Leveraging Differences

Martin Davidson, Johnson and Higgins Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, has introduced a new research driven roadmap to help leaders more effectively create diverse and inclusive organizations. In his book, “The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Differences Can Succeed,” he offers a model of doing diversity and inclusion through the “leveraging differences cycle.”

See the Difference
For some folks, this is the hardest step since they suffer from color blindness. They have adopted the position of Chief Justice John Roberts on race- “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In other words the new narrative is to deny differences even exist through neutrality. Folks who orbit in this color blind galaxy view the world as a 20th Century melting pot rather than a 21st Century tossed salad.

If you are going the leverage the differences in your organization, you must acknowledge they exist.

Understand the Difference
The hard work is now just beginning. Be curious about the difference. Learn about the difference. Ask questions about the difference. Have those fierce, courageous conversations with role models of people who have those differences.

Move from the Golden Rule to the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule assumes we are similar to each other. It essentially says you are like me therefore I will treat you like me. The Platinum Rule emphasizes treating other people the way they want to be treated or at least to be aware of how they want to be treated. This requires understanding their differences. It demands walking in the other person’s shoes because their point of view makes sense in their world.

Engage the Difference
Now that you have identified the difference and understand the distinction, you are now ready to engage the difference by making it work for your organization. This is simply the business case for diversity and inclusion that recognizes the business advantage of how the difference supports the vision of the organization.

The heavy lifting is really starting. You must carve out a space for these differences as they find their voice in the organization through social capital. Where everyone does not have to be chummy and best friends. Where disagreement does not feel dangerous. Where opinions are not agreed upon but built upon. And finally, where disagreement, vigorous debate, and heated discussion mean getting better.

Not only will you start thinking outside the box but you will build a new box to accommodate this new symphony. You will soon feel the benefits of innovation and creativity that will help the organization become a change agent in a world of volatility, uncertainty, constant change and ambiguity.

Leverage the Difference
You are now ready to enjoy the benefits of a workplace culture and climate that seamlessly recognizes, understands, engages and leverages differences. You should

• Model this conduct for others on your team. This means paying attention to your own biases and behavior.
• Proactively seek out people to work in your organization that do not look like, act like, think like and talk like you.
• Take advantage of building relationships with people both inside and outside the organization who are different from you.
• Create a normality of freedom of expression and risk taking that guarantees even the minority views in the organization will be fully heard.

Strategically identify relevant differences in your organization. Learn about these differences. Create business results from the differences. Systematically achieve results by continuously using the differences. You will be on your way to the creation of a diverse and inclusive organization that works for everyone, not just a chosen few.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply