Watch the full webinar here, or read the transcript below.
What do you think the biggest challenge that we really face in the whole DEI space today is?
Well, it’s been, as you said, around forever and we even go back to the point of the only thing we had to differentiate people was the difference between your logic and your emotions and things like that. But we’ve come a long way. And I think if I had to pick one element of DEI for today, it’s moving on beyond the notion of differences and trying to find a way to get people back into the notion of “we” instead of “me.” So if I had to pick one, that would be the challenge that is before us today.
So you’re suggesting that it’s important that, while we want to be sensitive to culture, in terms of the way in which we interact with folks and appreciate that, we don’t want to dilute or distill the person into that process. White people and black and brown people and Asian people, they may think the same, even though there’s a big a cultural foundational difference. How would you approach that?
I think you’re right and it kind of leads us from looking at demographics and behavior as the go to medium of how people see themselves. We’ve done a pretty good job of understanding those differences, but you’re right. The lived life is really a critical component to where we go from here. You know, we start to look at science as a be all and end all, and you don’t have to go back very far when we started to use science of intelligence as a race-based point of view, or to determine it.
And we don’t want to go back to that, but we do want to be able to understand our personal point of view and be really comfortable in those personal points of view. But we’ve got to move on to embracing a concept where we can look beyond our physical determines of who we are and move to the concept of cognition and how we think about things.
One of the things that has become very, very interesting me we’ve discussed this in the past has been, there are people that think differently than I do and they don’t have to think the same as I do, but I want to at least be able to understand where they’re coming from. And as far back as the stone age, we’ve reached across tribes to be able to not only understand differences, but to benefit from those differences to have a more comprehensive view and a comprehensive ability to get things done.
You have a typology you’ve created in terms of these different types of folks that we distinguish people by their intuition. In fact, you’ve indicated in the past that 95% of the decisions that we make are not really deep-seeded, thought through, intellectual exercises. So how do we get beyond that 95% of heuristics to a more thoughtful, cognitive-based approach? Because just transmitting knowledge isn’t going to get it right.
Well, it’s interesting that you bring those up. In fact, we’ve embedded our model of why people do what they do and think what they think. It comes from the work of Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues in the moral foundations theory and what they’ve found is that so much of our thinking is intuitive in nature.
So when we get into a new situation, we get to a different job, or we’re in a different social situation, we make these decisions very rapidly. And what we found was that the opportunity to look at our five foundational instincts from the stone age, in particular, we know that how we filter the impact of these instincts really feeds into our shortcuts for our cognition and that’s where the intuition comes from.
So what we’ve found is that the idea for our instincts, for care and fairness, are two powerful instincts that come to fruition when we’re starting to look for our cognitive similar similarities. On the other side, we’ve got loyalty and authority and purity as the way we group two different polarities of our instinctual profiles.
Now, these are really, really powerful things and they do a lot of organizing our intuition to say, you know, like you said, that looks about right. It’s what we give a lot of our really critical decisions that we make about why we like people, why we don’t like people.
So, we’ve incorporated that into our model of why. And it goes a long way towards acknowledging differences, but giving us a way to move forward.
Today we have so much contentiousness and pointing fingers in the other and shame and blame and so on and so forth. How do we reconcile these differences? What kind of things can we do? Is there some kind of a clean way to ask questions or to set forth a value formulation where we can get buy in from larger numbers and not find reasons to demonize the other?
Yeah, that’s really interesting. A lot of social emotional learning has a premise that you start with self examination. We offer the idea that that lived life is really a critical starting point. But what that allows us to do when we understand the impact of our instincts, is it gives us a way to celebrate the equity that we have for ourselves and the genuineness of our point of view.
But a very interesting thing happens along the way by allowing us to celebrate that. We also have to understand that there are other people who are equally genuine and equally intuitive for their point of view. And guess what? It’s not the same. So, that forces us to give space to both sides. We have to understand our equity, but we have to understand their equity too. And that’s the first step towards getting to a higher concept of moving back to a more perfect union.
So you think we can have a more perfect union? It’s not elusive. It’s not evasive.
No, it’s not. Because once we understand that an individualist, for example, one poll of our point of view really thinks about and is swayed by care and fairness, right? So they’re the ones that look for the impact of the world on the individual. And they’re driven by care and fairness and justice and empathy and reliability and so on.
Well, the other side is driven by those other instincts. Loyalty, authority, and purity. And what happens there is they’re driven by respect and patriotism, self-sacrificed and cleanliness, and they tend to be, you know, irreconcilable in their points of difference.
Well, if we’re trying to get people to give up their instinctual point of view, that’s a losing cause, we can’t do that. But what we have to do is create a space like in our evolutionary past. The successful cultures all took people from both spectrums to create a heterogeneous cultural awareness. And those that were built on the social binding strengths and the individual strengths together were the ones that really survived.
It is also interesting to me that people today gravitate towards people that think like they do, they hire people that think like they do. So when you speak of those that are concerned by care and fairness, the individualist, or when you speak of your social binder with loyalty and purity and cleanliness, it seems to me that the social binder is really driven by things like, hey, father knows best. You don’t always know what father’s going to do, but he’s out there to take care of you and watch out for you. And we have to be concerned about those other people, because they may sabotage our position, and we don’t want our position to be sabotaged.
So we’ll reformulate knowledge of the facts and we want to protect and maintain the status quo. Yet there has to be some kind of a middle ground where we can meet and work together for, what you said earlier, this more perfect union. What can we do to address that?
Well, if we’re using this model to do two things, one, celebrate the self and all the virtues there, being aware of the others and not contaminate them with vitriol, we have to have that openness of understanding that their point of view is genuine and authentic. How can, we make them feel safe, and how can we give them protective values? They need to be themselves without feeling like they’re going to be stomped on.
And you’ve gotten into a topic that I think is sacrosanct for our work and that is, we have to acknowledge everybody has a certain level of need and, going beyond that, the issue of psychological safety is really critical. I bet it’s 75% of the work we do is working with companies to allow people to be their authentic self and have safe places to air their grievances and know that each other has a real, legitimate point of view.
But what happens is a lot of times in the DEI training, we’ll put out a flyer saying, we’re interested in people who are looking to work on the idea of inclusivity. Well, to be honest with you, the intuition of people who are interested in inclusivity really calls out individualists and all the people that would be interested in those topics.
So what we find is so many of the trainings that we’ve done are really preaching to the choir. So we have to, again, have self-awareness in saying, now we’re doing research in our data model that forces companies to look across all the spectrums of our worldviews and make sure that we can preach to the choir of our individuals, but they have to have a network intervention to give them the opportunity to have conversations are bound around their culture with social binders and the centrists that perhaps don’t share the intuitive interest in inclusivity.
You talked frequently about using clean questions and how we can use the best of data science and neuroscience to be able to address these kinds of issues and that it’s critical that we do. So you’ve put together a manner in which you can look at large populations of people, or even small, but large populations and companies to determine the spectrum of people that comprise those companies, the social binders and the in individualists and the centrists and the like. How do you do that? And how complex is that?
We’ve actually created an inclusive workers workforce inventory, where we have gone into government departments and large corporations and are able to identify people in different departments and job titles that naturally gravitate to our instinctual patterns.
Once we identify them, we can have a really structured relationship by saying, folks over here in one department are really interested in this inclusivity idea. Folks over here are waiting to see if that is the way our culture is going to be organized. They’ll come along, but they won’t be first. So we’re able to understand that.
Likewise, you mentioned clean questions. That has a rich history of development in psychotherapy, but it allows us to look to each other. And when we were understanding and the anxiety in our brains are using that, this could be an uncomfortable conversation. Clean questions are a great way to move beyond that discomfort and diffuse it with non-evaluative conversations. And there’s a lot of work that we do on that which, by the way, is predicated on the notion of psychological safety.
What role does leadership play in this process? And can you talk a bit about leadership by ethnicity in organizations?
Well, the nice thing about it is, and I want to stress when we talk about individualist or social binder or centrist support personality, these are groupings of people who see the world across age, gender, and ethnicity. It is not predictive of any race, gender, or profile.
It’s a wonderful way to see other people beyond your lived life experience in a way that lets you create allyships and understanding that these people share your point of view and it’s not simply because of the way you look, or the age, or your gender. So those are really important concepts to embed in this.
Leadership has to to on the one hand, give people the opportunity to, in their day to day jobs, explore these types of issues. And in fact, they have to travel the same route as everyone else. Leadership has to understand their own biases, their own points of shortcomings. Celebrate who they are, but provide the space for everyone else.
We’ve talked a bit about how companies like to hire people just like them. Individuals like to hire individuals, the social binders, the same. Why is that a problem?
Any time you’re in a situation where you’re creating a homogeneous culture, we know, and all the big consulting companies now have proven, that diverse teams always outperform the homogeneous teams. That’s the obvious reason, but it’s also a reason of fairness and equity and those types of issues.
They perform better simply because you know, you don’t see things from your point of view, as robustly as somebody who comes to the same problem and sees them naturally in a different way.
We can identify the differences in people, but hold onto those and then move beyond that.
What would you like to see happen in DEI? If you could have the best of all worlds with the people with whom you work to get them to make a major difference?
There’s a statistic that I heard the other day that 48% of people are afraid to make friends at work. And it’s kind of crazy when you think about it, they don’t have time, they’re afraid of others, and afraid to do that. And some of the really enlightened companies are understanding that that is something that managers can take a hand in and understand that we have to end up having a group that is likely to work together across boundaries and make that a natural part of their work experience.
In our closing thoughts, one of the things I would say is that if we can, add our instinctual profile to our demographics and our behavioral analysis. We think we can go beyond where most companies are or models live today, which is in the knowledge exchange business. And we’re talking about adding skills and conversations, dialogue to the complexity of the challenge and when we add to that respect and appreciation of the individual person and what role that plays and have a person centric, instinctual approach, then we really have sort of the cat’s meow.
That’s what they say.