Q&A with David Livermore, author of DRIVEN BY DIFFERENCE – Part II

The following is Part II of a Q&A with David Livermore, author of DRIVEN BY DIFFERENCE: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity (AMACOM February 2016). Below, Livermore discusses challenges that companies face as they implement diversity initiatives, and what they can take away from the examples in his book. You can find Part I of this Q&A here.

 

 

Q: How did you discover the 5D Process for Culturally Intelligent Innovation?

A: As both a researcher and business leader, I’ve been helped immensely by the work of people like Clay Christiansen on disruptive innovation and the innovation models that come from Stanford’s d.school. These models together with our research on cultural intelligence are what led to the discovery of the 5D Process for Culturally Intelligent Innovation.

The process includes the kinds of things included in most books and models on innovation, such as identifying a pain point, coming up with a solution to relieve that pain, and designing with the end-user in mind. What we wanted to discover, however, was how those consistent innovation practices need to be adapted for culturally diverse teams of innovators or users.

For example, Jeff Bezos insists that high level meetings at Amazon include an empty chair, which represents the customer. Apart from cultural intelligence, you might assume a customer wants what you want. But by using the 5D Process, a team can design for a diversity of customers. And if the room already includes a diverse team, all the better, because it provides built-in insights around what the customers represented by the empty chair want.

Q: What is the number one issue that derails diverse teams and how can it be overcome?

A: I think it’s the absence of a strategy for how to effectively address and use the diversity on the team. By nature, we’re attracted and drawn to people who think and act like we do, so without an intentional strategy to lean into and use the differences on a team, they inevitably create conflict and gridlock.

An effective strategy begins with looking at the two forms of diversity that most powerfully influence what happens on a team—visible diversity and underrepresentation. Instead of being afraid to name the differences, a culturally intelligent strategy explicitly identifies the differences and then creates processes that minimize the interpersonal conflict that ensues from the differences and maximize the informational diversity from the team.

Apart from a strategy for how to effectively use your diversity, it’s unlikely the diversity will lead to innovation and may actually work against it.

Q: In your opinion, which companies are getting it right and how can others learn from them?

A: No leader or company gets it right all the time. In fact, mistakes are one of the best ways to improve cultural intelligence and come up with innovative solutions. But our research has uncovered dozens of companies that have worked hard at developing a strategy for culturally intelligent innovation. Several of them are featured throughout the book, including Google, IKEA, Coca-Cola, Qatar Airways, and Novartis.

Novartis uses their employee resource groups to effectively design medications for culturally diverse patients. In the world of finance, you have CEOs like Ajay Banga (MasterCard) and Brian Moynihan (Bank of America) who personally chair their companies’ diversity and inclusion councils because they believe there’s a direct link between their diversity efforts internally and customer satisfaction. And despite the diversity challenges facing most tech companies, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, says, “One of the secret sauces for Alibaba’s success is that we have a lot of women.” Women hold 47 percent of all jobs at Alibaba and 33 percent of all senior positions.

Q: If readers took only one thing away from the book, what would you hope it would be?

A: It’s my hope that all of us will slow down the impulse to view a different perspective as threatening, wrong, or inferior and instead, to see it as an opportunity for growth.

In those moments when we see things differently from those around us, we have a few choices: We can hold on to our views, defend them, and argue for their superiority. We can let go of our views and entirely acquiesce to the views of others. Or we can allow our perspectives to be broadened, enriched, expanded, and deepened. Culturally intelligent innovation begins with changing our impulse from Why can’t you see it like I do? to Help me see what I might be missing! Together, we can work together to come up with innovative solutions to solve problems big and small.

DAVID LIVERMORE, PH.D., is President and Partner at the Cultural Intelligence Center, a consultancy at the forefront of CQ assessment and development. The author of Leading with Cultural Intelligence, he has been cited by The Economist, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

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