Let us do the nudging for you!

I was talking to one of our clients recently when the Head of D&I said, “The trouble is, some of our executive leaders don’t really see a problem with diversity.  They think that we have a great, inclusive culture and that the lack of diversity is a result of us working in a white, male-dominated sector.  How do we make them feel the need to be more inclusive?”

 

Does that sound familiar?  It might do, as it isn’t an isolated occurrence.  In my experience, many of the existing leaders – particularly in sectors that are dominated by white men, such as finance, construction and tech – still grapple with the idea that the lack of diversity in their work circles isn’t due to a lack of talented people from different backgrounds and of different identities.  In most cases, the lack of diversity is pure and simple a consequence of incomplete inclusion.  Sure, most companies are inclusive – to those who look like them and behave like them.  But even in cases where inclusion and engagement scores are high, like 80% or even 90%, we’re still talking about 10 to 20 percent of the work force that are not engaged or included.  Isn’t that too high a cost?

 

So how do we make these leaders feel the need for diversity action?

I suggested to my client the use of Inclusion Nudges.

Inclusion Nudges is a concept developed by two senior  D&I experts Tinna Nielsen and Lisa Kepinski in 2013. Based on the nudge theory by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Inclusion Nudges are designed to motivate and encourage people to behave in a more inclusive manner without thinking about it.

Inclusion Nudges are necessary because our behaviour is driven primarily by our subconscious mind – our ‘fast brain’.  The part of our brain that reacts quickly based on emotion and learned signals.  It is the part of the brain that helped us survive for thousands of years – and hence, our ‘primitive brain’.  It is an incredibly efficient system that works beautifully to help us cope with the everyday.  That said, this ancient coping mechanism is also riddled with biases – more than 200 of them, and that’s before we add any personal ones that we developed based on our own experiences, preferences and upbringing.

Our thinking brain – the Neocortex (or the ‘slow brain’) doesn’t even realise it when we act in a biased manner.  In fact, most of our behaviour choices and judgments don’t even register there.

So even those of us who have the very best intentions not to be biased and to be more inclusive find it difficult to behave this way, given that most of our behaviour is driven by our subconscious mind.

No wonder, then, that most of us – including many who are senior leaders – don’t recognise the fact that their organisation’s lack of diversity is most likely a consequence of behaviours, and not due to any perceived reason.

This is why Inclusion Nudges are so helpful.

So back to my client… I suggested that they try following action from the book on Inclusion Nudges:  collect quotes from discussions, exit interviews and any other occasions that bring to life people’s experiences at the company – situations when people felt excluded.  Statements such as

When my colleagues go out for a pint after work, I can’t join them because I have to pick up my son.  I feel I’m missing out on bonding opportunities, being left behind.

or

When I try to make my point at a meeting, I’m frequently interrupted. This makes me feel insignificant.

or

 Once a colleague said to me “You’re Asian and you don’t like spicy foods?” I felt bad for not living up to his stereotype.

The quotes can be presented as part of a meeting on D&I or – for greater impact – taped to the walls of a meeting room (when we’re back meeting each other in actual rooms), set out on paper speech bubbles.  Before the meeting starts, the leaders can be invited to walk around and read the quotes, so they can start to feel how some people in the organisation feel.  This is a great way to start the conversation about the need for positive action.

Inclusion Nudges offer great techniques to help develop an inclusive workplace.  If you’re interested to learn more, do get the book (warning, it’s quite thick!).  Or you can reach out to us if you’d like to find out how to use them to address your specific challenge or how to incorporate them into your already-ongoing D&I programme.

It’s time to confess.

It’s National Inclusion Week so I ask myself, am I really inclusive?

To me, being inclusive means first and foremost to welcome and to value that which is different; to appreciate those who look or sound different as enrichment; to know that a new or different person or experience does not pose a threat to my value system.

So am I inclusive?

It’s hard to be inclusive.  Our natural instincts tell us to stick to what we know.  We love our repeat patterns, our experienced learnings, the familiar.  Our primitive brain (the emotional one) steers us towards the familiar and guards us against the unfamiliar.  It constantly alerts us “Watch out!  They look suspicious! We don’t know their type! They are not like us and therefore unpredictable!” It’s hard for our thinking brain (the neocortex) to override our fearing, second-guessing, reluctant brain.  And most of that prodding happens subconsciously – how are we meant to confront that?

For me, inclusion is not about ignoring the impulsive, instantaneous brain – that’s simply impossible to achieve.  It’s about understanding that we are being guided by the under-informed, hasty part of our brain and knowing how to question its urging.

This, I know we I can do.

In an effort to make it a little easier for myself and for others to be more inclusive, I have broken down inclusion to 8 inclusive behaviours.  Most of these 8 behaviours are self-explanatory and when you see them you’ll say That makes sense. The challenge is to improve in each of these behaviours, to fine-tune its application and to keep doing that for the rest of our lives.

Let me give you a flavour of what I mean by looking at Empathy and Listening – 2 of the 8 inclusive behaviours.

  1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes, so to speak, to try to understand what they might be experiencing.  What does it feel like to be asked Where are you from? each time you meet a new person just because you look different from most of those around you?  What is it like to constantly hide the fact that your husband or wife is of the same sex as you?  What is it like to be watched by the security guard every time you enter a store because you’re black?

To understand that, we need to develop our empathy ‘muscle’.  We start by second-guessing our natural reactions.  For instance, when you pass someone you’ve met a couple of times in a social setting and they completely ignore you, our immediate thought is they don’t remember you.  But if you give it some thought, you might reach a different conclusion. It could be that they can’t see well without their glasses, or that they’re deep in thought about something and simply didn’t register you.  Imagine yourself in that situation, have you ever been ‘accused’ of not seeing someone who was almost literally in front of you?  What are you like sometimes when you’re walking along?  Do you notice everything and everyone?  If not, why not?  Purposely putting yourself in their shoes makes it easier to see more reasons for their behaviour and easier to understand them. It’s a practiced ritual that, when done in simple everyday encounters eventually extends to situations which are more difficult to understand, like ‘white privilege’.

  1. Listening

Listening in this context means more than just hearing.  Listening is about giving someone the opportunity to present their perspective and acknowledging that perspective as someone else’s rightful view.  In this day and age, we are so ingrained in our opinions about everything.  Instead of listening, we tend to want to persuade and, if that fails, we go on the attack.  Social media is full of voices that attempt to drown out other voices.

To listen in order to be more inclusive means acknowledging the fact that another’s viewpoint might have merit, and acknowledging it to them, even if we disagree.  “I hear what you’re saying and I can see where you’re coming from…” even if it might then be qualified with a “but”.  Practising this with our friends, family members and colleagues who are like us will make it easier to do with people who are unlike us.

The world has moved on.  Like it or not, we can’t stand still.  We need to break down our old patterns of interaction, be it at home or at work.  Becoming more inclusive is about practising to do so with intent in any situation.  We need to train our brains to be more discerning and not just follow ingrained patterns.  We need to bring some of the unconscious thought processes into the conscious so that we can unravel them and reform new, more complex patterns of behaviours and attitudes.

This, to me, is what being inclusive is all about.  With this in mind, I can breathe a sigh of relief and declare that I am more inclusive now than I was even a year ago.

Can you do the same?

To find out more about our 8 Inclusive Behaviours, contact Rina.