together to generate ideas.


At SHARP we asked ourselves three questions:


  1. Where are the gaps in our collective intelligence?
  2. How do we work to ensure our teams don’t suffer from homophily?
  3. How do we ensure cognitive diversity in our strategic and concept work?


Our answer was co-creation. It is a methodology that:

  • Uses the power of diverse thinking
  • Ensures we put cognitive diversity at the heart of our client work
  • Constructs intelligent teams of experts, including brand customers and key stakeholders.


So for the past ten years, SHARP have been pioneers of co-creation, harnessing the power of cognitive diversity and collective intelligence to transform our clients’ marketing, branding and businesses.


It is a methodology we will continue to champion because of the incredible results it achieves amidst a time of avid consumer distrust in advertising. Just take a look at our case studies for HomeServe or Benenden to see it in action. 


Co-creation is in our blood and we love showing brands and businesses how uniquely transformative it is. So much so, we are taking our methodology on the road with a series of knowledge sharing seminars – here’s what happened at our first one.

If you’d like to register your interest to hear about upcoming BREAKFAST SERIAL events, simply email


 Where could a Co-Create by SHARP take your brand?


Richard Sharp - The SHARP agency

Richard Sharp

Creative Director