The Power of ‘Inclusification’
Humans have two basic desires: to stand out and to fit in. Companies respond to these competing desires by creating groups tending toward the extreme – teams where everyone fits in and no one stands out or where everyone stands out and no one fits in. But without the combination of both basic desires, coworkers feel invisible, incomplete, and insular. How do we find that happy medium where our coworkers can demonstrate their individuality while also feeling that they belong? The answer is to “inclusify.”
In Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams, Stephanie Johnson, an associate professor of Organizational Leadership and Information Analytics at the University of Colorado, reveals the unexpected ways that well-intentioned leaders undermine their teams, explains how to recognize the myths and misperceptions that drive these behaviors, and provides practical strategies to become an “inclusify.” By learning why uniqueness and belonging are so imperative, leaders can better understand what makes their coworkers tick and find ways to encourage them to be themselves while ensuring they feel like they are fully part of the group. The result is a fully engaged team filled with diverse perspectives – the key to creating innovative and imaginative ideas that drive value.
Inclusify is building a platform to collect, validate, and visualize diversity, inclusion, and belonging attributes for businesses and gives the open market the tools to assess and compare inclusivity efforts. With strong leadership and a commitment to team-building, recruitment, and retention informed by organizational data, an organization can make a permanent shift toward a culture of belonging and realize a measured improvement in team productivity and value.
In her research, Johnson found some common problems leaders exhibit that frustrate their attempts to create diverse and cohesive teams. Leaders who underestimated the importance of group coherence and dynamics often have coworkers who do not feel like they belong; leaders who ignore the benefits of listening to different perspectives and leave some coworkers feeling like they cannot be their authentic selves.
By contrast, leaders who “inclusify” can forge strong relationships with their teams, inspire greater productivity from all their coworkers, and create a more positive environment for everyone. Having a true range of different voices is good for a company’s bottom line – it allows for the development of the optimal, most innovative, and creative solutions, which are essential to success.
There are many places we can start on our journey to “inclusify” and it should be remembered that doing anything, is more optimal than doing nothing. As we go on this journey, we need to first make our unconscious biases conscious and then start engaging in intentional actions to “inclusify.” Then do it all over again.
A good place to start is empathy. We should start talking to our leaders, colleagues, family, and friends, so that we can more optimally understand their perspectives. We should try mentoring people who are different from us and create an amplification network in our workplaces to open conversations with other people.
One of the first steps is to become more public with our commitment to championing uniqueness and belonging. Company leaders, for example, who have really bought into the importance of diversity will often adopt it as part of their worldview and soon, they will find themselves fighting for Dreamers over immigration laws or equal rights for LGBTQ or pay equality.
A second lesson, putting positivity into practice, capitalizes on inclusifyers’ already positive attitudes and translates them into action, motivating team members by celebrating diversity. The reality is that most of us would prefer diversity over homogeneity.
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Vice President Emeritus for Learning Technologies Donald Smith, Ed.D, CPT, headed ME&A programs in learning, leadership, and performance enhancement. He stayed with the firm in his retirement, bringing more than 65 years of experience as a coach, designer, facilitator, evaluator, manager, educator, and organizational change architect in more than 50 countries.