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Embracing Inclusion – Driving Innovation Event

I attended the “Embracing Inclusion – Driving Innovation Event” at the recent SAP TechED/SAPPHIRE NOW in Madrid. While the theme was about driving innovation, my breakout group discussions focused on creating a more inclusive work environment for “non-high fliers”; that is, those who are more than competent in their roles but who choose not to take on significant additional responsibilities. Some of the key themes we discussed included

 

  • Organizational policies – for example,  matching non-high fliers with the right roles
  • Reward systems – for example, implementing “personalized” rewards that may include a combination of financial bonuses, time off, recognition, and other rewards
  • Balance – for example, allowing for telecommuting and flexible hours

Here’s a picture of my amazing team from that night:

 

Another key highlight was hearing the personal stories a few (brave) audience members shared. One member spoke about her challenges wanting to excel in a technology company but with a strong set of non-technical skills.  Another member shared her story of being actively discouraged by her husband at the time from pursuing a highly technical field of study because “it would be too difficult for a woman” (she did it anyway). Finally, someone shared interesting research indicating that when starting out in the workforce, women tend not to negotiate salaries, which automatically puts them at a compensation disadvantage.

 

Inclusive Online Communities

Heading out of the event just past midnight and still energized after a long day, I started to think about the topic of inclusiveness, as it relates to online communities. One could define inclusiveness as the extent to which an online community incorporates and encourages diversity in viewpoints, beliefs, backgrounds, interests, gender, culture, age, and status to name just a few. Inclusion also means trying to ensure that members are heard and not shouted down or marginalized. On the flip side, there is also self-imposed exclusion. By default, staying on the sidelines but then feeling excluded from the community group. A friend of mine once said, “When you feel like an outsider, you start acting like one. And when you start acting like one, then you are one.”

 

Sometimes online communities can seem like the wild frontier where individuals, feeling emboldened by a degree on anonymity, inflict their own viewpoints on others and in the process shout down differing viewpoints. With an increased ability to broadcast our own opinions, we have correspondingly grown intolerant to hearing differing opinions. What I learned from the event is that you also need to have a strong sense of common mission, guiding principles to facilitate passionate and inclusive dialog, and shared norms that dictate what is and is not acceptable behavior, with corresponding corrective mechanisms. It’s never pleasant or easy to tactfully impose corrective actions given that there are often ambiguous scenarios where you have to balance individual rights of expression and the good of the community.

 

All this pontificating aside, here are some points about creating more inclusive (online) communities:

 

  • Be clear about the mission and guiding principles for the community and ensure that diversity and inclusion are part of the core values the community lives and breathes
  • Actively encourage and value differences in views/opinions
  • Reach out to those who are less vocal but who have something valuable to contribute
  • Know when to stop the dialog and when to redirect the dialog when it’s no longer productive or supportive of the community’s mission and spirit
  • Know when to “exclude” but err on the side of inclusion. As much as possible , “Live and let be”
  • Get to know the strengths of members as much as possible and reach out to them especially if the issue/topic relates to their core strength
  • Lots of trial/error/success – communities are dynamic, changing, evolving – inclusion is something to be managed on-going rather than something that can be solved
  • As a community member, don’t exclude yourself from the topics that (could) matter to you
  • Use simple language for those who do not speak the standard language as a first language
  • Specifically reach out to groups, where needed, to broaden diversity
  • Give leeway to people to express opinions since different cultural, socio-economic, gender, ethnic, and other factors have different norms
  • Be aware of our own level of inclusiveness. We may not realize our own discriminatory patterns we have learned
  • Help keep the spirit of the community in tact by gently and sometimes not so gently enforcing shared norms
  • Everyone has something valuable to contribute but be open to what “valuable” could look like
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6 Comments

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  1. Former Member
    Warning long answer!

    “When you feel like an outsider, you start acting like one. And when you start acting like one, then you are one.”

    I think it all starts with being an “outsider”.  Staying on the fringes, reading and consuming information.

    I find a wide and diverse crowd here at SCN.  There are silos based upon what you want to read.  Me I tend to read everything that looks interesting.  Someone else may only read all things ABAP.  Someone else may only read all things for configuration or BI/BW.

    Inclusiveness?  So in what context do you want it to fall?  We have many different people in many different countries, genders…  working reading asking questions.  That is a given we already do that.

    “All this pontificating aside, here are some points about creating more inclusive (online) communities” – See your point, but what do you feel we are missing at SCN?  Where are we falling down?  It would be an interesting read.  I am one of those who love it so much that I forget others do not.

    Also do all the examples make sense?
    Be clear about the mission and guiding principles for the community and ensure that diversity and inclusion are part of the core values the community lives and breathes  – Not sure what the core value is…  But know it helps educate, communicate, and drive good relations.

    Actively encourage and value differences in views/opinions – I hope others do not agree with me all of the time.  I also always want some good debate.  I am not sure how to actively encourage that debate.

    Reach out to those who are less vocal but who have something valuable to contribute
    If they are less vocal, how do I reach out to them, I would not know them.

    Know when to stop the dialog and when to redirect the dialog when it’s no longer productive or supportive of the community’s mission and spirit – That is a hard thing to do.  But I agree and can think about times when I could have been better at it.

    Know when to “exclude” but err on the side of inclusion. As much as possible , “Live and let be”  Oh boy contradicted the last sentence.

    And I could go on and on…  Examples would help a ton!

    Nice blog – as always it makes me think.  This one is going to be bookmarked for me to read again.

    Michelle

    Asking good lead in questions.  Maybe I do, maybe I do not who is to answer that question?

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    1. Kirby Leong
      Post author
      Hi Michelle,

      Good comments that I agree with.

      To me, inclusiveness is a moving target and something you never truly achieve. My intent for this general blog is to spark some thought about how we can be more mindful of being inclusive and not default to sticking within our comfort zones. Always a challenge, I know. I’m not implying that we’re missing anything per se, on SCN, but that we can always improve.

      To your points:
      – How to actively encourage debate/reach out to others: I agree, that unless they are visible, then it’s hard to know who/how to include. Perhaps all we can do is to keep an eye out for those who may have something potentially valuable to contribute and then reach out to them, where appropriate.

      – Not sure if you mean I contradicted myself with “live and let be”. If so, my point is that we sometimes need to refrain from changing other people’s minds. Often it’s enough to make our point, ensure we’re all heard, and then “let be”.

      – Core values – agreed that there has been no broad discussion about what these might be. I can surmise that they could include standards of excellence, inclusiveness :-), and collaboration. Anything you or anyone else want to add to this list?

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      1. Former Member
        Warning another long response.  I love this blog.  I love your responses, and so I have to respond back.  Maybe I’ll stop the next time.

        Always work towards improvement – those are words to live by…  Some days I don’t even try to improve anything.  Those are my lazy days.  Just to relax.  You need those too!

        I know I purposely misunderstood your remark.  But I agree SCN can be constantly improved.  But there are times when it can be in “lazy” mode too. 

        Yes – yes – yes everyone should reach out!  Great point.  Maybe it is a simple comment on a blog or an e-mail to someone – where you can get their e-mail asking them to blog on an answer to your blog.  (Or a comment after their comment.) I’m getting excited.  Great, great point.

        “Know when to “exclude” but err on the side of inclusion. As much as possible, “Live and let be”  You are completely correct that you try to make your point.  If successful / if not then that’s OK.  You’ve put yourself out there.  Tom’s words.  And that was what I was talking about.

        Core values.  MMMmmmm…  Shouldn’t we all know what those are.  I wonder who we ask. 

        I believe you are right excellence, inclusiveness and collaboration. A great start to core values.  I would add innovation, creativity, informative, positive / safe environment, and simply creating a living breathing community.  (I guess all the other things can be considered how you build that community.)

        I do a bit more than that – I build friendships here.  I consider you as one of them.  We reach out to each other and trigger the best in each of us.  That’s huge.  I have some others as well…

        I recently talked with my boss trying to understand why I could easily present, write, and collaborate here, and not at work among my team.  Why didn’t it work?  Why was this so much more of a positive atmosphere?  I felt safe venting, commenting, suggesting something new, and debating points.  But not at work.  She said something where I have one of those “Ah-Ha” moments.  She said here, I am with people that are very technical and are easily reached.  I would add that they are not “forced” to listen.  They can stop reading a blog, move on to something else, and I have found that most people are so very positive.  Even when they don’t agree!

        Great Blog!

        Michelle

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  2. Marilyn Pratt
    Kirby, I am privledged to be your colleague.  You never cease to amaze with your sharp insights.  I was very grateful to you for creating a blog with tips for “newbies” to TechEd (and events in general). Tips for Getting More Out of In-Person Events . I loved your approach to welcoming newbies.  I’m sure we could do a better job of that here in the SCN community.  I have a feeling you do that extremely well in the context of the Business Analytics Community that you manage.
    I also think you create wonderful bridges between cultures.  I highly recommend to others to read about your own journey in Africa and the final in a 16-part series reminds me of how you Back in Africa, Part 16 – “Unexpected and Expected Blessings” in physical community work.  This surely could be translated here virtually into real mentoring opportunities.  Thanks for this very thought provoking summary of your experiences during our “Embracing Inclusion- Driving Innovation” event.  I’m grateful you included us in your thoughts and summary.
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