I went to a networking breakfast this morning at the Boston Center for Community and Justice on Diversity: Institutionalizing Diversity as a Business Strategy.
A very well done event with a number of business leaders committed to the integration of this thing we call diversity in a manner that connects like "traditional" business staples like lead generation, fulfillment, accounting, etc.
It is easy in meetings like this for the default to go straight to workforce representation conversations. Some commented on how some of their companies have gotten executives to fulfill diversity goals and it has increased representation. Others shared that the goals of representation are also tied development. That resonates with me, but it also falls short to me in a way, in that what development means and is are often much different than what those responsible for developing their people do.
There was one hospital COO there. She mentioned the ideas of health disparities (quality disparities) and cultural competence. I appreciated her commitment and candor about how far they have come and how far they have to go. Where I wished she could have taken the conversation was into an area that most organizations face on a regular basis: risk.
Now, while the idea of risk is one that most leaders have to face, they don't generally think about risks in terms of people not being able to relate to others in a manner that is in alignment with their needs. In healthcare the risks here are obvious. Just speak to any clinician who has had diagnoses compromised due to not having the ability to discern cultural cues. Cues that may have provided additional data for a diagnosis that could have prevented or at least mitigated further suffering on behalf of the patient.
In other industries, I hold that the risk of cultural incompetence and what I call "cultural illiteracy" (extrapolated from health literacy) is just as profound. In a global playing field of business, the stakes of cultural navigation matter more than ever before.
For many Americans, the lens of the world is narrow and generally has an insular focus. The risk here is that if we are not able to consider the globe as the business environment that we live within; and recognize that the norms of business are as diverse as the world is big, our ability to be competitive in this global economy is mitigated. This is not just true for people from the U.S., this is true for everyone.
Consider that we are all culturally illiterate in a way. Now, think about the risk of being illiterate in any other sense of the word.
Make it a great day!