Why Diversity Just Isn't Enough

Diversity training is so 20th century. We hear that from organizations on a regular basis. They have conducted the training; they have held "diversity and inclusion" programs. And although they understand that diverse perspectives are critical for business success, they often have no idea how to create the interactions that will enable people to bring their differences—differences of perspective, background, and experience—to solve problems more rapidly, create innovation, and achieve higher performance. The problem is that diversity training can only get you so far.

The diversity training of the 1990s was an essential first step for most organizations. It opened individuals' eyes to the ever-growing diversity of the world around them—and the need to embrace and leverage that diversity if they were to thrive in the next century. It sparked many efforts to develop workforces that spanned differences of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, background, nationality, age, and experience.

As a result, many of today's organizations have a more diverse workforce, but no effective way to leverage it. The key to that leverage is to shift our mindset about diversity and inclusion to the how—the how of unleashing the creativity of the whole workforce.

This is where Inclusion as the HOWSM comes in.

As a mindset for addressing today's marketplace, Inclusion as the HOWSM considers how people connect and interact with one another. By utilizing inclusive behaviors—forming new partnerships of people who hold a range of perspectives, urging them to speak up and be bold, honoring each person's background as a contributor to organizational capability—Inclusion as the HOWSM fosters a safe environment in which to fully leverage the ideas and experiences of all people in the organization. This, in turn, creates a wide bandwidth for problem solving and innovation. For any given issue, it brings together the greatest number of the "right" people (i.e., the people affected by the issue) doing the right work at the right time, to solve problems more rapidly and accelerate results.

Inclusion as the HOWSM builds trust, and that trust is essential to speed. All too often, co-workers do not share information at all, or share only bits and pieces, due to mistrust. As people come together through Inclusion as the HOWSM, they discover how knowledge from one unit might help other units achieve their objectives. They see the potential that collaboration has for the whole organization. Motivated by such benefits, they begin to align with the new way of interacting. Cohesion grows across the organization, and that enables the flow of information and knowledge transfer that empowers the who1le organization to move more nimbly.

Diversity and inclusion has come a long way from the 1990s, when it was seen as a program peripheral to core business objectives. Now it ranks among the most important drivers of organizational performance. Inclusion as the HOWSM is the bridge from the old mindset to the new way of doing things, and one of the new means that organizations must adopt in order to succeed today.