If you could ask an innovative HR leader for her insights on your most pressing concerns, what do you think her advice might be? When Leena Nair, Chief Human Resources Officer at Unilever was asked just that, she did what a leader who values true inclusion would do: she asked for a diversity of perspectives.Read More
We live in a results-oriented world. And many believe that the best way to get results is to be direct. After all, when we know exactly what we want to accomplish and what steps to take to get there, anything other than a direct approach is a waste of time.
But what if the problem is thorny and the solutions are less clear?
When we seek to make change that involves people of different backgrounds and perspectives, the direct path becomes hard, if not impossible, to identify. In issues related to organizational culture – team effectiveness, inclusion, wellness, leadership, among others – the inevitable salad of human emotions and personal agendas create complicated as well as complex challenges.Read More
I recently had the good fortune to attend and present at the 2019 Forum on Workplace Inclusion in Minneapolis. Surrounded by committed diversity & inclusion professionals presenting on a wide array of topics, I spoke about discomfort and the role it plays in inclusion conversations.Read More
March 19, 2019 | Ann Kowal Smith
I recently had the honor and privilege of introducing Dr. Deborah Plummer, author of Some of My Friends Are… The Daunting Challenges and Untapped Benefits of Cross-Racial Friendships, at her Northeast Ohio book launch. Dr. Plummer is a nationally recognized psychologist and diversity management thought leader. She is a scientist, researcher, changemaker and professor in several disciplines – and a prolific author.
Debbie’s book, supported by twenty years of rigorous research on cross-racial friendships, helps us to understand how and why this literary friendship was both unusual but also deeply formative and important. In examining cross-racial friendships, she relies on extensive quantitative and qualitative evidence from her own research and the research of others. But her personal reflections and unflinching candor invite us to examine our own friendships: the acquaintances, the lovers, the friends “of the heart.”Read More
The term “psychological safety” may be buzzy, but it’s no buzzword. Collaborative, inclusive and productive organizational cultures require psychological safety. But building and maintaining true psychological safety takes both time and practice.
Psychological safety is the “shared belief’ that a team or a group is “safe for interpersonal risk taking.” Reintroduced (although coined years earlier) in the academic literature by Harvard professor Amy Edmondson, psychological safety enables candor, trust and mutual respect, and invites the full power of human ability to tackle workplace challenges. In psychologically safe environments, we give each other the benefit of the doubt and we are fully able to learn together – from each other and from our mistakes.Read More
February 4, 2019 | Ann Kowal Smith
At Books@Work, we constantly read and evaluate new texts – short stories and books – for interesting opportunities to trigger engaging and timeless discussion among colleagues. We look for new perspectives, especially from writers whose work is “outside” the traditional canon of Western literature. Whether a powerful portrait of immigrant experience from Edwidge Danticat, or a fascinating take on #metoo from Jamel Brinkley, we take pride in introducing new voices to our participants. But I’ve recently had a chance to revisit the power of a few classic short stories.Read More
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us that education and learning are “tools for shaping the future and not devices of privilege for an exclusive few.” Learning – and in particular, social learning – is an equalizer. What we learn from each other is broader than anything we can learn alone.Read More
December 26, 2018 | Ann Kowal Smith
There’s reading, and there’s reading. Sometimes we read opportunistically, with the sole objective to take something we need from the text. It might be a manual, it might be a technical article or it might be an article highlighting the news of the day.
But sometimes (less frequently, I fear) we read for the sheer pleasure of immersing ourselves in a story, of taking ourselves to a far-off land, solving a mystery or stepping into the shoes of a character. It might be a novel or a piece of narrative nonfiction, but we relish the words and “live” the experience rather than taking away lessons.Read More
Open and respectful organizational cultures require people to feel safe to be themselves, to contribute new and different ideas, and to be truly heard and respected. Table stakes for inclusion and belonging, these elements are nevertheless elusive and challenging, taking time to develop and mature. Books@Work shows measurable promise in helping these conditions develop and deepen, among colleagues across every level of the organization.Read More
He died almost 100 years ago, but Franz Kafka’s voice remains oddly relevant today. He wrote such bizarre and affecting stories that he left behind his own adjective, “kafkaesque”, to describe strange and nightmarish situations embedded in everyday life. With no shortage of the strange these days, we were particularly excited to have Books@Work featured in The New York Times – comparing Kafka’s iconic book, The Metamorphosis, with an powerful article on social isolation and loneliness, written by Dhruv Khullar, a physician and professor of healthcare policy at Columbia University.
Kafka’s stories feature disaffected characters who push the edges of the human condition – and often fail. The Metamorphosis is no exception. Traveling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes one morning to find that he has been transformed into a hideous bug. Unable to communicate, Gregor finds his sense of self and his relationship to his family and his work irreparably destroyed, with dire consequences.Read More