Celebrating the value of difference
Geffrye Parsons (he/him): 2023
Founder & CEO (Chief Empathy Officer), The Inclusion Imperative
People struggle with change. Humans are creatures of habit, and there is comfort in routine.
But time does not stand still, so change is inevitable. Endless self-help books have professed the importance of embracing change as, paradoxically, the only real constant, both in life generally and in business. Yet it is always tempting for many to look backwards, idealising the past, rather than forward to a better future.
Change is rooted in embracing difference. The Progress Paradox clarifies this: whereas the reasonable person adapts themselves to their environment, the unreasonable person attempts to adapt the environment to themselves – and therefore all change (and with it, all progress) depends on someone being ‘unreasonable’.
Consciously inclusive leaders – whether at C-suite or team head level – understand not only that change is inevitable, and indeed necessary in the pursuit of progress, but also that change brings the biggest pay-off when it exploits the synergies that spring from embracing difference. Taking an inclusive approach to change management (of whatever scale) maximises the transformational value of diversity – diversity of thought, of perspective, of experience.
What that requires in practice is to approach change from a people-centric angle. Change management teams must work with leaders, especially middle managers who create the micro cultures within the workplace every day, to promote this. It involves a lot of moving parts – including, for example:
fairer, more open recruitment and promotion practices (resisting affinity bias)
better information gathering (resisting proximity and recency biases)
active outreach for all inputs (including those of introverts or those working physically remotely, for example)
embracing the vulnerability of not knowing everything (and so empowering others who can help), and
meaningful, purposeful two-way communication (including the fundamental needs for curiosity and for listening, rather than merely hearing).
Creating an environment of psychological safety in this way can seem daunting, and some will doubtless shy away from it. But it is the path to success, by putting people – most organisations’ most valuable resource, after all – at the heart of the change process.
It is therefore not just because I am an inherently positive-minded person – who, for example, supported The Stress Management Society’s terrific #ChooseHope campaign last year with a ‘life-changing conversation’ podcast , and who is currently championing the work of the Centre for Optimism over in Australia – that I maintain a positive outlook. It is also because I believe that, ultimately, humans and their organisations are fundamentally rational. As Albert Einstein said: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
Ultimately, it will also be the measure of organisational robustness and success. The benefits of taking a people-centric approach to change – inviting different perspectives, allowing received wisdoms to be challenged, and viewing (inevitable) mistakes as learning opportunities – are, and will become increasingly, clear to those people and organisations, as they strive to achieve renewed business progress in the future.
Is your organisation taking a humanistic approach to change, forging real progress by recognising the value of difference and embracing that through truly inclusive practices every day?
If you would like to explore how The Inclusion Imperative – an independent Diversity, Equity & Inclusion consulting practice, with a core focus on ensuring that theory translates into practical reality in workplaces – could help in this context, please do check out its and my own LinkedIn pages and its website, and get in touch via any of those!