Breaking Down the Vague: Diversity Training That Works

Diversity training could lose its power if doesn’t stop, look and listen. Stop spitting out jargon, look at why diversity is essential to the bottom line and listen to people’s communication challenges.
– Chief Learning Officer, Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

redrawing cultural road maps

In order to reimagine diversity and inclusion and be effective in our efforts, we need to redraw our cultural road maps. Remember those things called road maps? Drivers used to consult them to plan out the best routes and map directions to particular locations. Cultural road maps help shape the routes we take and the directions we move in our cross cultural interactions. I recall on really long family trips as AAA members our family would take advantage of their membership feature called TripTiks. These handy maps would assure us that we would get the latest maps with up to date information on road closings and construction that we might have to contend with on the trip.  Many a family vacation started with a visit to a AAA office to get our detailed maps to route our family to our desired location. Does your cultural road map lead you to your desired location?

AAA no longer offers TripTiks, with the advent of dedicated GPS devices and GPS mapping apps on smartphones and tablets those days are now gone. In fact smart phone apps with their constantly updating mapping features, are quickly making dedicated GPS devices, which have to be manually updated, obsolete. One of the things I like about the latest generation of GPS mapping apps is it no longer tells me its rerouting. If I make a change in the previously prescribed route, it adapts and gives me a new route. How convienient and much less annoying! Can your cultural maps do that? Are you still using old cultural maps or dedicated GPS devices that may be out of date in your diversity and inclusion efforts? Is there an app for that?

In our increasing diversity social landscape our culutral maps are constantly in need of updates. Turns out GPS apps need updating as well. They are only as good as the information fed into them. Bad or insufficient information in bad or insufficeint information out. The tech world was a buzz when Apple launched its replacement for Google maps on iDevices. Until, that is, the app started sending people to airport runways looking for Airfield Road among several other directional miscues. During a trip to the Carribean I used Apple maps app to drive from one end of the island to the next. The maps for that island however had not been recently updated and I drove straight into a closed highway. Our cultural maps can be less than effective as well if they are not updated with accurate information as well. What if our cultural map or GPS is based on inaccurate or limited knowledge? We might end up somewhere other than our desired location.  Someplace that could be disastrous for our business or organization. What have you done to update your cultural maps?

Early cartographers originally drew maps of the world as flat. Early astronomers drew maps of the solar system with the earth at the center rather than the sun at the. When Columbus sailed for the new world he assumed he was sailing towards India,  as a result much of the islands in the Americas are called the West Indies and the native people Indians. These persepctives turned out to be very inaccurate. The maps of the world and our solar system needed to be redrawn based on the latest information. Sometimes our cultural perspective causes us to make less than effective decisions becuase we only have limited perspective or information. Is it time to redraw your cultural map or update your data about diversity with the latest research and information? 

There is a human tendency to see our cultural worldview at the center of the universe and that perspective often causes us to inaccurately see the world as flat. We human beings perceive the cultural lens through which we view the world as the “normal” view. This leads us to make certain assumptions in our interactions with others that like the assumptions above are inaccurate. In today’s global marketplace and diverse society we need to learn how to redraw and update our cultural maps. You and I cannot afford to assume that our cultural perspective is normative for everyone we encounter. If we want to be effective and successful in cross cultural interactions we must update our infomation about different cultures and redraw our cultural maps to reroute and adapt to a variety of cultural contexts. What “normative cultural assumptions might you be making in your business organization or institution?

Re-imagining diversity and inclusion and becoming culturally intelligent in our work, help to redraw our cultural road maps . I beleive that this can lead to outcomes where the culture (race, ethnicity, gender etc.) of our customers, constituents and clients is not a driving factor in our outcome. So are you reDI? reDI to redraw and update your cultural maps? Let us know, we want to help.

more than checkboxes

Remember back when you were in preschool or kindergarten and you did a task correctly? You probably got awarded a gold star. If you got enough gold stars through the week or month you more than likely got some kind of reward or treat. As you advanced in the educational system that way of functioning gradually went away and was replaced by a more complex system of learning and reinforcing behaviors that lead to success. The system moved from being simplistic to more complex.

Despite research to the contrary some diversity organizations and professionals still approach the work of diversity and inclusion in today’s society the same way. We offer cookie cutter, check box driven approaches to address the diversity efforts of organizations being served.  Addressing diversity and inclusion and equity issues is simple in this approach. Complete a task, check the box, gold star for you. Complete another task check another box. Repeat until all the boxes are checked and then you get a reward the ultimate gold star, certification. Everyone goes through the same process and checks the same boxes and voila diversity issues solved! Success and you are done.

There are two problems with this cookie cutter approach. One it doesn’t work. All current research has shown that this star cookie cutterapproach has not been effective in addressing issues of diversity and inclusion.

Even as corporate America applauds its diversity efforts, hails the triumph of a true meritocracy in the workplace, and parades its principles of fairness, decades of research documenting thousands of workplace experiences of people of color, women, and gays and lesbians paint a nettlesome, contradictory picture.
Giving Notice: Why the Best and Brightest are Leaving the Workplace and How You Can Help them Stay by Freada Kapor Klein
Secondly, these boiler plate solutions represent a simplistic response to very complex issue. While they provide an easy option for diversity professional to provide services, there is little question that they provide desired results.  No business or organization worth its salt applies simplistic responses to challenging and complex circumstances and expects success.
The questions is why would we do that with diversity and inclusion? Consider this thought again from Kapor Klein.
And the solutions offered by the majority of diversity gurus are mostly superficial, cookie-cutter programs that don’t address the root issue: unearthing and removing hidden bias in organizational structures.
So what’s the alternative. First, we eschew the cookie cutter, check box approach, for a more customized sector and organizationally based response. Instead of one size fits all approach the reDI Project is committed to develop tools and resources that address the unique needs and context of each sector and organization. So instead of trying to translate the moral imperative for diversity and inclusion to a business context, we focus on the return on investment for diversity, increase in productivity, greater talent retention, more innovation that leads to bigger profits. This does mean there isn,t a morel imperative it means we recognize the unique drivers for each sector and tailor our services to that.
Finally we take advantage of the latest research available to shape our approach to helping businesses and organizations develop strategies and best practices that really work. We assist our clients to discover ways to make a real difference and move the needle on their diversity efforts. So we recognize that we need to do more than checkboxes. This is what our mission to re-imagine diversity is al about.

The Dartmouth: Professor discusses covert racism

The Dartmouth: Professor discusses covert racism.

Though racism is more covert today, blacks are subject to the same prejudice as they were in the 1960s, Duke University sociology professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argued in a lecture on Thursday. Bonilla-Silva said a new form of racism has emerged, replacing Jim Crow racism.

“We are not post-racial,” he said. “This ideology is suave but deadly.”

Bonilla-Silva is author of Racism without Racists which explores the ongoing inequities experienced by “racial minorities” in a ” post racial ” age. It is a must read on our resource list for any one who wants to understand the modern face of racialized behavior and the need to re-imagine diversity. 

Re-imagine diversity reason #2 Times have changed

After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth – nothing more. Morpheus – The Matrix

The times they have changed. Back in the sixties Dylan made popular the some the times they are a changing. Some people are still singing that tune. Reality is the times have changed. Seismic demographic shifts have changed the employment and talent base as well as the available markets. The choice is stark to quote the great philosopher of the cinema screen

Here is some truth the baby boom work force is aging. as they leave the workforce they are being replaced by a more diverse talent population. Some of the fastest growing consumer markets are diverse populations of people. 

So we can continue to do business as usual and ignore the diversity brought on by these demographic shifts. We can continue to plod along with out dated methods without acknowledging existing research. Or we can re-imagine our diversity efforts to more effectively reach the new diverse markets and reach and retain diverse talent. From public organizations and agencies to private business and corporations no one is exempt from this choice. However, most current staff and employees are ill equipped to effectively function in this diverse global marketplace and society. If we being honest we might say many CEOs Executive Directors and boards are not in much better situations than those those they employ.


Re-imagining diversity in these era of demographic change means developing and implementing employment and hiring practices that all engage recruit and retain the best talent from the diverse workforce. Re-imagining diversity means becoming culturally intelligent in engaging the increasing diverse population and it’s growing buying power. Re-imagining diversity means learning how to provide services and products in the glocal (global+local) marketplace. The time to choose is upon us. 

Is your organization or business ready? The reDI Project is ready to help. 

Let the re-imagining begin

Welcome to the ReDI Project blog. Through this blog we will endeavor to keep partners and visitors to the site up to date with the latest information, research  and best practices relating to diversity and inclusion. We will also be sharing our latest thoughts and ideas about re-imagining diversity as well as new trainings and workshops as we develop them. So if you are ready let the re-imagining begin.