Putting Our Differences To Work

The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, and High Performance

Debbe Kennedy (Author)

Publication date: 06/01/2008

Putting Our Differences To Work

Debbe Kennedy shows how to make all the dimensions of difference—such as thinking styles, perspectives, experiences, work habits, and management styles, as well as more traditional diversity considerations like

* Shows how all types of differences, beyond those usually considered in diversity books, can accelerate the innovation needed to gain competitive advantage


* Defines five distinctive qualities leaders need to make differences a catalyst for success

* Lays out an easy-to-follow six-stage process for generating new levels of creativity, problem solving, leadership, and performance

* 2010 Axiom Business Book Award Winner in HR & Employee Training


Putting our differences to work means creating an environment where people, naturally unique and different-diverse by nature and experience-can work more effectively in ways that drive new levels of creativity, innovation, problem solving, leadership, and performance in the marketplaces, workplaces, and communities of the world. Debbe Kennedy shows how to make all the dimensions of difference-such as thinking styles, perspectives, experiences, work habits, and management styles, as well as more traditional diversity considerations like gender, race, ethnicity, physical abilities, sexual orientation, and age-tremendous sources of strength.

Kennedy draws on the latest research and a wealth of real-world examples to offer compelling evidence showing exactly how putting our differences to work accelerates innovation and contribution. She identifies five distinctive qualities of leadership that leaders must add to their portfolio of skills to make differences an engine of success. And she provides a detailed six-stage process for making the most of differences in the workforce, combining first-person best-practice stories and strategic with tactical ideas to help you put each step into action. Kennedy has written both a personal and a practical guide that changes the prevailing rules of how to think, behave, and operate as a leader, connecting four diverse elements of business and society that have traditionally been siloed: innovation, leadership, diversity, and inclusion. She and futurist Joel Barker also look at how new discoveries, including Web 2.0 technologies, can draw us closer together in previously unimagined ways.


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Overview

Debbe Kennedy shows how to make all the dimensions of difference—such as thinking styles, perspectives, experiences, work habits, and management styles, as well as more traditional diversity considerations like

* Shows how all types of differences, beyond those usually considered in diversity books, can accelerate the innovation needed to gain competitive advantage


* Defines five distinctive qualities leaders need to make differences a catalyst for success

* Lays out an easy-to-follow six-stage process for generating new levels of creativity, problem solving, leadership, and performance

* 2010 Axiom Business Book Award Winner in HR & Employee Training


Putting our differences to work means creating an environment where people, naturally unique and different-diverse by nature and experience-can work more effectively in ways that drive new levels of creativity, innovation, problem solving, leadership, and performance in the marketplaces, workplaces, and communities of the world. Debbe Kennedy shows how to make all the dimensions of difference-such as thinking styles, perspectives, experiences, work habits, and management styles, as well as more traditional diversity considerations like gender, race, ethnicity, physical abilities, sexual orientation, and age-tremendous sources of strength.

Kennedy draws on the latest research and a wealth of real-world examples to offer compelling evidence showing exactly how putting our differences to work accelerates innovation and contribution. She identifies five distinctive qualities of leadership that leaders must add to their portfolio of skills to make differences an engine of success. And she provides a detailed six-stage process for making the most of differences in the workforce, combining first-person best-practice stories and strategic with tactical ideas to help you put each step into action. Kennedy has written both a personal and a practical guide that changes the prevailing rules of how to think, behave, and operate as a leader, connecting four diverse elements of business and society that have traditionally been siloed: innovation, leadership, diversity, and inclusion. She and futurist Joel Barker also look at how new discoveries, including Web 2.0 technologies, can draw us closer together in previously unimagined ways.


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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Debbe Kennedy

Debbe Kennedy is founder, president, and CEO of Leadership Solutions Companies, an award-winning enterprise since 1990, specializing in custom leadership, organizational, and virtual communications solutions–and also the Global Dialogue Center, an online virtual gathering place for people throughout the world. The significance of Leadership Solutions Companies’ contributions is reflected in Debbe’s strategic business partnership with Hewlett Packard as a consultant spanning well over a decade. She has also serves as an Institute Collaborator with The Frances Hesselbein LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE (formerly Peter F. Drucker Foundation) since 2010 through the Global Dialogue Center.

Formerly, she had a distinguished leadership career with IBM Corporation for over twenty years.

About Putting Our Differences to Work

The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership and High Performance

Axiom Business Book Award Winner for HR/Employee Training (Bronze 2010)

Debbe’s award-winning book, Putting Our Differences to Work: The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, and High Performance, practical guide that changes the prevailing rules of how to think, behave, and operate as a leader in the 21st Century...

  •  Illuminates five qualities for leaders and innovators at every level.
  •  Provides a proven step-by-step process for creating powerful teams based on difference.
  • Shares first-person stories and best practices to apply the new ideas to your team and organization.
  • Includes two “innovation at the verge” chapters, which Debbe Kennedy and Joel Barker wrote together.

WATCH VIDEO BOOK OVERVIEW by futurist and filmmaker, Joel A. Barker

Other READER RESOURCES for you...

Overview of the Book (Download a PDF Brochure)

Reader Reviews from diverse organizations around the world (PDF)

Discussion Guide for Teams, Reading Groups and Classes (PDF)

Debbe is also the author of Breakthrough! Everything You Need to Start a Solution Revolution and Action Dialogues: Meaningful Conversations to Accelerate Change (Berrett-Koehler 2000).

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Table of Contents



Foreword by Joel A. Barker

Preface

Introduction: The Fastest Way

PART 1 - TAKING LEADERSHIP TO A NEW LEVEL


Chapter 1: New Business Essentials

Chapter 2: Five Distinctive Qualities of Leadership

Chapter 3: The Basics: For Putting Our Differences to Work

PART 2 - KNOWLEDGE AND KNOW-HOW TO GUIDE THE WAY

Chapter 4: STEP 1—Assessment: Defining Current Realities

Chapter 5: STEP 2—Acceptance: Developing Support for Change

Chapter 6: STEP 3—Action: Moving Forward

Chapter 7: STEP 4—Accountability: Establishing Shared Ownership

Chapter 8: STEP 5—Achievement: Measuring Progress; Celebrating Success

Chapter 9:
STEP 6—More Action: Keeping Momentum Alive!

PART 3 - EVER-EXPANDING POSSIBILITIES


Chapter 10: Innovation at the Verge of Differences by Joel A. Barker

Chapter 11: Collaboration at the Verge of Differences

Chapter 12:
The Power of the Virtual Gathering Place

A Send-off: A Final Word

Resources and Studies

Notes and Sources

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Author

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Excerpt

Putting Our DIFFERENCES to WORK

15

“So it is, in fact, more likely that someone will take it on himself to champion the idea of collective wisdom, and in that way create the conditions that will allow it to flourish.”

—James Surowiecki
author, The Wisdom of Crowds

CHAPTER I
The New Business Essentials

We don’t have to look too far to see the pattern that has emerged in recent years showing our own struggles as leaders when it comes to putting differences to work effectively in our organizations. As cutting-edge global, market-driven strategies have become essential, it is clear that we, perhaps unintentionally, lost our focus on “people being our greatest assets.” As we’ve worked to adapt to a changing world, the best of organizations have proven for a time that they are skilled at creating comprehensive worldwide business plans, launching a new strategic direction, blowing everyone away with innovative products or services, and compiling the financials that prove their worth. However, at the same time, behind the scenes, deep within the day-to-day operations, we also see genuine concern for people who slip into obscurity.

So how has this happened? Why do we continually struggle to keep a focus on people and putting differences to work, when there are such great benefits? Many would instantly argue that organizations and their leaders today are widely driven by their measures—the short-term bottom line, not what they do with people. True. Others would admit that many leaders focus on what they know how to do, especially when the demands to produce are ever-increasing and people leadership generally isn’t a core skill for everyone. So we easily revert to what’s familiar—the numbers and processes we can handle. We learned about them in school. We’ve mastered them. This part of our organizations is pragmatic. No emotion. Just clear and well-defined parameters we fully understand. Best of all, the numbers and processes ask only for our head work, without the inherent heart work 16that entangles us when people are part of the mix. Numbers and processes ask much less from us than what we perceive people require. We try to be supportive, but it is easy to assume human resources will deal with the bulk of all that soft stuff. This perspective is no longer good enough to solve the problems we face today or to meet the challenges ahead in the marketplace, workplace, or community—and our troubled world.

In 2000, futurist, filmmaker, and author Joel Barker shared what he termed a “surprising discovery” as he searched to find the connection between wealth and innovation. I worked with him collaboratively on his groundbreaking film, Wealth, Innovation and Diversity. In it, he presents a compelling business case that “societies and organizations that most creatively incorporate diversity will reap the rewards of innovation, growth, wealth, and progress.” Having a diversity initiative is important, and great organizations have them in place today, but the integrated approach Joel Barker’s discoveries suggest—with direct links to innovation and growth—reaches way beyond the best in traditional diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs. His findings note measurable benefits, including producing new kinds of wealth, like the wealth of sustainability, reduced risk, predictability, and innovation in addition to economic wealth.

In 2001, shortly after the launch of his film, we wrote an article together for the American Society of Training & Development (ASTD) called “Leveraging Diversity: Putting Our Differences to Work.” In it we offer compelling ideas from our collaborative work about the ongoing struggle both people and organizations have when it comes to sameness and difference, noting seven telling signs that will give you a pretty good indication of what your organization values, not in words but in practice.


SAMENESS OR DIFFERENCE?

“Why do we wrestle with sameness and difference as people and as organizations, especially when we have so much to gain by working together? Scientist and author George Ainsworth-Land offered a powerful explanation in his book Grow or Die. It is his contention that all things grow and develop within the same three-stage pattern.

For example, we start out focused on our own survival, seeking love, food, and security. In our second stage of growth, starting at adolescence, we begin finding others like us. There are many advantages here. We are validated by others like us. We can accomplish things better together. Since we all talk alike and think alike, decisions and communications are easier.

17

All of these similarities also increase the level of predictability within our group. We learn to like it. We see equivalent patterns of replication in many of today’s organizations for the very same reasons.

So the struggle between sameness and difference is universal. It is part of the evolution of individual and organizational growth—and it is clear as we move further into the twenty-first century, it is time for us as individuals and as organizations to reach for an additional stage of growth. George Ainsworth-Land calls this third stage of growth mutualism. In this stage, we come together in different combinations to open the way for innovations leading to new technology, new music, new art, new businesses, new friendships, new cultures, and new opportunities to grow. All of us—east and west, north and south—have to choose between two pathways, and this choice has to be made at every level and in every organization. One way leads us back where sameness is rewarded and differences are demonized. The other path is toward organizations and communities where diversity, variety, and difference are prized. Why is this so important to our future? Because the people most likely to bring us the paradigm-shifting innovations we need to create new wealth are almost always outsiders, people who know little or nothing about the normal way of doing things—people different from us. This is true at every level of every enterprise, community, and country. New wealth is the result of innovation. And innovation is driven by diversity. Diversity is the key that will open the door to the new wealth of the twenty-first century.


Sameness or Difference:
What Does Your Organization Value?

Here are seven telling signs:


  • Your leadership team at all levels (including the board) lacks diversity.
  • Old notions, perceptions, preferences, and prejudices still exist; they are sometimes subtle and left unchallenged.
  • Every group or team has its own agenda; efforts are fragmented and lack new ideas from “outsiders” or collaboration for best execution of plans and results.
  • People who are different are rarely hired, developed, promoted, or included; slow progress against stated goals is an indicator.
  • New ideas and innovative thinking are subtly shunned with cynicism, risk aversion, and exclusion or seen as a nuisance— or ignored completely.18
  • The words say you value diversity and inclusion, but your actions speak louder.
  • You dismiss diversity and inclusion as a human resource issue instead of recognizing that they are drivers of innovation and new wealth; your business plans reflect this view

Part of our struggle is our search for the words to have meaning. I’m often asked what it means to put our differences to work. It’s easy to rattle off an answer like this when someone insists: “Putting our differences to work means creating an environment where people, naturally unique and different—diverse by nature and experience—can work more effectively in ways that drive new levels of creativity, innovation, problem solving, leadership, and performance in the marketplaces, workplaces, and communities of the world.” What’s always missing in such a definition is how limiting the words are, how ambiguous they are depending on your own differences and experience, and how absent the human element seems to be.

Definitions have their place, but they’re only words until we breathe life into them by our actions and example. Let me paint a more vivid picture. Putting our differences to work at every level within an organization requires a new kind of intention from everybody. It means consciously recognizing one undeniable fact: that people are the number one source of new thinking and new ideas needed for change and the betterment of business and society. Here I’m not suggesting that leaders use the phrase as a rhetorical slogan. Remember “People are our greatest asset”? It lost its magic and meaning when the words and actions didn’t align. Now it sits on the shelf with other overused phrases. Leading this charge requires a strong belief in people that is reflected day to day in our work and behavior. It calls for us to creatively utilize the many dimensions of diversity within our organizations, in business, and in society to their full potential.

As we’ve stripped to “lean and mean” and buzzwords like human capital and talent management have come into fashion, the rippling influence appears to have distanced many leaders from the very heart and soul of achievement in their organizations: the people. It is the heartbeat, commitment, and hard work of every individual that fulfills a business strategy and brings about innovation, leadership, and high performance for any organization or endeavor. Those leaders who consciously and intentionally focus on the mastery of leading the workplace and building diverse teams will be well on their way to pioneering a new era leadership excellence the fastest way.

Numerous studies have followed Joel Barker’s pioneering discoveries and my own early study and practice, both affirming our findings and also 19throwing new questions into the mix. This new thinking calls us to step further inside this compelling issue to get a deeper understanding of where we are today and where we need to go.

One significant study that has created a buzz of controversy is the work of Robert D. Putnam, a distinguished political scientist and professor at Harvard University—and, I must add, a champion for the power that people hold when they work together. You need not wonder where his heart is on this topic if you visit the Better Together initiative (www.bettertogether. org), which grew out of his notable work on civic engagement. The website tagline reflects his call to action: “Connect with others. Build trust. Get involved.”

Controversy arose when Putnam’s findings were published in “Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century” in the Nordic Political Science Association Journal in June 2007 and hit the media in sound-byte form. In reading the study, cover to cover, and listening directly to Putnam’s personal reflections on it, you realize one of the contributions he made in publishing the study was helping all of us see our own truth. We don’t trust one another as much as we should, and, consequently, we tend to isolate ourselves, staying with those most like us. Putnam did make these conclusions about his findings in the United States: “It’s not merely a fact that America is diverse, it’s a benefit. America will—all of us will—benefit from being a more diverse, more heterogeneous place. Places that are diverse have higher rates of growth on average— In the long term, waves of immigration like we are experiencing are good for society.”

What came out loud and clear are honest questions we need to ask ourselves in all segments of society: How have our own behavior and actions, as members of society and leaders in organizations and communities, contributed to such distrust of one another? And what are we going to do about it? How can we rebuild trust by getting to know one another better—and putting our unique talents to work? Putnam suggests that it is having shared values or shared identity that draws us together. There is the reference point from which we have to work.


THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE BREAKTHROUGH IN THINKING

The need for a shift in building capability for putting our differences to work has been recognized in an increasing number of recent studies and writings. I began pioneering this new level of thinking in my own work in the early 1990s, documenting it in my Diversity Breakthrough! series in 202000, along with others blazing the trail, like Joel Barker and his work on wealth and innovation, Roosevelt Thomas and his new direction, Taylor Cox, Michalle Mor Barak, and others. However, like all new ideas, it takes time for acceptance to begin to take root, and it has, step by step. Ironically, this acceptance happened because of the diversity of studies and books on the subject and a wildly changing marketplace, workplace, and community—you might say it was all of us virtually putting our differences to work that began to build awareness, momentum, and acceptance.

In 2003, for example, the need for new critical leadership skills was affirmed in the five factors of leadership showcased in a book built from the results of an extraordinary two-year study by Accenture, Global Leadership: The Next Generation, authored by thought leaders Marshall Goldsmith, Cathy L. Greenberg, Alastair Robertson, and Maya Hu-Chan. Accenture’s study validates that knowledge and know-how will be the primary sources of value in the twenty-first century. This means by putting our differences to work, we can multiply the value. The study also contends that the ability to lead people whose backgrounds and values may be radically different from ours requires new skills for leaders at this time in history, including thinking globally, appreciating cultural diversity, developing technological savvy, building partnerships and alliances, and sharing leadership. This isn’t enough in itself. In the summary, the study’s authors suggest:

No one leader can be good at everything, which leads us to the conclusion that shared leadership across a team of leaders will be the way in which excellent global companies do business in the future Future leaders must know their particular strengths and how to draw upon the complementary strengths of others—sharing leadership roles as needed.

This, too, is a big step forward, but in a distributed workplace in the global marketplaces and workplaces across the world, we need leaders at every level with skills and behavior that are adaptable, putting differences to work wherever we find ourselves.

The good news about building capability for putting our differences to work is that it doesn’t require all new skills. To the contrary, it has much more to do with applying what we already know to this challenge, refocus-ing our attention and reshaping our habits.

I discovered this truth from Peter Drucker, known as the father of modern management. It came to light when I was writing my first book, Breakthrough! Everything You Need to Start a Solution Revolution. In his book Post Capitalist Society, Drucker points out that most of us tend to classify what we know into specialized areas of knowledge, instead of applying the 21strengths of all our knowledge to different problems—looking at the problems we face and asking, “What do I know? What have I learned that I might apply to this task?” In a way, this says that we want to put the differences in all our areas of knowledge to work to solve problems. Drucker’s wisdom has been a central part of my ongoing work in helping individuals, teams, and organizations around the world put differences to work to create diverse, inclusive environments ever since. I have witnessed over and over again that what it takes to draw differences together is mainly utilizing what we already know about leading change, calling upon the strengths of our experience, with a little different twist.

KEY POINTS: PUTTING OUR DIFFERENCES TO WORK

  • People are the number one source of new thinking and new ideas needed for change and the betterment of business and society. Putting our differences to work means learning to work more effectively in ways that accelerate our capacity to innovate, influence, and bring value to the marketplace, workplace, and society. It is our intention and behavior that breathe life into the words and give them meaning.
  • It’s time for individuals and organizations to reach for a new stage of growth, where we come together in novel and different combinations to open the way for innovations leading to new technology, new music and art, new businesses, new friendships, new cultures, and new opportunities to grow. Diversity has measurable benefits; it produces new kinds of wealth—the wealth of sustainability, reduced risk, predictability, innovation, and economic wealth. (Joel A. Barker)
  • Currently, we don’t trust one another as much as we should; because of this, we tend to isolate ourselves, staying with those most like us. However, diversity benefits society. We need to connect with others. Rebuild trust. Get involved. (Robert D. Putnam)
  • Future leaders must know their particular strengths and how to draw upon the complementary strengths of others. (The Global Leader, Accenture study)
  • Everybody in a distributed workplace in the marketplaces and communities of the world is a leader; we all need to be prepared. Every day each of us has the opportunity to influence someone or something.
22

WHO SAYS PUTTING OUR DIFFERENCES TO WORK IS THE FASTEST WAY TO INNOVATION?

To answer this question demands more than an explanation, data, or conclusions from studies. Talk and theory don’t meet that standard of proof of what we are capable of doing today. So I searched to find work-in-progress stories that had meaningful concrete results. I hoped to find examples that would also clearly demonstrate that putting our differences to work is in fact the fastest way to innovation, leadership, and high performance. There isn’t a shortage of illustrative stories. This book alone has over twenty with great lessons, best practices, and inspiration from which to draw. Finding the right ones as convincing evidence of what putting our differences to work can produce, however, took time, and I set the bar high.

What I wanted most was to identify a couple of pioneering efforts that would set the stage for our discussion in this book, linking leadership and diversity directly to innovation across industries, communities, and the world. There were considerations of inclusion, too. At best, the illustrative cases needed to be broad enough that you and other leaders would find them relevant to your work with issues of common interest to us all. I identified two that create a panoramic view of what we can do together, establishing a new reference point for us all.

The first story, “The Habitat JAM,” is one that I personally experienced and in whose rippling influences I continue to be involved. The second story, “Global Innovation Outlook,” is one that I didn’t discover until I was in the final stages of writing this book. It popped out of nowhere one day when I wasn’t even looking. Both stories started with visionary leaders braving new territory. The common ground they share is that diversity and dialogue were key components. Between the two poignant global examples, as you will see, everyone is included in some way.


THE HABITAT JAM

Some doubt that putting differences to work could possibly be the fastest way to get to innovation, leadership, and high performance. At one time, I might have sided with them. Results of the many studies call such an idea into question, including some of Putnam’s findings previously mentioned. After all, look around and you don’t need a study to show we have our problems getting along and working together. However, when there is bold, visionary leadership, things can be different.

Great firsts in history start with an idea and belief in the unseen. Sometimes new possibilities are observed. Sometimes they go unnoticed. Always 23they cross a threshold, opening the way for more innovation to follow. What I know for sure is that people have the capacity to work together. They can move with speed, dream big, and achieve way beyond what most of us expect. How can I make such a claim? I witnessed it. I was part of it. History recorded it.

Habitat JAM
Who Showed Up?

Architects, business leaders, planners, teachers, activists, NGOs, bankers, government leaders, slum dwellers, ministers, experts, thought leaders, doctors, entrepreneurs, and visionaries young and old, poor and wealthy, all over the world.

Source:
Habitat JAM Summary Report.

On December 1, 2005, nearly forty thousand people logged on to participate in the Habitat JAM, a seventy-two-hour global experiment, when the people of the world came together in an unprecedented online dialogue for the first time.

The idea behind the jam was to engage people from all walks of life, including architects, business leaders, planners, teachers, activists, NGOs, bankers, government leaders, slum dwellers, ministers, experts, thought leaders, doctors, entrepreneurs, and visionaries young and old, poor and wealthy all over the world. The goal was to get us working on the most pressing problems of our day for cities around the world. Seven unique forums framed the most critical issues:


  • Improving the Lives of People Living in Slums (two forums)
  • Sustainable Access to Water
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Finance and Governance
  • Safety and Security
  • Humanity: The Future of Our Cities

An invitation to participate was open to anyone with something to say about the cities in which they live. The intent was to give people an equal voice to share their thoughts on issues affecting their lives. The plan was to give the people of the world—not the experts—the opportunity to set the agenda for the World Urban Forum III hosted by the Government of Canada in June 2006. Everyone’s ideas were gathered, sorted, and refined with a quite miraculous outcome.

The Habitat JAM was a courageous experiment sponsored by the Government of Canada in partnership with UN HABITAT (United Nations Human Settlements Programme) and IBM. The experiment was innovation at its best. It put differences to work for the common good. We talked with 24each other. We shared and explored ideas. We began putting talk into action.

The Habitat JAM

  • December 1-3, 2005
  • We talked with each other.
  • We shared and explored ideas.
  • We began putting talk into action.
  • We etched an indelible mark on history.

Together, we etched an indelible mark on history during those unforgettable days, where visionary leadership, technology, and people around the world crossed a new threshold of communication and connection with one another, pioneering a new level of collective problem solving on issues critical to the sus-tainability of our cities and our planet.

It was serendipitous that our organization got involved. In 2004, I founded the Global Dialogue Center, the newest entity of our Leadership Solutions Companies. It is an online virtual gathering place for people throughout the world (www.globaldialoguecenter.com). It has an intentional focus on leadership, professional, and personal development with the belief that by thinking, questioning, and exploring new ideas together, we can be a catalyst for creating a better world than we know today.

So when I received an email from London from someone I didn’t know, introducing the upcoming Habitat JAM, it caught my attention. The vision, possibilities, and the empowering example of leadership ignited a kind of enthusiasm we couldn’t deny. It made our whole team want to be part of history in the making. Members of our community found big and small ways to get involved. We did lots of blogging and promotion to spread the word. Eight distinguished thought leaders from our Global Dialogue Center community served as “subject-expert jammers” during the event for the Humanity: The Future of Our Cities forum. No one with a pioneering spirit turned down the invitation.

In a podcast recorded and published before the event, Charles Kelly, Commissioner General of the World Urban Forum III (WUF), the visionary leader who saw the opportunity and went after it, described how the Habitat JAM happened:

CHARLES KELLY

I discovered the concept of jamming reading a Harvard Business Review article, talking about IBM’s experience with their ValuesJam that engaged 300,000 of their employees in 160 countries. What impressed me was the focus on ideas to action. That is in essence what the World Urban Forum is about. This will be the first time that citizens of the world will have the opportunity, without the filters of national governments or repression, to state their points of view.

25

In that same podcast, Charles Kelly extended the invitation to participate, one I couldn’t overlook. He likened what was soon to take place to being present at some important moment in history, such as October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. NASA cites that, the successful ninety-eight-minute orbit around the Earth, as an event that ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. I wasn’t there in 1957, but how many times in one’s life are you invited to be present when some threshold of innovation is being crossed? It was a must.

Also in the same podcast, Mike Wing, Vice President of Strategic Communications for IBM added the perspective of a pioneering spirit, telling about what was to be:

MIKE WING

Jamming is genuinely revolutionary. It is a kind of dialogue, a kind of interaction, a kind of idea discovery and opportunity that simply has never been possible before on Planet Earth. Our experience with jams at IBM has been overwhelmingly positive. It is a trust-based and trust-generating medium. It empowers people in ways that previous forms of organizational communication simply haven’t done…. We don’t know what is going to happen in Habitat JAM. It is an experiment. It is a fascinating one and one we are very hopeful about.

image

Habitat JAM—Coming Together: Breaking Down the Barriers.

If you had an idea, there was a way to share it. Everyone’s ideas and points of view were added to the Habitat JAM database during the jam

26

At 17:00 P.M. Greenwich Mean Time, the official clock on the Habitat JAM website began its job—tracking the seventy-two hours we had to participate in the world’s largest Internet dialogue on sustainability (see the illustration on the previous page). The world showed up with participants from 158 countries.

Although Habitat JAM was my first jamming experience of this size, I’ve learned since that there was something very special about this one. It wasn’t just the opportunity or the technology or the people showing up that made this jamming experience stand out. There was a distinctive human care and consideration in every detail of how people were included; in how the event was produced; in the way it generated involvement and action around the world; in the way it was directed, facilitated, communicated, and documented.

Not one aspect of the whole event was ordinary. It was extraordinary. Gayle Moss, director of international marketing for Habitat JAM, and her team of committed people-focused innovators created an experience for everyone involved before, during, and after the event that honored the many dimensions of diversity.

Gayle Moss reflected on the experience in a commemorative cover story, “Connecting the World,” in Backbone magazine (November-December 2006).

GAYLE MOSS

Of the over 39,000 people who participated, many had never touched a computer, but through facilitation and interpretation their voices were heard. We had three makeshift Internet cafés in slums in Africa where facilitators would type on participants’ behalf. People were so passionate about getting their voices heard, they found ways to get it done.

Dr. Anna Tibaijuka, an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT), one of the visionary leaders for the Habitat JAM, shared her personal perspective about what she witnessed and experienced during the event:

ANNA TIBAIJUKA

Kenya had the second-highest number of registrants participating in the Habitat JAM. The fact that thousands have been willing to patiently wait in line, sometimes for hours, in order to be able to contribute to this debate has been a profoundly moving experience for me. The fact that the debate on slums has moved from the academic world to streets and cities such as Nairobi, Dakar, Cape Town and Mumbai, Rio, Lima, and Manila is in and of itself a powerful signal to world leaders on the need for concerted action.

27

Habitat JAM Results Achieved

The Habitat JAM was an outstanding success in terms of its inclusiveness and global reach. What is even more remarkable is the number of actionable ideas that came from it. More than four thousand pages of discussion and ideas were captured; six hundred ideas generated; and seventy actionable ideas chosen, researched, and summarized in a workbook and CD for the World Urban Forum III, an international UN HABITAT Event on Urban Sustainability held in Vancouver, Canada, in June 2006 with fourteen thousand people attending from around the world.

Charles Kelly summed up the miracle that took place:

“World Urban Forum III (WUF) was unique, reflecting a rather embryonic process that UN HABITAT, under the leadership of Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director, initiated to bring civil society into the decision-making and sharing about setting the agenda for UN HABITAT. WUF wasn’t a policy conference this time. It was a gathering of practitioners from civil society and the private sector, exploring these questions: What things have worked? What have we learned? “What mistakes have we made? How do we do things better?

The Rest of the Habitat JAM Story

The goal of the Habitat JAM from the beginning was “ideas to action.” The seventy actionable ideas chosen for the World Urban Forum III didn’t stop there. One example is the Global Urban Sustainability Solutions Network (GUSSE; www.gusse.org), an online network designed to connect municipal government, NGOs, urban professionals, researchers, business, and citizens —a place where the world is invited to collectively discuss, review, and apply the best ideas for sustainable cities. Many of the ideas were not grand programs with huge budgets. Some were just simple, down-to-earth suggestions that emerged out of necessity to bring unlikely partners together.

I know the spirit of the Habitat JAM still lives. I led a forum called “Being a Good Neighbor.” I wanted to talk with others about what it meant to be “good neighbors” to one another. I did. Together, we built a list of attributes, explored creating a charter for cities, and shared ideas on how to keep momentum alive. Bill Tipton, project manager for Hewlett Packard (HP) and contributing author at the Global Dialogue Center, wrote me during the jam expressing what it meant to him to find the Habitat JAM accessible as a blind person: “This is so exciting it makes my hair stand up on end to see and talk with all people with disabilities online.”

The Good Neighbors dialogue made the top ten themes in the Humanity forum (see the illustration on the next page). A small group formed to 28turn talk into action. Two years later, many Good Neighbor actions have been taken. We meet about every other month for two hours via Skype from the United States and Canada. Early on, we made a decision that the best way we could promote the idea of “being a Good Neighbor” was to use our unique differences in our own spans of influence and support one another in whatever endeavors we chose.

Habitat jam


  1. Education
  2. Youth Impact
  3. Planning
  4. Grassroots Women
  5. Good Neighbors
  6. Children
  7. Housing
  8. Role of Government
  9. Woman’s Issues
  10. Getting Youth Involved

Habitat JAM— Top Ten Themes

Each of us took a different direction: Carol Roberts accepted an assignment with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in Kenya related to information communication technology infrastructure. Bill Tipton accepted a leadership role for HP’s people with disabilities employee network group. Under his leadership, they’ve “gone global,” connecting HP people across the world. Eric Hellman championed a dialogue at the World Urban Forum III on spirituality’s role in sustainability, and he continues to lead dialogues in his community. Avril Orloff turned her artistic talent to graphic illustration to enhance meaningful dialogues for community and business organizations. And me? One contribution was to create a commemorative visual learning exhibit at the Global Dialogue Center’s Knowledge Gallery, “We Came to the Habitat JAM: Celebrating Three Remarkable Days in History,” to share the experience with people around the world. Come visit at:

www.globaldialoguecenter.com/habitatjam

Putting Our Differences to Work
Insights from the Good Neighbor Group Inspired by the Habitat JAM

It’s important to value and honor others as a way of valuing and honoring yourself.

—Carole Roberts,
United States

Despite our differences, we discovered we care about many of the same things.

—Eric Hellman, Canada

You need to create a caring, open environment for others to share unique ideas.

—Bill Tipton, United States

When hearts and minds are open, we find friends and allies everywhere!

—Avril Orloff, Canada world.

The second story, the Global Innovation Outlook, provides a compelling glimpse into the results of a diverse group of cross-industry thought leaders putting differences to work. It again proves people are the fastest way to innovation, leadership, and high performance.

29

GLOBAL INNOVATION OUTLOOK

Imagine the power of 248 thought leaders coming together on four continents to talk with one another—a group representing 178 organizations from nearly three dozen countries and regions, in sectors as diverse as aerospace, agriculture, chemical, consumer packaged goods, education, electronics engineering, energy and utilities, environmental services, finance, food and produce, health care, industrial manufacturing, information technology, insurance, logistics, mining, shipping, sporting goods and apparel, telecommunications, and more. This phenomenon occurred at the second gathering in the fall of 2005 of IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook (GIO), which hosted a worldwide conversation about the changing nature of innovation.

Global Innovation Outlook—Fall 2005
Who Participated?

  • Academics and university leaders
  • Business partners and clients
  • Government and public sector officials
  • Independent experts and thought leaders
  • Industry analysts and consultants
  • NGOs and citizen interest groups
  • Venture capitalist community
  • Other thought leaders

Source: IBM GIO 2.0 report.

Participants from over twenty-two industries met in San Francisco, Zurich, São Paulo, New Delhi, and Beijing. Together, in fifteen so-called deep dive sessions, thought leaders from businesses large and small, the public sector, academia, citizens’ groups, and the venture capital community explored emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities that affect business and society.

This global dialogue centered on three focus areas: the future of the enterprise, transportation, and the environment. Each discussion brought out far-reaching new ideas. It was clear that new ground was broken on every front. The insights emerged from a broad range of topics: from the power of social networks to innovation as a mindset; from small business in going global or finding a niche of success working locally, to a new generation of leaders being prepared for the distributed and virtual business landscape; from innovative transportation breakthroughs for emerging economies, allowing them to “leapfrog” Western nations, transcending old paradigms with new approaches, to noting that the needs of the environment depend largely on the changing behavior of individuals, business, and society—and this is just a small sampling.

One provocative topic that was up for discussion gives a glimpse into the richness of the conversation. It was a discussion around rethinking the idea of “the enterprise,” noting it may be outdated and the time ripe for a different approach. Other participants challenged the ideas of “employer” 30and “employee” as we know them today. Imagine something more flexible, perhaps a collection of loosely formed collaborators who come together on an “opportunity-by-opportunity” basis. From Latin America a bold new vision emerged. The suggestion was that the future might consist of a billion one-person “enterprises”—people moving freely from project to project as their skills and focus shift. In this brave new approach, the traditional enterprise might change its role to include orchestrating and facilitating individuals or groups. With this kind of provocative new thinking came the realization that such collaborative, contribution-based environments would also need new collaborative standards to foster and support such arrangements.

Besides being an exceptional example to fuel our discussion in this book, I find the Global Innovation Outlook particularly meaningful, because it demonstrates the willingness for a corporation to change its ways of conducting business and to also share this work openly with the rest of us. IBM’s Chairman and CEO, Sam Palmisano, admitted that the Global Innovation Outlook “marked new territory for IBM itself.” He goes on to share that, like many businesses, IBM had previously always conducted its own inside business forecasting. He described the value of these ongoing global dialogues that explore a wide range of topics in this way:

We learn from our interactions with one of the world’s richest and most diverse business ecosystems, and the members of that ecosystem benefit by coming together to tackle difficult issues and to learn from one another. It’s a new approach to problem-solving and it works—because the participants understand that their best ideas will only get better by being part of a larger conversation, where they can be debated, vetted, expanded and improved.

His closing words in the Global Innovation Outlook report echo what is also central to this book: “My hope is that you’ll find here provocative ideas about the nature of innovation, business transformation and societal change ideas that you can build on and make your own.” (See the Resources and Studies section for more information about the Global Innovation Outlook 2.0 report.)

Abraham Lincoln spoke his wisdom about what achievements like these two examples hold for the future, when he said, “That some achieve great success is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.”

31

WHO SAYS PUTTING OUR DIFFERENCES TO WORK IS THE FASTEST WAY TO INNOVATION?

  • Visionary leaders with a strong belief in people recognize people are the number one source of new ideas for innovation; they see opportunities to leverage the talent and seize them.
  • Valuing differences is demonstrated by a leader’s actions and behavior that create an inclusive environment for accelerating the generation of new ideas, multiplying the creative minds working to innovatively solve problems, and opening the way for breakthrough thinking to be shared openly.
  • Free-wheeling open dialogue that values differences maximizes the return on the investment for everyone. It helps organizations and people renew themselves; it builds skills and confidence in solving problems and exploring new ideas.
  • People want to have a voice, especially to help solve problems that affect their work and lives. They are willing to figure out ways to participate if they know what they have to say matters and will be heard.
  • When leaders are willing and open to trying out new ideas that defy the status quo, it can lead to the discovery of better ways of getting things done.
  • When you multiply the differences in an inclusive, welcoming environment, miracles can happen, breakthroughs can be realized, innovation can emerge in the fastest way.

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Endorsements



“This book is a celebration. It's also a handbook for a revolution in leadership, relationship and creativity. It celebrates and gives guidance for a future that is happening now and is accelerating and touching, thank God, every part of life around the world. Debbe Kennedy has worked and lead at the heart of this revolution of turning the 'problem' of differences between people into the gold of creativity and innovation for organizations and the planet. She guides you with fascinating stories, poems, art, visuals, solid approaches and heuristics, and resources that will be relevant for years to come. She'll amaze you by the breadth of examples from a wide variety of walks of life, types of organizations and all corners of the globe. You'll experience in almost a visceral way the ultimate creative act of leading people with all their differences, quirks, needs, and journeys to breakthroughs in relationship, innovation and fulfillment. You'll see how technology, much of it done by Debbe in her Global Dialogue Center and working with her many clients, is changing the game of communicating, solving problems and creating opportunities. Finally, and most importantly in my mind, this is a beautiful book."

—Michael Ray,
Professor Emeritus, Stanford University Graduate School of Business,
John G. McCoy-Banc One Professor of Creativity and 
Innovation and of Marketing, Emeritus author of Creativity in Business and The Highest Goal

"The dangers of ‘groupthink’ are painfully apparent across our world. That’s why diversity, broadly understood, is so essential to innovation and progress – as Debbe Kennedy reminds us in this pragmatic and wise guide for leaders."

⎯Mike Wing, Vice President, Strategic Communications, IBM


“Rarely has there been a more relevant, more needed guidebook for leaders of the future than Putting Our Differences to Work. Debbe Kennedy has illuminated diversity, innovation, and leadership in a way that will help leaders across the sectors to redefine the future in our times of massive change.”

⎯Frances Hesselbein, Chairman and Founding President Leader to Leader Institute; Former CEO, Girl Scouts of America

"The power of Debbe Kennedy's storytelling helps us all see our own accomplishments in a new light. At the same time, the stories encourage us to take our leadership to a new level. The six steps she offers provide a roadmap to leaders and organizations on how to effectively put differences to work."

⎯Emily J. Duncan former Vice President, Culture and Diversity, Hewlett Packard Emily Duncan Consulting

"Personal, reflective, insightful and inspirational. Full of great ideas and a very powerful story that shows how we need to redefine leadership and diversity in order to help make the world a better place. Needs to be widely read – urgently!"

⎯Dr. Bruce Lloyd, Emeritus Professor of Strategic Management, London South Bank University

“Leaders must find new sources of growth more than ever today. After questioning what leadership means while reading Putting Our Differences to Work, I found myself focused on one thing: I, the leader, must first harness our people’s rich and diverse experiences, cultures and perspectives to attract growth.” Debbe Kennedy compels us to see the source of unimagined growth that is locked within the people in our organization. Unlock, innovate and win… together.”

⎯Lane A. Michel, Executive Vice President, Quaero Corporation

"We know that to create a sustainable, peaceful, and socially just world, we must change our attitudes toward relationships and the ways we conduct business. Debbe Kennedy's Putting Our Differences to Work spells this out eloquently. It blazes a trail down the path to this new paradigm, offering us guidelines, solutions, and hope. A book for this amazing time of challenges and opportunities!"

⎯John Perkin, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and The Secret History of the American Empire
"Debbe Kennedy has given us multiple gifts -- first, the gift of her deep experience with diversity work, and second, her creative gifts of presenting these ideas in a way that makes them intriguing and compelling. We have a great need for her work, because until we learn to work together in all our awesome, disturbing, and intriguing diversity, we will not be able to create organizations that can dance through these turbulent days. Thank you Debbe!"

⎯Margaret J. Wheatley, author of Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time and Leadership and the New Science

"Very impressive! Wonderful tools for individuals, teams and organizations. Really like the models and processes. Kennedy has a gift for getting to the heart of things and communicating insights in simple, yet powerful, ways. She has also been able to personalize the tools through stories, and through the meaningful quotations. So many tools are presented as dehumanized abstractions, but Debbe Kennedy's have color and flavor."

⎯Terence Brake, Vice President, TMA-US/London/France and author of The Global Leader


"I took a tour of Debbe Kennedy's new work one evening, and was immediately (the next day) able to utilize her tools with a client. And, I was a hero! Her package is superb and moves (even the most sophisticated) into deep dialogue. Debbe Kennedy has pulled together the best of the best. Her exercises, ideas, stories, and assessments will add significantly to any effort. She provides both insight and action for any practioner at any size company with the topic of diversity on their plate! A perfect set of interventions for the beginner or the skilled professional."

⎯Bevery Kaye, President, Career Systems International, Inc., Co-Author of Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay

"I half expected the book to be brilliant but definitely not phenomenal, what an amazing contribution to the debate on innovation and where it comes from...simple and at the same time impossible to achieve. I read the foreword, preface and introduction last night and I have to tell you that I am exhilirated and tingling with excitement by your concept of Putting Our Differences to Work. I am convinced you have discovered a gold mine. What a powerful, profound and compelling argument for diversity!"

-- Wendy Luhabe, Chancellor, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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