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Business Process

Beyond Good Feels: Inclusive Workplaces Matter to the Sustainability of Organizations

Posted on August 3, 2023

By Kyle David

May 24, 2024

inclusive workplaceKDG has just been honored to be one of only thirty national recipients of a Most Inclusive Workplaces award. And, while we have the spotlight, I wanted to share some thoughts on why inclusivity needs to be central to your organization’s growth and sustainability strategy.

Details Matter.

Organizations that sustain do so with a certain economic moat, or an advantage that they have that is difficult to replicate by a competitor. I would argue that a thoroughly inclusive work environment is one of those economic moats.

The spirit of inclusivity within any organization only goes so far. It’s the deeds that carry the day. The deeds speak indelibly not only about the organization’s prioritization of details but also its ability to execute on them. The details that make work environments inclusive are often very nuanced, difficult to execute, and can require a lot of capital resources that may not show direct causative financial return.

Particularly in real estate, I’ve found organizations can often appear hostile toward inclusivity. They say all the right things until it comes to thinking about how unwelcome building designs would be to differently-abled people. I’ve seen plenty do the absolute minimum to abide by code when putting in a handicap bathroom. Forget for a moment the message that sends to those whose day-to-day lives rely on accessibility measures. What does that say about the culture of your organization? I think that it says a few things:

  • If it doesn’t benefit me or “people like me,” it’s an expense.
  • There is no need to focus on the needs of others if you don’t deem those needs worthy.
  • It’s ok to objectify or reduce the value of things that you can’t relate to.

Some of the icons of inclusivity know this well. Walt Disney, a fanatic about details if there ever was one, is famous for making sure that Disney fought for quality. Famous for his temper, Walt Disney would become irate when he saw theme park guests being treated unequally or without the respect and details that he thought that they deserved. I would argue that Disney’s posture toward inclusivity is only possible because of the 100 years of focus that they have put on being a culture focused on details. The two are inextricably linked. Particularly in the age of AI, those details are going to be major differentiators as companies progress.

Humility Matters.

Organizations that sustain and are resilient in the face of competition know how to reinvent themselves continuously. That requires a core competency of humility. Andy Grove is famous for stating that, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” The sentiment here is that you can’t get too far in business or life resting on your laurels, thinking grandly of yourself. You must be willing to wake up each morning with the base hypothesis being that what you are doing is wrong.

Creating organizations that have humility baked into the culture lead to some of the most incredible outcomes because they are willing to question everything, every day. Inclusion requires that level of courage. As sinful human beings, we are hardwired to stereotype, generalize, objectify, and keep ourselves comfortable. These are not the ingredients for a sustainable organization with a durable competitive advantage. However, organizations that listen to challenge their assumptions, celebrate being wrong, fail with good intentions, and exercise restraint in times of success tend to be organizations that are naturally inclusive.

Nuance Matters.

We live in a world that has an either-or posture when business is a both-and game. This is an incredibly important element for the long-term success of an organization. As the people that I’ve consulted with over the years know, I always preach that they should love their outcome, regardless of what it is. You will learn so much if you really spend time loving a bad outcome as much as a good one because you can identify if the outcome came as a result of skill or luck or lack thereof. In fact, many are familiar with my chart below on how organizations should analyze business outcomes.

Organizations that focus on either-or depend heavily on luck for success, usually misappropriating it for skill. They are not naturally open to the idea that they could be anything other than right. That reinforces ingrained stereotypes and, over time, snuffs out any real humility.

Inclusion demands more from us. It demands that we look at both-and with open hearts and minds. You can be both profitable and inclusive. You can be both a mother and a professional. You can be both African American and conservative. You can be both inclusive and discriminatory. I can be a tall, white, male and an advocate for inclusion. Just like one outcome doesn’t define your business, one part of your being does not define you. Organizations that get this right are both more sustainable and continuously able to reinvent themselves to be better. They can actively listen and observe both themselves as well as their customers.

The business community is a powerful force in the world; one that can bring about extraordinary positive change. Let us not forget that inclusion isn’t just a feel-good word or sentiment. It’s what will keep your organization, and the world, thriving.

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Kyle David is the President and CEO of KDG. He has navigated the dynamic intersection of technology and business, advising both leaders and organizations, from Fortune 25 companies and professional sports leagues to innovative technology startups.

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