[00:00:02] SW: Welcome back to season six, episode 10 of Your Brain at Work podcast. Inclusion is more important now than ever before. It is necessary to create a powerfully diverse workforce and a broadly inclusive culture. If you aren’t actively including, you’re probably accidentally excluding. In order to create better workplaces, it is important to understand that we must build fundamental habits to make inclusion a common practice.
In this week’s episode, we’ll dig into the neuroscience of inclusion with our guest, Linda Leonard, Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Going in depth about the areas we get wrong about inclusion, and how we can use science to better connect people together.
I’m Shelby Wilburn, and you’re listening to Your Brain at Work from the NeuroLeadership Institute. We continue to draw episodes from our weekly Friday webinar series. This week, our show is a conversation between Dr. David Rock, CEO and cofounder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, and Linda Loenard, Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead for Bristol-Myers Squibb. Enjoy.
[00:01:05] SW: For today, we have a wonderful guest. So our guest for today is a Senior Global Diversity Inclusion Leader for Bristol-Myers Squibb, a global biopharmaceutical company. She leverages three decades of organization and leadership development experience to create a powerfully diverse workforce and broadly inclusive culture. She’s introduced a groundbreaking employee research group model, a grassroots culture change movement built on the science of inclusion, and several accelerated leadership development programs. Please join me in welcoming Linda Leonard.
Linda, it’s great to have you here today.
[00:01:39] LL: It’s great to be here. Thank you.
[00:01:41] SW: And our leader for today’s discussion, you know him very well. An Aussie turned New Yorker who coined the term NeuroLeadership when he cofounded in NLI over two decades ago. With a professional doctorate, four successful books under his name and a multitude of by lines, ranging from Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and many more, a warm welcome as I pass the virtual mic over to our cofounder and CEO of the NeuroLeadership Institute, Dr. David Rock.
[00:02:06] DR: Thank you. Thank you, Shelby. Great to be here with you. And Linda, wonderful to be in conversation with you again. It’s been a while. I remember the very first conversation we had with you and the time the head of diversity at BMS. I remember something like you guys said, “Hey, you guys do science. We do science. We should get our heads together.” And we did. And a lot of pretty amazing things happened. So I look forward to sharing that case, or you sharing that case and the whole journey. It’s a really fascinating journey of collaboration and following the science in many, many ways.
But just we’ll bring you in in a few minutes, just want to do a little bit of background for folks, particularly for new folks. So a little bit of context. So about us, we have been around for a long time, 23 years now. We’ve published over 50 research papers, and diversity, equity, inclusion has become a really strong part of our work, although we do many other things. But at the core of our work at the NLI is original research. And we do several kinds of research. We do some lab research where we actually test out hypotheses, but that’s a little bit more rare than what we call synthesis research. And eight original research papers that took anywhere from – I think that shortest one was a year and a half, up to three and a half years. And essentially what we do is we start with an organizational challenge, like how do you break bias? So how do you create a culture of speaking up? Or how do you get people to be more thoughtful about others? We start with that. And then we look into the biology and come out either a point of view, or a framework, or an approach that just follows the science much more closely than anything else out there.
And for these eight papers that you’re seeing on screen, starting with bias, which was our first one. For these eight papers, there’s probably another 20 you’ve never heard of, because we explored things, but didn’t necessarily find something really, really important to say. But it turns out these papers all have something really important to say, we believe, on inclusion, which really we draw from a number of different areas of research around DEI.
It’s been a big part of our work the last few years. It’s not something we sort of started last year. It accelerated obviously last year, but let’s just spend a couple of minutes on a different way of thinking about why inclusion matters from a biological perspective, and of what’s the case for inclusion. I’m sure you’ve seen lots of outcome studies from McKinsey and the other big firms, the other big consulting firms kind of showing you that inclusion is really great. Those studies are really helpful in terms of kind of getting people to see it’s valuable. But we’re interested in the mechanisms of why it’s important.
And there’s a couple of things to understand about it. The first thing is that the opposite of inclusion or exclusion shows up in dozens and dozens of studies as being really harmful to people’s performance. And that’s kind of really, in some ways, the least important point. It’s not just harmful to their performance. It’s harmful to their well-being to their sense of purpose, to just the way they are.
So when people feel excluded, they kind of shrink back into a much smaller version of themselves. It’s not just that they’re less creative, and less opportunistic, and less good at collaboration less good at client work. All those things are true. They literally become more in an avoidance state or an away state, more risk averse.
And so what’s actually happening, and these six points, by the way, are a summary of many, many different studies, reduced intelligent thought, increased self-defeating behavior, reduced pro-social behavior, impaired self-regulation, reduced meaning and purpose, decreased well-being. These things basically come from one common mechanism, which is that a sense of exclusion is very, very similar to other forms of distress, like physical pain.
And when you activate a sense of exclusion in the brain through various clever paradigms in the lab, what you see is networks lighting up that are very, very similar to the pain networks, in particular, the distressing component of pain, as opposed to the actual raw data of the pain. And those are two kind of halves of the pain story, the distressing component and the physical pain that are quite linked together, but also quite separate in the brain.
So what we see from lots of different studies is that feeling excluded is activating a threat response, in fact, what we call a primary threat response, which is very similar to pain. So it’s very hard to avoid it. If you’re feeling left out of a group, it’s really hard to just try not to feel it, right? Just in the same way, if you stub your toe really badly, and you’re really in pain, you can’t just like think your way out of it, right? You just keep feeling the pain.
The theory of this is that, from an evolutionary perspective, we really needed other people to survive. You didn’t survive very long on your own. You needed a group to survive, and a time of constant famine and fighting and war for the millions of years we evolved, we needed other humans. And feeling your cast out of a group was terrifying, because you probably would die. So we’re wired in that way that we feel rewarded when we feel involved in a group. And we feel distress when we feel not connected to a group. But it’s deep in our evolutionary wiring. And so we really want to create conditions that people feel included in these different situations.
Linda, I remember teaching some of this to your folks. What was the reaction when they kind of got into some of this brain science at Bristol-Myers Squibb?
[00:07:21] LL: Yeah, I’m nodding because I can hear it seven or eight times, and it still resonates. Because we, like you, are a very scientific-driven organization. And when we talk about inclusion in scientific ways, it resonates with scientists. It changes it from something that’s soft, and fuzzy, and nice to do, and it makes people feel good, to something that’s it’s weightier. It means something. It resonates with people who are PhDs, and MDs. And all of a sudden, you can talk about it with individuals that have a lot of letters after their name, not just social scientists. You know? It means a lot more to people.
[00:08:02] DR: Right. The other thing, I think, with understanding this process is you start to see it in real life. So like I went to a friend’s party on the weekend, and there was someone there kind of in the corner, minding their own business, who just looked like they’re in distress. And I went over and started talking to them. And it was clear this person didn’t know anyone at this gathering and felt like everyone else knew everyone. And lots of people didn’t know each other, but not everyone. But this person like didn’t have a friend. And I was like, “Oh, how did you get here?” And their friend hadn’t arrived yet. So they literally didn’t have a friend in the room in their mind. And I said, “Oh, let me introduce you to a few people.” And I introduced him to some folks. And like when I saw them half an hour later, they were like completely relaxed, just because they’d met two or three people.
And it’s really hard to walk into a community and not know anyone. You get this real almost like hyperventilating. So it will vary between people. Some folks are comfortable. But that’s that experience. And I think we’ve all had that experience that and seen it and understanding what’s actually going on in your body and your brain is really helpful to get a little bit of separation for that. But as a manager, understanding that you could accidentally set that off in your people is perhaps even more important.
So let’s just talk about that for a minute. A different angle on the mechanism here that I think it’s really important. There’s a paper we wrote called Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter. I wrote it with Heidi Grant when she was with us for about five years. We think it’s a really important paper. It basically explains the mechanisms of how diverse and inclusive teams work and why it is that they’re actually more effective. And it’s really interesting. The mechanism involved is essentially the IQ at a team level.
And so while you can study like engagement outcomes and all sorts of things, basically the real mechanism we believe of diversity and inclusion is the team’s themselves when they work have higher IQ. And team IQ is a real thing that’s stable across time and variable between teams and stable across time. within that team. So team IQ goes up.
But what’s really, really interesting is team IQ goes up only if you have diversity and inclusion. And the way they’ve studied this is you need really different perspectives. And people actually need to leave space for others to speak up. And people need to actually speak up. So you’ve got this diversity, but you don’t have people really speaking up, you literally don’t get the benefits.
And then there’s a second piece that we wrote, which looks at actually that whole process actually feels uncomfortable for people and that that discomfort is necessary. But obviously, there’s a certain level of discomfort, right? You want to – So you’re trying to create overall psychological safety, overall sense of inclusion, but also people still challenging each other. And people still kind of that edge of reducing biases.
So it’s this interesting dynamic, but ultimately, the team IQ goes up. And the team is smarter at creative solving, problem solving, linear problem solving and error detection. But only if there’s different perspectives and if people really speaking up and challenge each other in a safe way. So it’s a really important edge to understand.
So anyway, with that as a backdrop, and I know there’s been some important work we’ve done. Let’s hear from you, Linda. Tell us the story of kind of how this came about, the organization. Take us through the journey.
[00:11:18] LL: Yep, absolutely. And that’s why this is going to be fun, because you’re going to take us through a bit of a theory. And then let me tell you how this all came about and came to life at Bristol-Myers Squibb. So just a little bit about BMS. This is our vision to be the leading biopharma company that transforms patients’ lives through science. And I would dare to say that if you walk into any Bristol-Myers Squibb facility and you ask people why they’re working there, they will give you some version of the BMS vision or mission. This is the reason that everybody comes to work every day. And they’ll tell you a story, a very personal story of somebody that they know about the reason that they come to work every day.
And in recent years, there’s been a really strong focus not just on the patients that we’re serving, but the patients that we’re not serving. And this focus on healthcare disparities, and health equity is really front and center for folks. And there’s a very explicit discussion of the business case for diversity, which centers around things like the fact that African-Americans have a death rate that’s 25% higher than white Americans for all cancers combined. And that there’s a lot of evidence that shows that there’s likely seven cancer types that disproportionately affects the LGBTQ community, or that Hispanic Latina women have the highest rates of cervical cancer, that it’s about 30% higher than other women, and that liver cancer rates are 60% higher in Asian Americans. And so there’s explicit discussions of why it’s so important to have diversity representation in the organization.
So this business case for diversity is really clear for people. And so as you look on the next slide, we’d look at the purpose for global DNI. And so that’s really easy to see. To have a powerfully diverse and broadly inclusive organization. The diversity piece, everybody gets that. It’s when we start to talk about the inclusion piece, we really needed to bring the same kind of rigor and scientific discussion to that piece.
So exactly what you were just saying about the mechanisms in the brain that, when people feel excluded, it activates the same parts of the brain that feel pain. We started to talk about inclusion that way, because we needed to have the same kind of approach to inclusion. And it was that kind of discussion. And you talked about it as a health issue. So as a health care company, you don’t want to be the manager that is doing things to make your employee feel excluded if it’s going to have health impact.
And so we even started to talk about the fact that, in an extended way, if you are consistently feeling excluded, it has physiological impact. Your heart races and your palms sweat, and there’s cardiovascular implications. And in the long term, it’s the same impact as sleep deprivation. It’s jacking up parts of your brain that are hardwired for decision making and focus, and therefore you’re not performing as well. And so that kind of discussion makes perfect sense for an organization full of scientists and physicians. And then you get to, “Alright, well, it’s the magic combination of diversity plus inclusion that allows you to achieve the business outcomes that we want,” which for us is to reach more patients.
[00:14:48] DR: It’s really interesting hearing you frame it that way. Just in the context of framing, a lot of folks know us at NLI with some of these really kind of catchy solutions that we’ve built over the years, like we started with Connect, which is about quality conversations. And Decide, groundbreaking bias. And we launched Inclusion a few years ago that’s gone out really, really widely. What a lot of folks don’t know is about half our work with organizations is actually extremely custom. So we actually build something together. And working with BMS was a wonderful opportunity to do some real custom work, where we kind of left on the shelf things we already haven’t said, “Let’s go back to the science and build something that really follows the science.” That’s exactly what BMS needs and fits with the whole ecosystem there. And that’s been a wonderful opportunity. So yeah, talk us through the journey.
[00:15:33] LL: Exactly. So now that we knew that we wanted to impact inclusion, because we could do the same focus, it didn’t necessarily mean that we knew how to do it. So falling back on this incredible model that you had around priorities, habits and systems. That’s exactly what we did. And then it got to the point where we needed to identify what are the right habits for BMS. So the right habits at the right time with clear tactical actions was what was most important for us, and obviously having the scientific rigor behind it. And so we took that exact approach.
So we called it our approach by the numbers. And you can see on the next slide some of the rigor behind identifying the right habits for us. We talked to an awful lot of people around the entire organization. We did a number of interviews to make sure that the platform was going to really resonate. So interviewed a lot of people. We have what we call people in business resource groups. We did a number of sessions with our PBRG leaders around the globe. And this is where NLI helped us out a lot as well.
So we wanted to understand from folks, “What is it?” What kind of cues do you get from individuals that help you perform at your best? We collected hundreds of those. And then that’s where we really wanted to go back to the science. And this number of scholarly curated articles with world renowned scientists from NLI that we brought together and called them down into three habits, and then supported them with a number of actions that we beta tested to make sure that they were going to work within our organization.
And as I hear you ringing in my ear over and over again, you got to get it down to three. If you give people more than three things to do, they won’t do anything. I repeat this over and over. And so we were able to get it to three habits for Bristol-Myers Squibb. And those are the three habits; encourage every voice, explore new ideas, and eliminate barriers. And this is where a scientific organization is always going to want to see the proof and understand the science behind it.
And I’ll give you just one example of some of the science behind one of these actions, or one of these habits, explore new ideas. And it’s to really get the benefit of innovation underneath this. We needed to help managers and colleagues build psychological safety to create the conditions for innovation. And the science behind that says that rejection, fear valuation, unfair treatment activates the region of the brain that’s the same as physical pain, which is exactly what we’ve just been talking about. And there’s scholarly articles that are footnoted on a lot of our habit cards, so that if folks in our research and development organization want to look up the scientific articles that this is based on, they can certainly do that. And believe me, they do. And we encourage that.
And so what’s nice about this is there’s a lot of certainly research behind it, but also flexibility as well. And then we certainly measured it. So it validates a lot of the research that you provide in the framework, which says, “When our leaders made this a priority, and indicated it, our employees felt that it was more important as well.” And the habit adoption works. When we all practice the habits at the same time, we certainly saw the adoption rates increased dramatically.
And now we see this become part of a sustainable way of building this into the organization. At the end of 2019. This became one of our core values, and it’s now part of our manager objectives. It’s a really flexible way to incorporate these habits into the way that we do business, that we can incorporate this into the rest of our conversations. But on the next slide, this is something that has not become a mandate, but a movement. This is something that is a grassroots movement. We’ve got over 1000 ambassadors across the globe. And now with your help, we’ve really trained some individuals in the organization certifies them in the science of inclusion, and they continue to evolve. As we went virtual, now we’ve got some actions under our habits that help practice these habits in a virtual environment. Now that we’re coming back to the workplace, practicing on the hybrid environment, but always going back in partnership with NLI to make sure that we are helping our leaders understand the science behind all of these habits and actions, because that’s what works for BMS.
[00:19:59] DR: Linda, let’s walk people through kind of in a slightly concrete way, kind of the framework. But more importantly, like how it was introduced to the organization. Let’s give some examples. Because I know, BMS is quite complicated. You’re in many, many countries. You’re 50,000 plus people, many cultures. It’s a big organization. And I mean, in terms of the framework, what we built was a really, I think, elegant architecture with these three main habits at the top. And then underneath each one, you had three specific actions to take. And then underneath that you had the science of each one. So it was this really beautiful ecosystem of habits and actions and research. We’re doing that more and more kind of building these whole ecosystems. But putting the ecosystem aside, how did people learn about it? What was some of the ways that this was taught to folks?
[00:20:45] LL: Yeah. I think that the structure is really important. So the three habits, they live in perpetuity, and then there’s actions underneath each of those to help people kind of build the muscle of that habit. But to get the message out there, one of the things that we did that we still use today is a series of podcasts and blogs to really bring it to life. So I remember you joined us on site, this is before COVID, came in and recorded a series of podcasts with some senior leaders to talk about, how does this habit come to life? What does it mean? So our CHRO, our CFO at the time, our Chief Legal Counsel, talked about what happens if we don’t encourage every voice? And what happens when we do? And how do you practice this? And then that was followed up by some blogs that your scientists wrote for us. Nice, short, easy to listen to, easy to read. We put them out on our SharePoint site. And then these ambassadors took them, distributed them.
And then also, what’s great about the ambassadors, what’s great about the grassroots movement, it’s out there, and it’s in the role modeling and the reminding people to practice these habits on a daily basis that all of this comes to life. It’s super easy. And in the moment, rather than trying to do this in formal training, and our senior leaders have given folks permission to remind them in the moment. So if you forget to start a meeting by aligning on a shared goal, you have full permission to remind the senior leader in a room like, “Oh, hey. You know what? Let’s just align on what is the shared goal for this meeting, because we know that that’ll encourage every voice. It’ll encourage perspective taking in this meeting. So let’s go ahead and do that.”
[00:22:29] DR: Right. No. That’s nice. You just reminded me, I almost forgot, we created this wonderful series of podcasts as well, where some of our scientists, some of your people. And we wove together over the podcasts for each habit, and some of the work under it. So people had these tools. And then we did written versions of them as blogs. So you had this whole world of content. So it wasn’t just the actual architecture, the three way three was also this wonderful world of content that the ambassadors could use and share with their folks. And how were the ambassadors trained? And how did people get certified? And could anyone become an ambassador? Can you just talk a little bit to the 1000 ambassadors and some of that?
[00:23:05] LL: Sure. So the ambassadors, that’s open to everybody. In fact, it’s open to BMS employees as well as contingent workers. So one of the things that’s really important in our people strategy that we launched a few years ago is a recognition that, to truly be inclusive, we need to acknowledge that there is a mixed workforce. We have employees, and we have contingent workers. So we don’t use the word employee. We use workforce, and people, and individuals. So our ambassadors are made up of employees and contingent workers that jump on board to be empowered to create the kind of culture that they want to work in. Anybody can sign up. Anybody can become an ambassador. We have ambassador lead that are responsible for meeting with their group of ambassadors that are typically part of the same site, the same region, on a monthly basis. So make sure that they’ve got the tools, the information they need to be equipped to help role model, the habits, the action, the science of inclusion. They know a little bit about what’s on the SharePoint site. What videos are available to share in team meetings. What habits are accessible. And they’re equipped to kind of remind people, host events. Perhaps they bring in – They get super creative. There’re groups all over the world that create their own content, their own videos. We give them enough to get them creative.
The folks who are certified, we call them VIP, verified inclusion partners. They need to get their managers approval and support because they actually take 10% of their time. They have an objective around creating their own inclusion plan. And 10% of their time now is focused on inclusion. So they get their manager’s buy-in. And then some of your scientists from NLI actually put them through a certification process and training, and they have to test. They need to actually go through a series of tests, achieve a certain level to become certified. And they need to maintain that certification, because it is seen as a certainly a badge of honor to be a certified verified inclusion partner, certified VIP, and then you can maintain that status.
[00:25:23] SW: If you enjoy this podcast, you’re going to love our annual conference, the NeuroLeadership Summit. Coming to you virtually on February 15th through 16th, 2022. We’ll bring business leaders, academics and visionaries from around the globe to an incredible virtual gathering where we’ll zero-in on powerful insights, trends and breakthroughs, as well as the principles of NeuroLeadership. All to help leaders and teams adapt faster in a transforming world.
Join us online, February 15th through 16th, 2022 and attend sessions available across the globe. You can watch session live, participate in breakout rooms, interact with other members of the NLI community, or access content on demand. No matter how you prefer to engage, we promise you won’t want to miss it. To learn more and to save the date, visit summit.neuroleadership.com.
[00:26:21] DR: It’s a great project in a lot of ways. We haven’t really talked about this project publicly at all. So we’re excited to have you here. But it was stretched us in other ways. And what we loved was kind of this balance of what your resources are and what you want to use, and then leveraging our resources just right really felt like a partnership. And we would meet once or twice a year and just brainstorm together. How do we accelerate inclusion next? And how do we do it next? And all have these big insights about kind of how to continue to deepen it. So it was never a one-off initiative. It was an ongoing journey. And a lot of these things kind of evolved over two or three years of working this out and kind of very much partnering together on this.
So it’s exciting to see. I mean, some of the things excited me was the way these ambassadors took the content and it created these little groups and created these events and went out. And they’re really empowered to be spokespeople for inclusion with not just good science, but good tools, and things that they could really spread. And I think we saw just such a great grassroots movement where you literally had something like one in 50 employees was an ambassador, 1000 times 50. So you actually had this kind of ability to spread across the business in a really clever way. So I think this is one of the best kind of systems approaches that we’ve seen out there.
We’re going to change gears a little bit. The ambassador program was BMS’ idea, and we loved it. We love training the ambassadors, and we loved empowering them with tools. But ultimately, that was your guy’s idea. And we think it’s a great one. It it’s a really powerful way to spread this versus other ways.
Quite a few questions about measurement, Linda, as we sort of wrap up this section, because I want to talk a little bit about this more from the science perspective. But how is it measured? What were some of the business outcomes? Tell us a little bit about that.
[00:28:01] LL: Yeah, from a measurement perspective, because we’ve been able to get discreet about some of the tactics underneath the habit, and typically, you can identify if you see somebody engaging in the tactics, then we ask. So on a periodic basis, we try to go out into the organization and ask people if they are seeing these tactics being demonstrated, because then we can see the penetration.
So I just mentioned, one of the actions is to start every meeting by aligning on a shared goal. So we can do an audit of the organization, say, “How often, when you enter a meeting, do you see this being done every time X percent of the time?” And that’s how we measure the actions. And then we try to align that with things like our engagement survey inclusion index. And ultimately, we’ll see if we’re having an impact on outcomes that way.
[00:28:54] DR: Yeah, fantastic. Thanks, Linda. We measure things using a technique we developed called the behavior change percentage, which is the percentage of a target audience applying a defined habit now. And it’s really interesting measuring the participants in an experience. But even more interesting measuring the direct reports of that participant. You get much more rich data. And I’ll share some of the data that we’ve collected from over 100 sites that we’ve rolled out inclusion strategies in a few minutes. BCP, or behavior change percentage, is a really helpful frame because you can that one idea constant and then look at what happens between different facilitators, or different countries, or different strategies, and different content and see what’s better.
And at NLI, using that approach some years ago, we were able to categorically show to ourselves that doing in-person workshops was dramatically the worst way of building habits compared to every other way we could do learning. And it was so stark. In fact, it was a different pharma than you. It was another pharma company where we were able to do a real control test of the same content with different types of modalities, one of which being workshops. And we just found like workshops were a huge outlier in the negative sense in terms of habits, but an outlier in terms in the positive sense in terms of what people say they like, right? So people love the workshop over the other ways that actually they learn much, much, much less, in terms of real habits.
[00:30:17] LL: Or counterintuitive.
[00:30:18] DR: Yeah, yeah. So we love these strategies where you’ve got like either 1000 managers become the ambassadors. That’s what we tend to do, is we’ll power up managers generally in organization to be these ambassadors, right? Because they have that structure. But this kind of strategy is also great. But powering up these people is a really great way to do that.
I’ll go back to the framework and give you sort of a sense of it. You’ve got these three habits overall, encourage every voice, explore new ideas, eliminate barriers. Underneath each one, you’ve got three specific actions that you can take. And then underneath that, you’ve got the science of why those are important. And then we built a world of content of podcasts, and blogs, and research papers that explain the whole thing. So if you’re a scientific organization, you can go many clicks down into this. But also, if you’re an ambassador, you can actually build content out of this whole suite. And you can develop your own different experiences and different ways of interacting with the content as well.
[00:31:15] LL: I’m going to say, if you go out to bms.com, you’ll see the DNI report from earlier this year. There’re actually four videos from possibility lives embedded throughout the report. You can see a little bit of how it comes to life, even though you can’t see the details of it.
[00:31:28] DR: Oh, fantastic. That’s great. Let’s change gears a little bit, Linda. I want to hear your experience with some of these points, but I want to lift up a little bit. So we’ve talked about one case around inclusion that weaves in some of the principles I’m going to share with you here. But as I look at the increased attention on inclusion out there in the world, and there is a lot more attention on inclusion, firstly, from the racial crisis we’ve had the last year now with just companies trying to hold onto employees with the great resignation. And there’s increasing emphasis on inclusion. And we see companies getting this wrong. We see a lot of organizations really missing some of the key insights and strategies that are happening.
So a couple of things. The first thing that’s really important, and we covered this in two different papers in a paper called The Science of Inclusion, and then later a paper called Take the Focus Off Difference. And what we see is that a lot of inclusion strategies end up being about particular audiences. Like we’re going to try and address this particular gender, obviously, female gender. We’re going to address this race. We’re going to address this particular audience or subset. And we think that while that does feel good in one way, and it’s perfectly logical and may feel incredibly positive in a number of ways, it has some unintended consequences. And in some ways, the audience you’re trying to help feel kind of cold out. And other audiences feel like left behind. And it starts to create this kind of difference mentality.
And it’s this really weird thing with inclusion that we see a lot of companies trying to do inclusion and accidentally create exclusion, in that this sort of isolating a particular audience or few audiences, and then others feel excluded. Or they focus on differences between people. Whereas inclusion is actually about focusing on similarities. Inclusion is about finding common ground, as opposed to focusing on how we’re different.
Now, the research on this is a little complex, because the ideal team, for example, has a lot of differences. And those differences are celebrated but within the context of a very strong super ordinate goal, or a very strong overarching goals. So you’ve got to have a lot of kind of commonality. You’ve got to have a lot of shared goals, and then differences can work. But if you’re just focusing on difference and focusing on isolating particular groups, you end up with some challenges.
So the cliff note on all that is one of our mantras is inclusion is for everyone. It’s something that everyone does with everyone. It’s not something that you’re just doing with this particular race or gender or orientation. Inclusion is something that every manager does with everyone and every employee does with everyone. And that way, you’re not isolating individuals, and you’re doing it really differently. So that’s one thing that we see a lot of companies get wrong.
Another thing that we think is really important is it’s not something that you just do kind of here and there. And this is particularly for managers. We have a mantra, which is if you’re not actively including, you’re probably accidentally excluding. And there’s a couple of reasons for that. I mean, firstly, as a manager, you are higher status, you have more control. You essentially create a threat response in people by just entering a meeting, whether it’s on a Zoom or in physical. You, by virtue of being high status, having more control, having more information, all these things, you are a higher power person. You put people in a lower power state, and it creates a threat response.
So to in that situation where people are already in a threat state, it’s really easy to accidentally create another threat state. Like if my teenager is really grumpy and I say, “Hey, what are you having for lunch? They’ll say why do you ask?” Like they’re already like on the negative side, and they’ll take a neutral question as negative. And this is what happened.
So remember, you’re already as a manager kind of putting people in a threat state. So people will take neutral or even positive things as a threat. So generally, you’ve got to really be actively including, particularly as a manager. And it’s just easy to accidentally do or say something that others experience as exclusion, because also, we are wired to detect potential threat. So we’re also all wired to actually really pay attention to the negative, so they jump out.
The other thing, there’s this thing called illusion of transparency, which is we overestimate the degree to which our internal states are actually available to people. In other words, it’s quite an interesting – It’s quite an interesting phenomenon. We think that our nervousness and all this is indistinguishable to the people we’re speaking to. So we think that we’re being transparent. We’re actually not. People usually don’t have any idea what we’re feeling. And particularly a busy manager may be very goal-focused, not very people-focused. They often have no idea that people are feeling excluded. And managers need to realize that then often unconscious of other people’s exclusion as well. So we’ve got to watch out for this interesting illusion.
The other thing, and this is an important one, that if we work on bias, will we fix inclusion? And there are separate but related challenges. So when we work on bias, people do start to develop some inclusive practices. But bias gets in the way of decision making. And of course, you can accidentally set up processes that hire incorrectly and other things. But bias is essentially about decision making. Whereas inclusion is much more about the social fabric and how people like work together. Or another way of thinking about this is bias is what’s happening in your brain. Inclusion is what’s happening in other people’s brains, right?
So bias is about kind of how you’re processing the world. But inclusion is about how other people are feeling how other people are doing, and kind of really putting yourself out over there. So we’ve done work with over 200 organizations on bias and over 100 organizations, big organizations, on inclusion. And many of these sites are 10s of 1000s, or hundreds of 1000s of people. So we’ve impacted millions.
But in this work, we’ve done some of the work where we started with bias and then go into inclusion. We’ve done some where we’ve started with inclusion and then go on to bias. And we haven’t worked out which one is better yet. They both seem to work. It’s a matter of kind of what makes sense. But we do think it’s important to actually do both. Linda, did you want to comment there?
[00:37:25] LL: I was just thinking, I like the way you talk about inclusion being intentional. So I always think of bias, you can’t see people’s biases. Bias is in your brain. Inclusion is an action. And so I think inclusion being the manifestation of – It’s almost if you can manage your biases, or if you become aware of your biases, and then you can learn to mitigate them by very actively including. So if you’re not actively including, you’re probably accidentally excluding is what we’ve learned to understand. And so once you start actively including, you’re mitigating you’re biasing. So it’s the action. It’s the activity.
[00:38:04] DR: Yeah, absolutely. And just talking about what we see companies getting wrong, and one of the things they get wrong is accidentally focus on just a specific audience or two. They don’t realize that it’s got to be everyone with everyone and very actively, something you actively do. And that just doing bias doesn’t address inclusion.
We also need to do what BMS has done really well, which is really think about building habits, and not just focus on making this a priority. Now, I love the way BMS has done it. It’s not the only way to do it. There are many other ways of actually building these habits across an organization. But if you have an internal team, and someone as fabulous as Linda who can really drive a campaign and build a team around her and all of this, then a strategy like this can be fantastic. But otherwise, you’re going to use your manager audience and really motivate, manage them and get them doing it. There’re other ways of doing it as well.
But the big issue that we see is inclusion as done as kind of a training with maybe some sustainment activities, versus really thinking systemically about priorities, habits and systems. So it’s really, really important to think about the whole system, not just kind of a training program.
So here’s a summary of kind of these things that we think really matter. Inclusion matters to everyone. Not just diverse employees. If you aren’t actively including, you’re accidentally excluding. Solving for bias alone won’t get you there. And the other thing is everyone needs to build just a few key habits, the way habits need to be built. And I’m really not that fond of a top-down model. I mean, sometimes you got to start with a briefing at the top and get everyone kind of on board. But we really believe in the everyone to everyone model. As you were saying, Linda, like anyone can now call out an issue. And often it’s not the senior people who call out the issue, right? So the everyone’s everyone model puts a few key habits that are in the water of the whole organization and empowers everyone at any level to address these things.
Do you want to speak, Linda, to sort of the power of that? Sort of the everyone to everyone model there, versus if you just try to do a top-down as a training?
[00:40:01] LL: Yeah. I mean, I read this great article that just really stuck in my mind that said culture can’t be a mandate. Change can’t be a mandate. And it’s really that saying that you’ve probably heard that says your organization’s culture is defined by the worst behavior you’re willing to tolerate. And we might have even had this conversation before, that if everybody doesn’t understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve everybody in your organization, then you’re not going to get there.
To your point, everybody needs to be able to role model it, or whether it’s calling out an action, or role modeling and action, or just reminding people in a very gentle way, I do think that there’s something really important about showing people grace if they’re not role modeling the right habits, or calling people in, instead of calling people out. It’s something that we need to talk to talk about much more explicitly. But it happens everywhere.
Your culture is defined in every single conversation. And so if you don’t really have an entire grassroots movement happening, if you don’t really understand that, you’re defining your culture in every single individual in your organization, and you try to define it at the top and roll it out in a traditional sort of cascade, it’s going to take forever, or it’s just never going to happen. It really has to be – Every individual has to feel empowered to create it, to own it. Because it’s the only way to make it work. It’s every team meeting. It’s every moment.
[00:41:30] DR: Yeah, it’s everyone. It’s an everyone to everyone model. And the other thing is that the more you think people know something, the more you’re aware of it. It’s called the Panopticon effect. Like, if you think that everyone in the organization knows this inclusion model, you feel a lot more positive social pressure to be inclusive, because you know anyone in the organization could call you out. So it has this positive effectthat you think every single employee understands inclusion, as opposed to, “Oh, you went through a training with your peers. But don’t worry. Your team don’t really know about it.” So it’s a really interesting, interesting strategy.
So we built a highly custom solution. We love the partnership. It continues. And how many years have we been working together, Linda? Is it three? Four years?
[00:42:10] LL: It’s probably four now. Because I feel like we lost [inaudible 00:42:13] years just because of COVID.
[00:42:15] DR: Yeah, yeah. We all lost some number of years, a decade. It’s hard to know. We’ve been working together for four years developing this and launching this internally in different ways and updating it each year as things evolve. We just did wonderful updates last year as well. We also have an off-the-shelf solution called Include. And I talked about measuring the effects of these things. One of the data points is that 89% of people, this was over 3000 people that we surveyed, were now applying positive SCARF signal. SCARF is out underpinning framework in the Include solution. And 97% said they were more effective in their role.
So we’ve served over 109 organizations, pretty large organizations. But I think this data is more telling. So a couple of weeks after, 89% was still applying signals. A month after, 88% of direct reports said they noticed participants making an effort to be more inclusive. So this is a month later. The direct report said they’re still seeing a real change. And 97% felt more effective in their role as a result of the strategy. So this is a little bit of a data. And we’re going to launch and release a ton of that data in February at a summit coming up. Because we’ve been really getting in and kind of understanding and carving up all our data in a lot of really fun ways.
This is the summit. You should hold the date, February 15, 16. We’re going to be doing a lot on DEI and allyship, which is something we’re going to be digging into a lot more at the summit as well. I guess just how do you structure the business resource groups? What’s the purpose of them? And how are they balanced?
[00:43:42] LL: So let me tell you. So two minutes on, 90 seconds on, we have a relatively unique – Actually a very unique model for our people in business resource groups, because we have full time leads for our groups. So each group has a full time lead, who is solely responsible for managing the group establishing a business plan and running them as if they were really a business unit. So that gives us a great opportunity to tap into these organizations and really leverage them in ways that maybe we couldn’t have if they were run by volunteers.
And so that’s one of the reasons that we were able to really run with this in a way that maybe we couldn’t have otherwise, but also tap into the groups to understand even things like the great resignation, which you brought up as something that organizations are really concerned about. But when we come to allyship, this group, we have eight PBRGs. And therefore, we have eight full time leaders who focus exclusively on these groups, which means that we have eight really dedicated senior leaders who are informed, empowered and allies to one another.
So when something happens in one identity organization, all of these individuals groups rally, and are incredibly visible, informed, empowered allies for one another. And it’s created a bit of a situation where we’re all in this together. In fact, you’ll see that the title of the DNI report is in this together. And we understand that ally ship is more than support. Really, it’s a powerful way to build empathy, build alignment, and understand that we are not going to be successful unless we are all successful and able to fully contribute to the organization and build safety and empowerment across the board.
[00:45:41] DR: Yeah. No. That’s great. Thanks, Linda. Maybe closing comments, otherwise?
[00:45:45] LL: There’s an interesting question about no privilege and helping individuals who are in the in-group where privileges invisible, understand their own privilege and understand more about the outgroup, which I think is always interesting. And privilege is one of those trigger words sometimes for people. And that leads to a lot of misunderstanding. And I sometimes define privilege as anytime you don’t have to think about something, it’s a privilege. It helps to, I think, maybe remove a little bit of the angst around the word.
[00:46:15] DR: We use the word advantage. We’ve shifted away from privilege to talk about advantage. And we’ve been writing about that and thinking about it. We’re going to present that at the summit coming up as well in February. So I do think you get a bit of a reaction with privilege. And if we had more time, I had my own journey through that realizing just how much privilege I had, or advantage I had in researching. And I had no idea. I always felt that there were lots of people much better off than I was, and I was just kind of in the middle. I didn’t realize just how much advantage I had till I started researching the allyship work here.
[00:46:46] LL: Yeah, advantage, or the absence of a disadvantage. There’re so many ways to sort of take the volatility out of the word. And that’s where the PBRG’s are really helpful as well, and storytelling, which is not something new, but it’s something that has become incredibly powerful more and more. We’re inundated with DNI. But I think we’re inundated with stories of other people on the news or in the paper. When you start to hear the stories of your own colleagues and coworkers and people that maybe you’ve known for years and years in the workplace in a particular way, we have historically been incredibly buttoned up in the workplace. And over the last 20 months, when we’ve started to see people’s homes, through Zoom, and we’ve started to be a little bit more comfortable sharing personal aspects of our life, through stories in the workplace, the news stories have become more real. People have shared their own privilege or their own vulnerable stories. I think that makes a huge difference.
[00:47:57] DR: Yeah, the humanity. We’re bringing the humanity back in. And I’m sorry to cut off your humanity, Linda. I’m just watching the time. We do need to wrap up. As it gets more real and closer to home and we see people struggling in their homes and everywhere else, it’s incredible. Actually, one of our most popular posts recently was on storytelling. It’s a time we’ve all got to get better at that.
Linda, I so appreciate speaking of stories. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s been a story that’s kind of overdue to be told. And it’s a really great case study in how to think systemically about inclusion. And we’ve really appreciated the partnership. It’s been wonderful to work with scientists and develop a really scientific approach.
[00:48:35] LL: [inaudible 00:48:34] time today. This has been great.
[00:48:37] DR: Oh, thank you so much. And I look forward to continuing the research and measurement and everything with the project going forward. So we’ve got a couple of quick announcements. Thanks so much, Linda. And also just on the summit, we’re about to launch the registrations. I don’t think it’s open for registration yet. It’s about to happen. And so watch your email? I think it’s coming out in about a week. We’re just putting some finishing touches on that, but hold the date, February 15 to 16. It’s going to be our best yet. And lots of exciting topics. So thanks very much everyone for being here. Shelby, back to us for some announcements. And everyone, take care of yourselves. I don’t think we have a session next week with Thanksgiving. Take care of yourselves. Look after each other. And keep doing what matters. And we’ll see you in two weeks.
[00:49:14] SW: Thanks. Bye-bye. Thank you so much everyone again for staying engaged. Also, if you’re interested in more access to NLI research and materials, we encourage you to check out joining our corporate membership program. It’s a great opportunity to have exclusive offerings and connect with our community more. So learn about it in our follow up email that will be going out or check it out on the website. David’s already covered summit. And so we’re really excited. Registration will be opening up soon.
We’re also hiring. So if you’re interested in working with us and our team, visit neuroleadership.com/careers to learn more about open positions. So make sure that you check out Your Brain at Work on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcast. And yes, this is where we officially say goodbye. We will not be here next week. So everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy the time. But we will be back on December 3rd for our finale episode of Your Brain at Work Live for season six, How Adapting a Growth Mindset Transformed Microsoft. So Microsoft is going to be our special guest. We have a speaker from there. We’re really excited to share the work that we’ve done with them and to build on that. So have a great day. Have a great weekend and we will talk to you on December 3rd.
[00:50:29] SW: Your Brain at Work is produced by the NeuroLeadership Institute. You can help us make organizations more human by rating, reviewing and subscribing wherever you listen to your podcast. Our producers are Matt Holidack, Mary Kelly, Shadé Olasimbo, and me, Shelby Wilburn. Original music is by Grant Zubritsky, and logo design is by Catch Wear. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you here next week.