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Our favorite books about diversity & inclusion (For L&D professionals)

Organizations look to L&D professionals to help them navigate the often fraught and sensitive landscape of diversity & inclusion. In the past though, learning efforts have emphasized compliance. Training and communications emphasizing quotas, rules, laws, and sanctions haven’t worked. Knowledge of the rules remains important, but truly diverse and inclusive organizations have evolved by emphasizing the business benefits of D&I and by focusing L&D efforts on unconscious bias training, coaching, mentoring and emotional intelligence.

Collectively, the following eight books describe the immense benefits of real D&I and the role L&D professionals can play in achieving it.

The Wisdom of Crowds

In the now classic The Wisdom of Crowds, author James Surowiecki offers true and entertaining stories that demonstrate the power of diversity. The catch, he points out, is that your diverse thinkers must enjoy independent, free participation (i.e. inclusion). Learning professionals will gain an overall appreciation for what’s possible when the right mix of free, diverse thinkers puts their minds to impossible-sounding problems, like determining precisely where a submarine sank hours after disappearing from radar. For learning professionals seeking a fun and informative place to start their exploration of D&I, you can do no better than this.

 

The Inclusion Imperative

As the director of diversity & inclusion for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Stephen Frost faced more than the usual resistance. In The Inclusion Imperative he describes implementing a modern D&I program from scratch, in near-impossible time constraints; all while under the watchful eyes of the International Olympic Committee. Frost’s team produced what is acknowledged as the most diverse and inclusive Olympics ever.

Learning leaders will benefit from Frost’s advice to shun compliance training. When you simply must succeed, you need real converts. To get them, focus learning efforts on communicating what’s in it for them.

Driven by Difference

In Driven by Difference, author David Livermore points out that diversity without inclusion only harms productivity and engagement. But when organizations combine diverse teams with true inclusion they realize significant gains, especially in generating ideas, better decisions, and innovation.

Instead of cross-cultural training, Livermore urges L&D professionals to encourage leaders’ sense of curiosity and respect for others and to focus training on developing listening and perspective-taking skills.

 

Women, Minorities & Other Extraordinary People

In Women, Minorities & Other Extraordinary People, author Barbara Adams makes a convincing argument that unconscious biases prove the main hurdle to achieving equal opportunity and true inclusion in organizations. Rather than struggling to change the corporate culture, organizations should confront bias to change peoples’ behaviors.

Like Frost and Livermore, Adams wants you to stop ineffective D&I training programs centered on compliance. Instead, make people aware of their biases and spend development budgets on training managers to coach effectively.

 

That’s What She Said

Joanne Lipman also puts unconscious bias at the center of persistent gender inequality in the workplace. In That’s What She Said, Lipman points out that seven decades of diversity training hasn’t moved the needle much in favor of women at work. Like Adams, she advises learning leaders to replace traditional diversity training with unconscious bias training.

Learning professionals will appreciate Lipman’s balanced and thoughtful advice around the use of alternative training methods and mentoring to battle discrimination against women, particularly in the executive ranks.

 

What Works

getAbstract is not aware of a better-researched or more practical guide to overcoming gender inequality than What Works by Harvard professor Iris Bohnet. In it, she shares her analysis of decades of research, experiments and corporate efforts to foster inclusion. From the best of the research and practices, she distills a process called “DESIGN” that any organization can use for comprehensive change.

L&D professionals prove central to Bohnet’s process, from implementing critical thinking and emotional intelligence workshops to providing unconscious bias training for leaders.

 

Mastering Leadership

Robert Anderson and William Adams promise readers that Mastering Leadership can serve as their leadership development book for life. By basing leadership development within the broader framework of lifelong human development, they deliver.

Here you’ll find a one-of-a-kind L&D perspective on how firms become authentically diverse and inclusive. As leaders reach what psychologist Robert Kegan calls the “Integral” stage of adult development, they mature to appreciate the immense benefits of D&I. Once a critical mass of leaders reaches this stage, the firm embraces D&I naturally and painlessly.

 

The Blank Slate

As a learning leader, your deep dive into D&I would be incomplete without at least one reference to a much higher-level and provocative perspective. In The Blank Slate, controversial bestselling author and MIT professor Stephen Pinker challenges the modern doctrine of human development. Namely, that with effort, and within reason, any of us can do or become whatever we put our minds to. The implications for D&I are many and disturbing. Thoughtful learning professionals will benefit from the mental exercises this book is sure to provoke.

 

 

Wrapping up

We hope you enjoyed these recommendations and have found your next book to read. If you’d like to see more recommendations, you can browse our channel on training and development. If you’d like to learn more about how getAbstract can help unlock lifelong learning for your company, feel free to learn more.

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