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  • David Donaldson

Squirm. I started to squirm.

Earlier this week I was involved in a zoominar sponsored by Leadership Niagara: A Conversation about improving Diversity and Inclusion at Work. Truly an enjoyable conversation with one especially brilliant question asked. Well I thought it was brilliant…


During the seminar, however, a statement was made that we all wish was accurate. And hearing it made me squirm; I wanted to shout that this is nice thinking, but simply isn't true! The speaker said something like: Diversity leads to better decisions and innovation in the workplace. It would be nice, but diversity is simply a fact and leads to nothing in and of itself.


Let me explain:

A lot of the participants might have been too young for this, but let's go back to the mid-1990s, Y2K (the anti-climax of the millennium!) was ominous on the horizon and a solution was urgent. The top drawer of international computer scientists, software engineers, programmers and probably a hacker or two were gathered to solve the looming technological melt-down. All of them knew the difference between CPU and CPR, between a floppy disc and a mouse pad, but they couldn’t work together!

What was observed was that



As much as it is soft and fuzzy to say that diversity leads to innovation and more productive teams. Let’s think about it for a minute. Say a Caucasian 62 year-old male software engineer from Canada and 26 year-old Asian female computer scientist working with a working together to solve the issue. What are the non-computer issues at play? Male / female. Boomer / millennial. Asian / Caucasian. Direct / indirect communicator. Egalitarian / hierarchical decision-making assumptions. And the list goes on.

So further study was needed. And what was discovered what that there needed to be an innovation catalyst added to the mix. That catalyst is Cultural Intelligence.



Further study revealed that with low CQ, homogeneous teams and diverse teams performed more or less equally (in fact, some research suggested that diverse teams with Low CQ performed worse.)




A diverse team with High CQ was shown to out perform the other. The catalyst is the ability of the team members -- through CQ -- to not only understand diversity, but to WANT to learn and leverage the diversity around them. Further, they had a strategy to learn, and were able adapt their actions so all voices and ideas were heard, and innovation was achieved.

(If you want all the research papers and studies, let me know.)


The point of the zoominar was to improve and change the workplace so there is true equity and an opportunity for meaningful contribution for all. This was clear. But (and this was stated) this doesn't happen by chance, nor by simply identifying that we are diverse; it meaningful inclusion needs to be intelligently and intentionally done!






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