Diversity Breakthroughs Blog
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The field of D&I is stuck. Many of our familiar strategies and tools are failing to achieve results commensurate with the ever-increasing demands of organizational and societal complexity. Too often, we look to what has been done rather than what could be. Certainly, the work of D&I has been critically advanced though tremendous minds and passions, and we have a rich history of important progress. At the same time, if we are to build on that legacy to solve emerging D&I challenges, we cannot be constrained by our past creations.
We know that engaging a broad mix of people is crucial to sustainably addressing our most difficult business and societal challenges. Including diverse perspectives and identities is both the right thing to do and a potent ingredient for innovation and business success. As we recognize the value we have brought to organizations through our work in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), we also know how far we still need to go.
Just as a blueprint guides the construction of an optimally functional house, we need a blueprint to create inclusive organizations that work for a diversity of people. A D&I ecosystem strategy provides this guide. Starting with mission-critical business outcomes followed by a discovery of how D&I can enable business results, the ecosystem approach systematically considers opportunities for change through the lens of 7 key elements of the organization. Contrasting with piecemeal D&I initiatives focused on isolated incidents and symptoms, this approach accepts the organization as a complex system as it attends to interrelationships and weaves change throughout the organization to achieve comprehensive, sustainable outcomes.
D&I Innovation Lab Series
As organizations seek new avenues for growth amidst dynamic economic, demographic, technological and social change, both innovation and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) are essential. Even more, D&I and innovation can be reciprocally interdependent when each is used to catalyze better outcomes in the other. Those improved outcomes at the intersection of innovation and D&I can help businesses grow.
Increasingly, forward-thinking organizations recognize the vital importance of effective, integrated Diversity and Inclusion strategies in propelling product and service innovations. These organizations, however, often overlook another aspect of the relationship between D&I and innovation: the importance of engaging innovative approaches to ensure stronger diversity and inclusion.
We know we need innovation to realize substantially better results with Diversity and Inclusion, but how do we go about creating fresh ideas capable of generating new value? This is no easy endeavor. While many assert that they value diverse thinking to generate vitally important innovations for their businesses, most are paradoxically biased against creativity. An innovation lab is one way to overcome this challenge.
Dirty Dozen white paper: the 12 absurd risks businesses take only in Diversity and Inclusion and what you can do to avoid them.
More on Contemporary D&I
The tech sector has a people problem. Indicators signal significant concerns inside many of these organizations, particularly for the women and racialized persons who beat the odds to make it through the door. Given the clear innovation and business value of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), a lack of commitment and proficiency to make the most of a broad mix of talent is not good news for tech leaders, employees, customers, or investors.
Contemporary Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) leaders are challenged to be innovators. Although we have achieved important successes, current practices are insufficient. Progressive leaders know we need new ways of thinking and working to deliver on D&I’s full potential. To fulfill the D&I business case, we must design transformative strategies to elevate meaningful results.
The evolution of the field of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) has been bumpy. Recognizable successes are balanced with notable setbacks, best practices are compared with less than best results, and progress is weighed against stakeholders’ unfulfilled needs. Questioning the value of D&I, some organizations are reducing resources and demoting D&I leadership to lower levels.
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) specialists are often expected to provide the business case for their work. Although not all D&I results are easily quantified, D&I professionals do not object to being relevant to the mission of their organizations or to leveraging D&I as an enabler of business strategy. Most agree that all elements of the business, including D&I, must deliver results to help achieve the collective goals of the organization. But if you're not yet convinced by the evidence for the business case for diversity & inclusion, what is your business case for homogeneity and exclusion?
Measuring D&I’s ROI (return on investment) helps leaders demonstrate the impact of their work by comparing the cost of a solution to its monetary payback, and demand for this metric continues to grow. A challenge in our field, though, is the limited investment often devoted to D&I initiatives.
A call for patience on matters of inclusion is antithetical to how we operate other elements of our businesses and other institutions. When there is a problem with safety, quality, or revenue, we do not accept that we must be patient while we take a few generations to effect change. Business leaders and their customers, investors, employees, and regulators simply would not accept that. Why are standards different when we talk about including and benefiting from the full talents, skills, and ideas of a broad diversity of people working to make a meaningful contribution in our organizations?
Increasingly, D&I specialists are challenged to foster healthy dialogue on tough issues in response to turbulent D&I conflicts around the world. Many find it difficult to discuss tension-filled D&I topics, such as same-sex human rights debates, racially-motivated violence, religious frictions with refugees and immigrants, or acute gender inequalities.
In the face of increasingly complex problems and progressively compelling opportunities, your Diversity and Inclusion goals and objectives are not going away. We have a responsibility to design innovative ways of working that can deliver better results.
As Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) leaders scan the landscape for ways to enhance the value created through D&I, how can they be more inclusive of broader sources of insight?
In my D&I work partnering with and developing corporate, academic, and NGO D&I leaders around the globe, I see the critical importance of 3 additional competencies: Design, Systems Thinking, and Execution.
Questions that reshape perspectives can fix talent management systems in ways that naturally enable broader diversity in leadership.
Measuring D&I success is similar to measuring health. To make sense of D&I progress, we have our own D&I “vital signs.” However, such “vital signs” alone do not tell us whether or not our organizations are healthy when it comes to D&I.
We know that managing diverse company cultures and initiating inclusive cultural change is a key factor associated with successful acquisitions. However, in managing complex cultural integration challenges, the Chief Diversity Officer is often underutilized.
Think about the most extraordinary contribution that diversity and inclusion has made to your organization and its success. Now, imagine a future in which your organization identifies critical D&I levers that improve strategic business outcomes.
When it comes to meaningful D&I metrics, are we asking the right questions? Business executives love figures, particularly quantitative measures that definitively measure profit and return on investment. Often, we don’t understand the meanings behind the numbers.
Being an effective Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) professional entails having the ability to continually influence individuals at all levels in an organization. However, where to focus our efforts is one of the most critical decisions we face.
In Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain explores the experiences of introverts as they navigate extroverted cultures which favor those who are gregarious, confident, commanding, and drawn to the limelight.
Years ago in Atlanta, Georgia USA, actor Ruby Dee altered the way I thought about the acceptable pace of change to achieve transformations in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) work. Rather than singing, “We shall overcome some day,” they sang, “We shall overcome Sunday.”
Achieving a balanced mix of diverse employees is an important part of D&I work, but this is not enough. It is also important to create an inclusive environment where every employee thrives, flourishes, and feels that he or she belongs.
The ever-changing requirements of a diverse market and customer base require organizations to cultivate an agile, inclusive culture. How do you combine multiple perspectives and ways of working together to generate positive outcomes?
Even when employees and customers are local, D&I leaders must respond to international megatrends. D&I leaders need to ensure our strategies are both globally and locally relevant. How do we include and make the most of globally diverse populations?
Influencing sustainable change in the complex realm of Diversity and Inclusion is challenging. With constant demands for better business cases and action plans, we sometimes forget how essential it is to motivate executives and other stakeholders through their feelings.
D&I professionals strive to cultivate open minds to encourage people to understand and value a broad spectrum of perspectives. When we think of people with closed minds, we rarely think of Diversity champions. But what happens when D&I practitioners close our minds to new ideas?
Many prevailing Diversity and Inclusion initiatives are focused on changing individual awareness and behaviours. This reliance on individual awareness, competence and motivation is among the key reasons D&I results are not as meaningful as they need to be.
To expand the impact and sustainability of Diversity and Inclusion, and demonstrate its value across the entire business, we must fully integrate D&I into our organizations. To do this, we need to embed D&I into daily decisions and standard processes in every function.
More than two decades ago, Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas explained that diversity includes everyone. Based on my research and experiences, these were radical ways of looking at diversity in North America, and it re-framed the foundation of my work.
Leaders and managers might not see how they can afford to focus on D&I on top of their business responsibilities. Indeed, part of being a leader is deciding what to do, as well as what not to do, with limited resources.
Some of the most beneficial innovations in contemporary Diversity and Inclusion demonstrate that the path to better results depends in part on questioning and sometimes letting go of former practices and programs with results that are valuable, but not sufficient.
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) innovators are well-positioned to accelerate increasingly significant, meaningful, and sustainable results. New D&I practices are needed to make the most of that diverse mix to achieve individual, organizational, and societal goals for this generation.