Perhaps a decade ago it began to dawn on the Diversity profession that “inclusion” wasn’t going to be a natural result of the “Diversity” equation. Who knew. The “No Quality Left Behind” parade of diverse niches took their place in the lineup to compete for “inclusion” into any and every area of life from which they felt some level of exclusion. Diversity hadn’t worked…but something else might.
The Diversity world began rolling the dice and taking a run at whatever new qualities seemed to come up. Dignity & Respect have been bolted on. Some are adding “Equity,” others “Civility” as frustrations with D&I manifest. “Efficacy” and “Engagement” are popular add-on elements. Still others are lining up more qualities that Diversity’s embrace hasn’t yet managed to imbue on the corporate psyche. The list of deficits and failures is growing based on the recent New York Times article by Nelson D. Schwartz and Michael Cooper, decrying the absence of racial minorities in the Fortune 500 mix, and the paucity of women in anything close to a representative management demographic. Kevin Stainback and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey got into the act via the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, decrying the private sector rise in job segregation. Forbes ran a similarly themed blog series, penned by a frustrated feminist. Few would know better than NYT and Forbes that exclusion is hardly a revelation — but it is newsworthy. Why?
It appears that the entire Diversity profession has been attempting all the right things, promoting innovation, transformation, disruption, but all under the wrong roof. How do we know? That New York Times article on an intractable problem indicates that the Diversity Paradigm, though well-intentioned, may have been framed in entirely the wrong way in the first place, unable to truly address what’s truly at issue.
And it may be that many corporate leaders knew it all along, but were helpless to stem the tide of demand. Too many were eager for the saccharin sweet celebration of differences and warm cultural embrace of Diversiphiles knocking at the doors. Followed by all of Diversity’s dubious progress over the past 30 years, the NYT article alludes to what Stephen Covey once referred to as ‘climbing the ladder of success only to discover its leaning against the wrong wall.’ Where did Diversity go wrong?
Or did it?
Is it possible that “Diversity” has actually performed precisely as it was designed and expected to perform? Might it be that, despite anticipating its design failure, Diversity was the best alternative to a less pleasant negotiated settlement on matters of differences in the workplace?
InclusiveWorks® has been at study for years, probing the literature on the design, intent and function of D&I programs, as well as the results. Over twenty years ago, the founder of InclusiveWorks® began investigation into what was going wrong with Diversity interventions, and why they were failing to instill the hoped for values in the American workforce…and more importantly, why the results were so sadly characteristic of what we still see reported on today.
In all of our examination of Diversity matters over the years, we’ve found one core component consistently missing in virtually all of the discussions, though alluded to in many. It remains outside of the core curriculum for nearly all D&I training, but not surprisingly, its roots are in an area that Diversity often avoids or glosses over as does much of the society in which we live and operate.
It’s not a secret, but it’s seldom raised by Diversity professionals. It’s been around for centuries, but it is neither well understood nor intently studied by many who may want and need it the most. In fact, some might reject it out of hand. Others will quickly recognize it as being at the core of almost every quality and trait being touted as essential for effective relations in many aspects of our work and our society.
Contact us at InclusiveWorks® for a first-hand look at one of the most controversial yet effective mindsets needed for managing cultural conflict, from mild to intractable.
An InclusiveWorks® goal is to replace “differences” as the dominant and primitive mode of thinking about other people.
InclusiveWorks® aims to shift the focus away from how others are different to how both work and social relationships can thrive in a world steeped in conflict.
© Robert D. Jones 2013, All Rights Reserved
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