Are You Suffering From Group Think?
Author: Mark Savinson
Are you suffering from group think? Do all your people look and think the same? – Diversity could be the superhero coming to rescue you.
It is fundamental that we measure perception versus reality in the matter of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)..
..And to make such a measurement we need to build an ideal model of DEI behaviors. However, here’s your opportunity. I’ve started to build the model, but I need more input.
So I am looking for people who are prepared to invest 45 minutes of their time describing to me what behaviors they would like to see that indicate true acceptance of the value of diversity and inclusivity. Contact me on email@example.com to help.
So why do I need help when there are DEI discussions taking place in most organizations? I’m wondering how many of such discussions are being had through the lens of quotas and check box exercises as opposed to examining the opportunity DEI brings. How many people realize that true diversity and inclusivity will be an enabler to growth in the business? But most of us are missing out.
To illustrate this I would like to share a discussion I had with someone recently. The topic was "how do we operationalize DEI?” And we were discussing how quotas, whilst important, were not the route to operationalize DEI. This person was a member of the LGBTQ community and worked in the fashion industry. They confirmed that a large number of the LGBTQ community worked within the same fashion house, and there were an increasing number of women in senior positions. They had even changed their maternity provision, all sounding really positive! But, as the conversation continued, it became clear that whilst the quota number looked good, the reality was they and many of their colleagues did not feel as if they belonged. The underlying culture was not one of inclusivity even if the quota system was driving diversity. Maternity leave was promoted with a ‘traditional family’ in mind; there was no provision for two fathers or two mothers bringing up a child. Family events were all seen in terms of a husband, wife and children.” The underlying culture was more powerful than the quotas driving diversity.
The person I was talking to has now left that company and is taking their immense talent elsewhere, to the benefit of their new employer.
So why do I tell this story? This is a common example of DEI being turned into nothing more than statements and quotas, not something being operationalized. Clearly the value of diversity and inclusivity is not fully understood, and yet the company would do everything to retain talent.
Now if I were to approach the anonymous fashion house and ask the leadership if they were inclusive they would probably say “of course we are, we treat everyone the same and judge everyone on what they do and the outcomes they generate”. To be fair, I expect they honestly believe what they are saying, but it is likely that the “judge everyone on what they do” is done through the lens of “like-minded people striving to achieve common goals in a standardized way”. I am going to be overly harsh and call this out as a “Group Think”.
I believe that “Group Think” is the major reason we are not truly operationalizing DEI. If we are honest with ourselves we are all most comfortable if we are dealing or managing people who think and behave like us. We can empathize more easily, and we can coach (or is that ‘tell’?) them how to be better. Our colleagues come up with solutions we like because we would have come up with something similar. We all have our unconscious bias, most of which is not intrinsically bad. I can take myself as an example, as someone who invests time in Jewish study, I learn via an approach known as Chevrusa, where two people debate points (or argue) to come to an agreement. It may appear combative, but both parties respect each other and know the rules of the game. For me this is normal and to be honest I like to surround myself with people who like this approach in ideation and general business management. Net result, I have created a group of like-minded people with similar attitudes generating ideas we all agree, but where is the person who thinks differently?
Diversity should be about opening us to the talent pool of difference. Different ideas, approaches, and mindsets. The melting pot that reflects the real world and not what some may consider our “privileged ivory towers”. We shouldn't be told to embrace diversity, instead we need to embrace it because that's how things evolve. In nature biodiversity is key, in work human diversity is a necessity. But having a diverse workforce is not enough, we must retain them, and we have to ensure that they know and feel that they belong. That is why inclusivity and equity is so important. That is why we must operationalize DEI beyond statements and quotas.
We are talking widespread behavioral change and I would argue that if you were to honestly look at where the majority of senior managers and leaders are in the change cycle of DERAC, they are at E (emotion). Ask them about their approach to DEI and they get defensive, “we have a DEI policy, and we are actively recruiting more people from a diverse range of groups...f”
What they have not realized is that without embracing the value of diversity they are reducing the available talent pool to those people who all think the same. Without true inclusivity, even if we recruit broader talent, in the long run they will not feel they belong and again the people who remain are those who do feel they belong, like clones of ourselves.
To operationalize DEI we have to see a measurable behavioral change from the top down. We need people who actively seek out people who will have a different viewpoint to their own, and will be open to that viewpoint. Managers who are happy to be challenged. We must create a sense of belonging by looking at things through the eyes of others and not be afraid to ask their opinion on the impact of what we say and do. We must describe the behaviors and activities that people must show and do to enable diversity and drive inclusivity. Then we can measure what people are actually doing, and what the gap is between what people say they do and the reality of what they actually do. We can then use this objectively measured result to help people understand the gaps and overcome the emotional response of “but I already do it”. Now we can truly start to operationalize diversity, inclusivity and the associated equality.
This is your opportunity to help build the superheroes that will drive our businesses forward.
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