“Why oh why must it be this way? Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me, I said
Free your mind and the rest will follow. Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow.”
sang it almost 30 years ago - but the lyrics are still timely on how we are actually freeing our mind to be inclusive
. This leads us to the question:
How are we creating brave spaces where
1. people’s voices can be raised 2. will be raised, and 3. will be heard?
These elements are not mutually inclusive. Want to test this out? Then let’s start off with a little 2-part challenge:
1st: Coffee and Tea Culinary Sins: What comes to your mind?
(List as many as you can: Be they gross, uncouth, affect the taste strongly, or in general, ought be avoided at all costs. Please write them all down.)
Ok, so what culinary sins made your list?
Things like: leaving the tea bag in the tea cup, letting coffee boil on end in a percolator, reheating beverage in microwave the next day, adding milk to Earl Grey, reusing the tea bag, letting brewed coffee sit out all day on a heating pad, not drinking a Darjeeling the way it is supposed to be brewed, drinking less than piping hot coffee, dumping loads of sugar and cream to your coffee so that the coffee is almost a homeopathic remedy, mixing black tea with percolated coffee and drinking it like they do in parts of Finland?)
Did you just shiver in disgust? Or did you say, “ya, I do that, I know most don’t and maybe I wouldn’t do it in mixed company but for myself, that’s fine.”
Okay - moving on with the challenge.
2nd: Gauge Your Probable Reaction (rate: 1: meh or shrug to 5: would wig out):
- How would you react if someone committed one of those “sins” in front of you?
- Would you react differently if your partner “sinned” as opposed to say a co-worker or customer?
- How gross / or uncouth would the sin have to be before you spoke up?
- How okay with your culinary “sin” would you have to be that you would flaunt it without care of what others may think?
It depends… ?
On how comfortable you are with the folks? How accepting you believe they would be? How tactless the “sin” may be perceived? How convicted in your choice of preparation methods, that you would deal with any blow-back?
Now transfer the coffee/tea analogy to how we engage on work teams: what happens on day 1 when you join a team? What happens if a boss voices their opinion before the team has a chance to discuss? What happens when you hear “we have always done it this way” What if you have a dissenting opinion? Is it welcome to build on one another’s ideas?
Depending on your answers - you have indicators as to how brave one can be - and often times - is willing to be in your organization’s/ team/ WhatsApp group’s culture.
This is the mental hiccup I refer to when the topic of Diversity and Inclusion is being discussed mainly around KPIs
of representation. Representation is undeniably important and is not to be under-acknowledged. Period
. What I am saying, is that unfortunately there remains a large blindspot in regards to diversity in thinking
“By focusing only on the physical dimension of inclusion, namely gender, race and sexual orientation, we may miss the more profound and subtle dimension of thought. Winning, innovative companies are adopting a mindset of problem solving.
Plural thinking has less to do with IQ and more to do with orientation… Move away from lazy binary thinking. People are far more complex and their ideas are even more complex and dynamic.” Anand Chandramouli, Cognizant.
An environment of being a psychologically safe
place - where one can be brave enough to voice own input, and where differing opinions are integrated into better, more adaptive solutions - this is when Diversity and Inclusion really lead to innovation
and organizational nimbleness
” - speaks to the piece that the Funky Divas
were singing to. Meaning, while aligning the structural, compliance, or governance aspects to foster an inclusive environment, one is overall very attentive around the mindset to truly welcome plurality
thinking in. For example, exploring different ways of approaching the same problem, seeking out a variety of expertise or experience backgrounds, using exploratory improv or innovation methodologies
, and openly counteracting the fear of censure like group think
. By working to create an atmosphere of psychological safety
so that folks can feel free to express their opinions, build on ideas, or offer up a completely different point of view.
“Be Included” - for me is the flip side of the coin. How are we actually taking advantage of proffered open space to voice one’s own ideas? For example, do we stay quiet until we are asked to share? Do we observe the group until we feel sure that the censure risked would not cause ostracization? Do we think of sentences like “my manager never told me?”, “I have no idea why they want it that way - they just do.” This is what is behind “being included”.
If you are quiet, perhaps ask yourself: what is missing so that say, the confidence, to go into that proffered space is actually taken? Where might you perhaps be staying so solidly in your comfort zone - that you are not going into the magical zone of learning? A coaching statement of mine often is, “Don’t assume, reach out and ask. At the end of the day, what is the worst that can happen? What is the best that can happen?”
We need to look at our own ability - and self-agency
- to be part of the solution finding. “Be Included” means wading our own feet into the waters.
” - this is the culture and environment aspect that embraces the “Be Inclusive” and “Be Included” elements. This is the environment where the data points are not only listened to, but are actively integrated into the adaptive solution finding. An environment in which, when asked “ why oh why must be this way
”, we can clearly say - “it doesn’t”.