The media is abuzz this week with Starbucks’ commitment to erase bias and foster inclusion within its ranks. This profoundly important step serves as a potent reminder that the majority of workplaces – even those that have begun to seriously address diversity – have not cracked the code on true inclusion. Sophisticated algorithms replace (flawed) human judgment to diversify hiring, and a wave of research on unconscious bias has created sufficient awareness to create pause before decision makers rush to judgment. Most companies would agree, however, that they have yet to find a good and scalable approach to create a culture of inclusion.
We designed Books@Work to help address this critical challenge. We define inclusion in the broadest sense: we encourage not only divergent gender, race and cultural perspectives, but also the unique belief-sets driven by our upbringing or the fact that we now are engineers, accountants, marketers or IT professionals. For Books@Work, inclusion is about creating and nurturing a culture that fosters mutual respect and invites the whole person to the table. But how exactly do we do that?
Happy Friday! We’ve compiled our favorite articles and essays from the last month for you to browse and enjoy over Memorial Day weekend.
Most conversations about diversity & inclusion lump the two concepts together – so much so that they become indistinguishable. A recent piece from Big Think, part of a series on D&I sponsored by Amway, stresses the importance of identifying and verbalizing the difference between the two:
“In the workplace, [diversity is] about giving equal opportunity to all individuals, regardless of the social groups they belong to. ‘It’s easy to measure diversity: It’s a simple matter of headcount,’ say Laura Sherbin and Ripa Rashid in their article in Harvard Business Review.” So how does that relate to inclusion?
Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.
A prolific author of novels, nonfiction books, short stories, screenplays and more, Dave Eggers was raised in Lake Forest, Illinois. At age 21, he withdrew from college to care for his 8-year-old brother after losing both parents to cancer, events that are chronicled in his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His narrative essay “The Man at the River” appeared in Granta Magazine and tells the story of an American tourist in Sudan who is faced with a choice when he’s asked to wade across a river.
As you read “The Man at the River,” consider the many ways we navigate cultural difference and barriers to understanding.
As is my custom, I recently devoured a new podcast from Gimlet Media called The Habitat during a long and un-airconditioned road trip to Florida.
The Habitat follows a simulated mission-to-Mars research project called HI-SEAS. As space travel to Mars becomes more likely, researchers are tasked with perfecting equipment like “the dome,” a semi-portable living structure about the size of a two-car garage that would house six astronauts. But HI-SEAS is designed to test “a far more critical piece of equipment: humans.”
For a year, six “human guinea pigs” agree to spend every waking and sleeping moment together in a dome on a Hawaiian volcano, a stand-in for the red planet. HI-SEAS seeks to determine what these conditions will do to their astronauts. Poring through 200 hours of the crew’s audio diaries, The Habitat host Lyn Levy shadows the experiment from day one. “It’s like the premise of a space age reality show,” she says.
As a child and an unstoppable reader, I was irresistibly drawn to strong and headstrong female characters. Whether Harriet M. Welsch (of Harriet the Spy fame), Claudia Kincaid (From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), or Anne Shirley (of the infamous Anne of Green Gables), these young women felt like friends and soulmates: impetuous, energetic and, at times, a little noisy. Their stories invited me to reflect on my own experiences and, in particular, on the young woman I was and wanted to be.
Literature enthusiasts have long extolled the virtue of narrative to engage and delight individuals in this very way. Salman Rushdie once wrote, “Man is the storytelling animal. . . his stories are his identity, his meaning and his lifeblood.” But both the hard sciences and the social sciences confirm what a good book makes us feel: narrative powers the connections between individuals. In his inimitable way, narrative scholar Jerome Bruner describes, “Our sensitivity to narrative provides the major link between our own sense of self and our sense of others in the social world around us.” And the business world is catching on, with new energy for the strategic value of stories and storytelling in internal and external communications.
But does narrative’s power to connect run deeper than the way we tell our brand story or the way in which we persuade others to a cause?
Happy Friday! As usual, we’ve compiled our favorite articles and essays from the last month for you to browse and enjoy this weekend.
Harvard Business Review launched a fantastic series at the end of September focused on the epidemic of loneliness in the workplace. Former United States Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy writes in the cover story:
“Even working at an office doesn’t guarantee meaningful connections: People sit in an office full of coworkers, even in open-plan workspaces, but everyone is staring at a computer or attending task-oriented meetings where opportunities to connect on a human level are scarce. Happy hours, coffee breaks, and team-building exercises are designed to build connections between colleagues, but do they really help people develop deep relationships?”
It’s Friday! As usual, we’ve compiled our favorite articles and essays from the last month for you to enjoy over the weekend.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmonson and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative learning engineer Bror Saxberg make an emphatic case in the McKinsey Quarterly for prioritizing lifelong learning in the business world. With the rise of AI and robotics, they write, the complex cognitive and emotional skills that make us human are more crucial than ever.
In May of this year, Cyrus Copeland won the Chautauqua Literary Prize for his book, Off the Radar: A Father’s Secret, A Mother’s Heroism, and a Son’s Quest. Part memoir, part history, part cultural exploration, Copeland recounts his father’s quiet 1979 imprisonment in Iran in the lee of the American Embassy hostage crisis. An American academic and Westinghouse contractor accused of smuggling and spying, Max Copeland’s life was skillfully saved by his brilliant Iranian wife, the first female “lawyer” in an Islamic court. Alternatively told through four sets of eyes – mother Shahin, father Max, contemporary Cyrus and adolescent Cyrus – this unassuming search to understand whether his late father was a CIA agent, and to better know the man whose full persona had eluded him, is gripping and entertaining. And strangely familiar.
In surveys and interviews—nearly 350 to date—our participants’ stories confirm our aspirations: Books@Work provides a safe space to reflect and share, creating the conditions for effective collaboration and more diverse and inclusive organizations and community.
Books@Work is growing—and learning, which is why I am pleased to announce the release of our 2015 Annual Report. In it, we celebrate our learnings and discoveries. During the time this report covers—January 1 to December 31, 2015—we served 586 participants in 40 programs in both company and community settings, partnering with 87 professors from 25 colleges in 8 states. Collectively, our participants read 101 books and many short stories.