Get uncomfortable: Why challenging your own perception of “good” is the route to inclusion

Published on August 15, 2018

By: Director of People, Kate Rand

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

I recently Googled this phrase to find out who might have coined it, and instead stumbled upon a LinkedIn post by Daniel Juday titled “Inclusion isn’t being asked to dance”. Juday gets quite meta, but makes a great point: being invited to the party and being asked to dance both require one person to be in a decision-making position of power. How can it be inclusive if one person needs to choose to make space for the other? He suggests an alternative: “Diversity is going to the party; inclusion is being part of the party-planning committee”.

This rings true to the work we’re doing to advocate diversity and inclusion (D&I) at Beyond.

In our LDN studio, “think differently” is one of our main strategic priorities, meaning D&I is high up on our agenda.

Some examples are:

As successful as these initiatives have been, I’m not quite ready to pat ourselves on the back just yet. Taking stock of our achievements is great, and agile methodologies teach us to celebrate the wins– but there’s still work to be done. This is a short post reflecting on the progress we’ve made, and on some of the challenges still to be faced.

It’s only by challenging ourselves and our own perceptions that we will be able to move toward true inclusivity– not just inviting people to party, but making sure that different walks of life are taking a seat at the party planning table.

Growth spurts and culture shifts

In the last 12 months, our London studio headcount has 44%. This growth and shift in demographics has manifested itself in different ways, from the way we curate social calendar to the way we look for talent.

When I first joined, I remember putting forward a candidate that was rejected because the hiring manager “couldn’t imagine having a beer with them”. I couldn’t believe it. This was because up until then, hiring had happened based on the idea of finding “like-minded people” which was often confused with finding people you’d enjoy hanging out with in your spare time. This mentality had embedded itself deep within our longer-standing team members’ minds.

We’ve evolved leaps and bounds since then. Instead of using our own projections as a selection tool, we now focus everything around Beyond’s four key values:

1. Be Brave

2. Be Supportive 

3. Be Inspirational

4. Be Smart 

These values have become the backbone of our hiring strategy, helping us recruit incredibly talented people in new ways. I’ll also add that Beyond is the first place I’ve worked where I feel our values are truly lived day in and out.

Now that we are hiring more diverse talent, what are we doing to ensure our environment is welcoming for all, regardless of lifestyle?

Back to the party

As a studio we are making great strides in the diversity, and now it’s time to laser focus our efforts on the inclusion. This is where the challenge around perception is key, and Juday’s reimagined sentence helps to explain that,

“Diversity is going to the party; inclusion is being part of the party-planning committee”

Our party is becoming more accessible, the invites less exclusive, but we still need to work on ensuring everyone is equally able to have a say in the planning.

Diversity without inclusion is only half of the battle won. To take the party analogy further;

A person who is unaware of their own bias and perception flaws, and who does not challenge these, will automatically put any person they come into contact with in a situation where they are being asked to dance. They are forcing that person to be judged by the individuals own perception of good, and to see how they measure up. Maybe they won’t be asked to dance at all.

The invitee is not part of the planning committee, because the person made all the decisions about the venue and the dress code before they turned up. And now they’re judging the invitees party outfit and their time keeping based on pre-determined criteria.

Perception of “good”

The analogy rings true. The other day, a team member shared their frustrations of another coworker with me. They were frustrated because, even though this coworker was excelling in their work, they seemed to have other commitments outside of the office and weren’t making the effort to spend time in a social context together, something they deemed more important than work performance. They were judging the co worker based on their own perception of good, with criteria they had predetermined.

I was reminded that the “I’d have a beer with them” mentality is still there, as are other biases and assumptions, because we’re only human. Beyond has worked hard on diversity across the organisation, but the journey continues. The mindset and cultural shift to ensure complete inclusion is still underway, and as ever, the conversation will not be over for the foreseeable future. It was this encounter that triggered the next piece of the puzzle within the studio which we’re calling “Let’s get uncomfortable”, and I firmly believe it is our responsibility as an organisation to help our team members work through this mindset shift.

Why should you get uncomfortable?

Working with people who are just like you feels great. They have the same political beliefs, hobbies and maybe even went to the same school. Chatting is easy, collaboration is low effort. Especially if your workplace has a history of founders and legacy employees, they’ll undoubtedly share a history or inside jokes and a similar work ethic.

But if you’re in this situation, ask yourself, what are you actually creating? It’s probably not groundbreaking. How are you developing as a person if you’re own perception of “good” receives confirmation bias through your peers? Our end users and clients are diverse. It is critical for us to mirror this if we want to stay ahead of the curve.

How are we keeping the focus on inclusion?

Our agency is a place to think differently, to be challenged and to grow as a person. You can catch your long time friends in the bar down the road. Like leadership, being inclusive is a mental choice. You need to be thoughtful and considered in your approach. Like any muscle it takes time to train your reactions and mindset toward inclusivity.

We’re running a number of initiatives at Beyond to help train our inclusivity muscles under our Think Differently objective:

  • Education Nation: Reading and short presentations on the topic, for example including “Culture Map” by Erin Meyer, which gives a methodology to apply to multicultural teams
  • Implicit Bias Training: Team-wide implicit bias training launched through The Turk Group has introduced us to tools such as the Harvard bias test
  • #Iamremarkable workshops being run by Joann DeLanoy our Delivery Director
  • Promoting an “always on” culture for feedback, with clear routes to team members to voice their feelings about D&I, bias and culture
  • Implicit bias pulse check survey- We ran this anonymous survey recently to get an understanding of the blindspots we may have as a studio, and are playing the results back to the studio and helping them kick off our D&I council initiative

Next:

  • D&I Council our next step, after listening to our teams is to set up a D&I council made up of individuals across the studio who want to be change agents and advocates for our conversation, because D&I is something that everyone is accountable for progressing. This group will ensure the routes of communication are open to all, and will set apart from the senior team or people team.
  • External speakers Using our networks, we want to begin to invite regular thought leaders in to discuss D&I, and share different ways of thinking

Are you or your organisation interested in participating in an Iamremarkable workshop? Do you have something interesting to share on diversity and inclusion in the workplace? We’re looking for keynote speakers to share knowledge across our four studios to help us continue this conversation.We’d love to hear from you.