Archive for August, 2009

Disrespect is tough to Forgive and to Forget…

August 31, 2009 4 comments

A new report just came out outlining the impact of unfair treatment in the workplace.  This report makes it clear that disrespect in the workplace degrades employee performance significantly and is something that is hard to overcome for the respective employee. 

The key from a Diversity2.0 standpoint is to focus on creating a culture of connectedness where employees feel connected to each other, their leaders, and their organizational mission and values. 

Done right, diversity is first about creating a basic level of respect, fairness, and opportunity in the workplace.  For leaders to establish respect treat everyone like they could be your boss next year.  To be fair know the strengths and weaknesses of your workforce and treat them accordingly.  And to create opportunity for everyone understand that your job is to help them reach their potential.

Read the article here

Categories: diversity Tags: ,

The Unconscious and Success Linked to Initials of One’s Name…

August 28, 2009 1 comment

A fascinating article is posted in science daily about the power of the unconscious and it’s link to success and the initials of one’s name.  In the article researchers were able to connect the success of students with the initials of their name.  For instance,  if students had initials that contained the letters A or B they were more likely to get an A or B in the class.  Likewise, if their initials contained the letters C or D they were more likely to get a C or D in the class.  Furthermore, the researchers found a correlation between names and initials and where people decided to live and even who they decided to marry.  As an example, Phillip was more prone to move to Philadelphia and marry Pamela.

From a diversity standpoint this further illustrates the power of the unconscious to shape what most of us consider to be rational and consciously considered decisions.  What we now know instead is that even the most arcane decisions we make are not only orginated in our unconscious but in essence controlled by our unconscious.  How many organizational systems in the workplace that we consciously and logically consider to be fair, but are instead in herently unfair due to the power of our unconscious.  A good example is the hiring practices in many workplaces.  Most of these practices include a face to face interview, some sort of test, and in some intances a performance demonstration.  I wonder how many of these “fair” hiring systems are really subconsciously unfair and lead us to hire people like us.

Read the article here

In Professor’s Model Diversity = Productivity

August 26, 2009 3 comments

cover-of-the-differenceBelow is a link to the New York Times and an interview with Scott E. Page who is a Professor at the University of Michigan.  Mr. Page published a book last year called,”The Difference” which made a compelling and researched based case on why diversity is so important.  His use of Complex Adaptive Systems thinking and other “21st century sciences” is the underlying premise of my Diversity 2.0 book.  The interview is fascinating and the book is pretty good to but might be a bit hard to read in some parts for those of us without a science background.

read the article

Watch Professor Page’s Talk here

The Value of Diversity…

August 26, 2009 1 comment

diversityLBelow is a recent reply I posted to some fellow forum participants surrounding the relevance or effectiveness of diversity in a workplace situation.  Next are their posts followed by my response.  The central point I make is that diversity is more than just a nice slogan.   But, it is instead a strategy used to increase organizational effectiveness in the face of a increasingly diverse workplace, marketplace, and workforce.

Joshua Strausser said

January 13, 2008 at 3:12 pm

I have small issue with this: “What the model showed was that diverse groups of problem solvers outperformed the groups of the best individuals at solving problems. The reason: the diverse groups got stuck less often than the smart individuals, who tended to think similarly.”

From the complex systems viewpoint, this really just says it is better to have lots of suboptimal agents searching over a RUGGED solution landscape, rather than having a singular agent who can be trapped by local extrema. And while I see and certainly agree with the value of this viewpoint in relation to creative organizations, I don’t see it offering much towards firms whose work is essentially rote. Typical office situations come to mind. So what is my upside in encouraging diversity for your standard issue manager?

  • Grue said

    January 20, 2008 at 12:34 pm Good point Joshua. Also, if we are going to allow effectiveness as a reason for diversity, doesn’t that mean we should also allow it as a reason against diversity in some cases?

    For instance, if a job is mostly rote, perhaps introducing diversity will just lead to extraneous conflicts at the workplace that impede productivity. I’m some someone could conjure a mathematical model that would show this effect also.

  • My Response:

    All of this is true, but the idea behind diversity is not all contexts are the same. For instance, though some office environments have rote office functions in today’s world most of these functions are becoming automated. Subsequently, only those functions and processes which are more complex are left to human intervention. And these are precisely the areas where diversity can be a benefit.

    Regarding context a quick sports analogy is helpful.  What any great coach will tell you is that you need different types of skill and talents to have a winning team.  Having a basketball team with Shaquille O’niell on it is a good thing and can be seen as improving the odds of your team winning.  That is..if he is playing center where his physical talents can be best utilized. However, if you have Shaq or Shaq like players trying to paly the point guard or small forward position do you think your team would be as good? I doubt it. Why? Because different positions require different skills. Which is the same situation that occurs everyday in every workplace. Diversity then, in essence, is a strategy that is used to identify how to best use the unique talents of the employee force you are responsible for.

    Finally, diversity is about how to put into practice those major organizational systems that can generate diversity and leverage unique differences. A major company system is the selection and hiring system. If this system is primed to generate diversity then organizational effectiveness can be be impacted in a quick and important way.

    Categories: Uncategorized

    How our segregated neighborhoods reflect our segregated workplaces

    August 20, 2009 4 comments

    PBS produced a documentary with a corresponding website titiled,”Race: The Power of an Illusion”.  This documentarywhere race lives details all the major issues surrounding race, it’s legacy, it’s origination, and the discrimination and predjudice that still exists today as a result of racial bigotry.

    The current atmosphere in today’s business world is that the isms (racism, sexism, etc., ) are not the problem that they used to be.  Today, diversity practitioners (myself included) seem to moving toward unconscious biases as the basis for diversity discussions. ( In my opinion this is a good thing.)  However, it needs to be understood that the discussion of unconscious biases is a strategy to get to the much harder discussion of race, class, sexual orientation, and gender.

    This is where the PBS website and documentary on Race can become a powerful tool.  Of particular interest is how the government through small  institutional discrimination set up a system which snowballed into significant advantages for the majority.  Unfortunately, because most don’t realize this history or dynamic they attribute minority poverty to a lack of group motivation and a disconnected culture.

    This same dynamic can be applied to the workplace.  Historically company promotion, hiring, and development systems were set up to favor the majority group over minority groups.  In some instances these discriminatory processes were minor in their application but significant in their impact.  This relates back to my discussions of complexity science and it’s underlying architecture social network theory.  From the complexity science perspective simple rules originating from initial conditions can create long term and significant outcome differences.

    In the case of the housing market most americans get a majority of their wealth from the ownership of their home.  This gives them an advantage against other groups who don’t have the same type of access to capital due to their lack of home ownership.  Subsequently, it is much more difficult to send their kids to college, pay for medical expenses, or live in neighborhods with a high level of social capital.

    In addition,our organizations reflect this same “spiraling” dynamic as our neighborhoods .  Small initial advantages have mushroomed into deeply embedded systems that were built to give one group an advantage over another group.  These seemingly subtle advantages are hard to change because the continued repetition of the process has shaped the mental models and consequently the behaviors of those within the system.  As a result, a program like Affirmative Action that was devised to ensure every member was given a fair chance to succeed in the organization is alternatively viewed as an unfair advantage given to minority groups by those with little knowledge of the unfair advantage they enjoy by just being in the system. 

    The ability of us to change society is I believe predicated on our ability to change the workplace.  Read the PBS link below and let me know what you think…

    Where Race Lives

    Americans Claim to Like Diverse Communities but Do They Really?

    August 19, 2009 2 comments

    deomgraphic pewBelow is a link to the blog “Social Capital”.  This blog discusses the impact and role of social capital as it relates to building a civic society.  The PEW Research Center released a study on social segregation that is truly eye opening and illustrates the difficulty in achieveing an integrated society as well  as workplace.

    A book called, “The Big Sort” highleights the social segreagation that is discussed in the Pew Report.  But, while the entire book is very interesting I found one point in particular that I thought was astonishing.  And that point was that the major factor in segregated neighborhoods was not race, but instead belief systems.  The belief systems could have been organized around politics, religion, or an arcane interest like mountain climbing.  The point was that societal segreation was not rapidly expanding due so much to increased racial bigotry, but instead to our desire to group ourselves with people who “think” like us.  What makes this notion so fascinating is that this is the same dynamic that in opinon we see manifesting itself in the workplace.  Just like in society people in the workplace create cliques and clans not so much around race as instead around modes of thought and areas of interest.  This insight I think is both good and bad.

    It has a negative aura because the end result is that even though people are not primarily segregating themselves along race, they are still finding other reasons to group themselves with those that are similar.  In a way this points out the potential futility of eradicating bias.  In other words…people will always find some way to segregate themselves.

    But, on a more positve note these latest findings point out that we are making progress combating racial segreation.  While this is good news even better news is the fact that the current segreation is primarily organized around modes of thought and interest which we can I think more easily combat then the external factors of race.  Different thinking patterns and ideologies can be bridged with understanding and interaction.

    Below is the link to the social capital blog and the link to the original Pew report.

    Categories: Uncategorized

    The Brain Game: Understanding the Teen Brain

    August 17, 2009 2 comments

    teensThe ABC Documentaries Division has an interesting series on understanding the teen brain.  It’s called,”Whatever! The Science of Teens.”  Of particular importance to our discussion of diversity in this blog is the subject of moods.  We all know what the term “mood” means, but I don’t think most of us really understand the power of moods and it’s role in how we see ourselves, our organizations, and our world. 

    The question that is fascinating to me about a discussion on moods is where do they come from? Are they tied to personality, situation, or culture.  What triggers moods? And, most importantly, how do moods affect our work effort, how we see others, and how we feel about ourselves?

    The Emotional Intelligence field has a lot to say about the impact of emotions on daily worklife.  But, I think a more specific question is needed about moods.  Watch the video from the link below.  It is fascinating…

    Watch “Whatever! The Science of Teens”

    Categories: Uncategorized