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Article Contributed by Sara Taylor, President, deepSEE Consulting and Author of Filter Shift: How Effective People SEE the World.

Diversity Fatigue. It’s that feeling that employees in the workplace express when they see a Diversity training on their calendar, “Seriously?! Diversity training again?” It’s that feeling that seasoned Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) practitioners express when I run into them at a Diversity conference and they say, “We’re still talking about the same issues we talked about 20 years ago!” It’s that feeling that leaders in organizations get after supporting a D&I strategy but still don’t see the results they’d like to see.

This fatigue is a symptom of a larger issue.  Despite decades of hard work by committed practitioners and leaders, the promise of D&I has remained ever outside our reach. As a practice of Diversity and Inclusion, our approach needs to evolve in order to fully meet that promise. It’s time for Transformational Diversity.

Transformational Diversity is a shift to a new level that requires us to actually operate differently. We enter the workplace—whether it is already diverse and inclusive or not—with new mindsets and skillsets that allow us to transform the situations we’re in and the organizations we lead because we’re actually able to see and respond to greater levels of complexity. This sets a goal that is much more challenging and thus more requires more comprehensive work. When we operate in this stage, we ensure that differences transform individuals and their ideas as well as organizations, their environments and the work they generate.

To achieve Transformational Diversity, we need to be able to Filter Shift®, to recognize both our own unconscious Filters as well as the Filters of others, then shift those Filters to respond more effectively in each situation and with every decision.

Filter Shift combines both the ability to reduce the negative interference of the unconscious and increase the ability of Cultural Competence. With a combination of these abilities, we are able to see and respond to the complexities of Diversity, to transform our perspectives and therefore the situations we are in and to finally achieve the promise of Diversity.

Both of these abilities are necessary for us to reach that transformation. Let’s look first at Cultural Competence. Many of us are operating on the left side.[1] In a continuum of cultural competence development there is a distinct difference between the first three stages on the left side where we are significantly less effective and the last two stages on the right side where we reach higher levels of effectiveness as we interact with others. 15% of us have made it to the right side, but only 2.5% of us are in the last and highest stage of competence where we have the level of competency necessary to operate in today’s diverse workplace. [2]

When we operate on the right side, we begin to see a greater level of complexity when it comes to differences. The key is that we see those differences without judging them—consciously or unconsciously. They aren’t good. They aren’t bad. They’re just different.

This is where the ability to reduce the negative interference of the unconscious comes in. Our Filters, that operate in our unconscious, determine how we see each other, the decisions we make and the behaviors we deem good, right and professional. Since they are formed by my past experiences, I believe them to be true even when they’re not.

Obviously, when they’re not, they get in the way and can cause misunderstandings. That’s when we need to be able to shift them to be more effective.

This ability to Filter Shift allows us to see greater complexity in our colleagues and therefore, greater complexity in their contributions. When they are able to do the same, the benefits are exponential. With these skills, we can regularly achieve the maxim of “the sum is greater than the whole of its parts.” I am able to see myself and my ideas differently because I can see them through the eyes of others. That’s transformation.

Transformational Diversity allows us to finally fulfill the promise of Diversity. For decades we have said that a diverse workplace is better, that diverse teams are higher performing and make better decisions. In actuality, drawing from the research of Joe DiStefano, we learn that diverse teams can be the least productive and lowest performing.[3] DiStefano specifically compared diverse teams with homogenous teams and then looked at their performance to see which group did better. He found three types of teams.

The majority of the diverse teams were also the lowest performing teams, falling behind their homogenous counterparts. However, there was also an elite group of performers. Those were the very few diverse teams that outperformed the homogenous teams.

What makes that smaller group of diverse teams so elite and high performing? It’s their ability to interact more effectively with the diversity around them.

Transformational Diversity provides the prescription for Diversity fatigue along with the much-needed traction for our spinning D&I wheels. Most importantly, it helps our organizations and the individuals within them to be their most effective.

This is the new way forward.

[1] Intercultural Development Inventory, IDI LLC, 1998-2011

[2] Intercultural Development Inventory, IDI LLC, 1998-2011

[3] Creating Value with Diverse Teams in Global Management, Joseph J. DiStefano & Martha L. Mazneski, 2000



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