The Inclusion Dividend: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: May 15th, 2013 by bobmorris

Inclusion DividendThe Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off
Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan
Bibliomotion (2013)

A brilliant explanation of the ROI of a workplace community within which diversity and inclusion are core values

If you were to ask ten different people to define the word “diversity,” you would probably get 7-10 different (“diverse”) answers. There are so many criteria to consider, including gender, age, ethnicity, generation, personality type, and nationality. Add nature and extent of relevant experience, capabilities, and “potential” and you have at least some idea of how difficult it is for business leaders to decide how to “invest in diversity and inclusion,” as Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan advocate in this book. That difficulty is exacerbated by the changes in the business world that, in turn, change immediate and imminent needs to accommodate.

Credit Kaplan and Mason with possessing courage sufficient to attempt to explain what comprises a diverse and inclusive workplace, how to establish one, and then how to sustain one. They even suggest how to accommodate workplace dynamics such as unconscious bias, insider-outsider interaction (for better or worse), and dimensions of difference that can be either compatible or incompatible.

In the first chapter, they observe: “As employees of the twenty-first century, all of us live in three worlds of D&I that can seem to be incompatible at times. There is the civil world, which revolves around legislation regarding issues like marriage rights, equality of access, and equitable treatment. Then there is the academic world, where a theoretical debate persists across the fields of law, sociology, psychology, and business about equality and fairness…Finally, there is the corporate world. As students become employees, it is the corporate world that absorbs eight or more hours of their waking time most days, and the discussion is more narrowly focused on the best ways to create personal and corporate growth…While the internal challenges [in that world] are structural, process, and human, they also have an impact at the interface between the organization and its stakeholders.”

Kaplan and Mason focus the business case for diversity and inclusion, the challenges to achieving and then sustaining that, and what they view as effective responses to those challenges. Readers will appreciate their skillful use of various devices such as “Takeaways” and “Discussion Point” sections at the conclusion of all nine chapters. This material will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key points later.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Kaplan and Mason’s coverage:

o A Long-Cherished Notion (Pages 5-9)
o A Quick History Case, and, The Business Case (9-15)
o Challenges to Creating Inclusion, and, Other Inclusion Hurdles (18-24)
o Three Key Areas for Inclusion (28-34)
o The RADIX™ Cycle (41-50)
o Unconscious Bias, and, Insider-Outsider Dynamics (61-64 and 66-69)
o The Individual, Interpersonal Level of Change (77-81)
o The Organizational Level of Change (86-94)
o Some of the Latest Research on Unconscious Bias (106-112)
o Systemic Bias, and, Reducing Unconscious Bias (113-120)
o Key Elements That Define Insider and Outsider Group Membership (129-140)
o Different Types of Difference (146-163)
o What Leaders Must Do (171-185)
o External Marketplace and Customer Data, and, Tools to Involve and Engage the Whole Organization (198-204)
o Tools to Create Systemic Process Change (208-210)

It is worth noting that the origin of the word “barbarian” can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Its original meaning: non-Greek. It seems basic to human nature to favor those who are similar in some way(s) and be wary of those who are not, who are “different” in some way(s). As Kaplan and Mason point out, there are four distinct levels of change “that all influence one another and share common space. When individual is coupled with the group/team, systemic, and marketplace levels, an organization can achieve a much higher return.”

I agree with Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan that many of the decisions business leaders make “can be skewed if they do not first take the time to understand their biases and how they can be influencing any one of several levels.” In fact, the inclusion dividend is substantial for companies annually ranked among the most admired and best to work for and helps to explain why they are also among the most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment.

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