2.1 Exploring inclusiveness
People are often too busy thinking about their own point of view that they cannot see the point of view of others. People also tend to judge the ideas of others rather than trying to understand them. As Barak (2017) explains, we have difficulty accepting that others may achieve the same result in a different or a better way.
However, having a variety of different people from various backgrounds together is important in order to find and implement creative solutions to problems. Thinking outside the ‘box’ and interacting with diverse people improves people’s ability to work in a diverse and turbulent environment, characterised by different styles, personalities and cultures. You will explore this more in the activity below.
Activity 4 Looking beyond the dots
Look at the Herman Grid below.
The aim of this activity is to highlight that first impressions are not always true. The dots that you may think you see in the Herman Grid are an illusion, artefacts of the human visual system. In reality, the dots do not exist.
In a similar way, in your daily life you may have to go beyond the boundaries, beyond the expected or the obvious in order to be able to interact with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities or cultures. This is actually quite common in today's world, which is characterised by diversity. You must therefore be ready to go beyond first impressions and look more deeply to understand and value diversity.
Making the most of diversity in staff and people is usually called inclusiveness. It increases the depth and range of behaviours, capabilities and skills that an organisation or a society can use in order to respond to the needs of a turbulent environment. In fact, a leader who is able to manage and engage a company's heterogeneous workforce can obtain a unique competitive advantage and deal with leadership challenges more effectively. As you will see in the next activity, an organisation becomes an inclusive workplace when it accepts and makes use of the diversity of its workforce.
Activity 5 Exploring inclusiveness in leadership
To include people of different race and gender
To work together with people from different functions and generations
To be ready to cross the barriers
To find ways to include people from an expert area to help in other areas
To invite the unexpected
To look for new sources of information
The correct answers are a, b, c, d, e and f.
All the answers are relevant in the way that Gundling addresses global inclusion. In this video, Gundling discusses global inclusion, which he says not only refers to race and gender, but to areas such as functional and generational differences. For example, being a technical expert doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion on marketing, sales or other areas that you don’t have a strong knowledge or engagement with. In this example you need to be ready to cross the barriers and find ways to include technical experts to help the company in other areas too.
Gundling also offers some strategies that leaders can use for inclusion, such as to look for new sources of information, challenge their assumptions, ask people to think about their network so as to expand it, and invite the unexpected.
Barak (2017) defines an inclusive workplace as one that:
Values and utilises the differences of the individual and groups.
Ultimately, it will aim to modify the organisational values and norms to accommodate its employees.
Works with the surrounding community and contributes to the community.
The organisation acknowledges that it does not have responsibility only to its stakeholders but to the wider society.
Works with individuals, groups and organisations from a variety of national and cultural backgrounds.
The organisation seeks to develop international collaborations so as to further expand the possibility for diversity.
Seeks ways to support disadvantaged groups.
The organisation will seek to hire and train people that are perceived as belonging to disadvantageous groups.
You will probably notice that Barak goes a step further than Gundling – who speaks about internal inclusion – and also presents the importance of external inclusion.
In order for a leader to achieve inclusion in a global and turbulent environment, they need to look at both internal and external inclusion. They need to find ways and practices to accept, welcome and equally treat groups or individuals that are coming from different backgrounds, and at the same time respond to the needs of their community or organisation.
Being aware of the challenges and advantages of diversity and inclusiveness, you will next explore how leaders can lead beyond established boundaries and bring diverse people together, aiming for inclusion and better appreciation of leadership challenges.