Lean In and the Chaos Imperative

By now it is probably evident that we’re a bunch of readers here.  This time we’re taking another break from The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off by Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan to talk about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and Will to Lead and The Chaos Imperative: How Change and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness and Success by Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack. It is interesting to note that the themes of diversity and unconscious bias makes an appearance in all three.  As SDMWVBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Minority, Women or Veteran Business Enterprise) businesses, we need to be aware of this bias is not only out in the world but inside our own organizations.  Ms. Sandberg writes “All of us, myself included, are biased, whether we admit it or not. And thinking that we are objective can actually make this even worse, creating what social scientists call a bias blind spot. This blind spot causes people to be too confident about their own powers of objectivity …” and that hit home.

Last post we suggested that SDMWVBE owners should look at the group(s) we have chosen as our business associates … are we all: graduates of a particular institution; women; of a narrow age group; people of color; men; white; or some other self-limiting group?  Sandberg states the obvious “Another bias arises from our tendency to want to work with people who are like us.”  But current research shows that diverse groups often perform better, and Inclusion Dividends refers to many of these studies in their discussions about the benefits of increased organizational diversity.  “Equal opportunity is not equal unless everyone receives the encouragement that makes seizing … opportunities possible”, says Sandberg. In the Chaos Imperative, Brafman and Pollack note that “When we hire or recruit someone to a team, we tend to be drawn to those individuals who are similar to us.”

Seeking to diversify for the sake of celebrating diversity is not necessarily beneficial to the SDMVBE or its clients. But we should proactively help our clients take advantage of the diversity we offer them as SDMWVBE certified businesses. How can we increase the diversity offerings within our companies?  When we have the opportunity to expand our team or add new suppliers perhaps we should first, take stock of our current environment.  Make note of our own biases and then look critically at ways to diversify. At a national level, we can reach out to the SBA, National Minority Suppliers Diversity Council, the National Veteran Owned Business Association, Women’s National Business Enterprise Council, the US Hispanic or Asian or National Gay and Lesbian Chambers of Commerce, or check lists of SDMWVBEs published by the Secretary of State to find potential vendors of goods or services. Recruiting for a new hire in a company that primarily employes men? Try contacting the placement offices at women’s colleges like Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Mills in Oakland (California), Barnard in New York, or check out this list of U.S. Women’s Colleges. There are placement offices at Historically Black Colleges and Universities Howard University in Washington DC, Georgia’s Spellman College, Texas Southern University, or you can view the entire list.

We all owe it to each other and ourselves to keep this conversation going forward in a positive manner.