Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: Apr 2015
By Ian Dodds – The Inclusion Builder
Leveraging difference for organisational success
Recently, I was privileged to be invited to a presentation by Professor Martin Davidson from Darden School of Business. He brilliantly described what I have been urging my clients to do for many years. That is, instead of managing people’s differences, to learn to leverage them for organisational success. He also emphasised that the differences that are there to be leveraged for competitive advantage are not only the visible ones such as gender and race and ethnicity; but, also, the invisible ones such as how people process information and their different styles of thinking.
I learnt the importance of leveraging difference for organisational success when I won a major piece of work with a global client. This client had recruited a new Diversity Director who had informed its Board that the approach they had been taking of managing diversity amounted only to managing problems. For example, one problem was that they were not succeeding in increasing the representation of women and ethnic minorities in senior management. In order to do this they had been providing positive action development activities for these underrepresented groups and had made little progress. The new director informed them that they would make more progress on this if they built an inclusive culture which leveraged differences. He hired IDC because he knew that this took long-term strategic effort underpinned by behavioural change methodology. Our deep knowledge and successful experience of behavioural change is one of our key differentiators.
After conducting a diagnostic involving interviews with diverse employees in different countries to understand what helped and hindered with leveraging difference, i.e. inclusion, we devised a global change programme called Making the Most of Difference (MMoD). This involved delivering a highly, interactive MMoD workshop to staff in the client’s offices around the world. We also trained a team of internal change agents who would work with the local office managements around the world to help them implement the learning from the MMoD workshops. After 3 years the client was a finalist in the Opportunity Now awards in recognition of the progress it had made in advancing women into senior management. It also won the World Diversity Leadership Summit Global Diversity Innovation Award, judged by a panel of Fortune 100 companies.
I have replicated this approach with many clients since then and always with considerable success where the client has been prepared to commit to the long term strategic effort the approach requires. If you are interested in learning more about leveraging difference for organisational success please do contact me.
Dr Ian Dodds,
29 Mar 2015