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Ep 74: How To Radically rethink Inclusion For Sustainable Business Results with Alison Maitland and Rebekah Steele

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Introduction:  Alison Maitland is a writer, speaker, advisor and coach. She is the co-author of two previous books, Future Work and Why Women mean business. She is also a co-author of the book we illuminate here on this show called Indivisible: Radically rethinking inclusion for sustainable business results. 

Rebekah Steele is a business strategist, innovator and speaker with deep expertise in Diversity and Inclusion. Rebekah spent two decades in the corporate world including as a senior leader in Fortune 500 Companies. Rebekah launched her consultancy focussed on the intersection of diversity, inclusion, and human centred design thinking. Rebekah employs her signature D&I innovation labs and distinctive ecosystem design process to support leaders bring progressive strategies to life. Rebekah is also a speaker, a senior Fellow and Council Director with the Conference Board. 


  • Podcast Episode SummaryThis episode put simply explores the idea of radically rethinking inclusion for sustainable business results. Alison and Rebekah make the case that inclusion is a business driver and offers so much more to organisations who can connect the demands of a widening  stakeholder base as well as in advancing solutions to the many systemic challenges society faces.Points made over the episode
    • The question how can organisations do better with respect to Inclusion, motivated Rebekah and Alison to bring their collective wisdom, their research and knowledge to write their book called Indivisible: How to radically rethink inclusion for sustainable business results
    • Leaders are not questioning why inclusion matters but they are frustrated by not knowing how to define Inclusion, how to cultivate it and how to measure its impact
    • Alison and Rebekah developed a whole new approach, an eco-system approach that they describe in their book to help leaders address the gap between the promise of inclusion and the practice.
    • Radically rethinking inclusion means that organisations need to be much more ambitious in their approach to building inclusion at work. The challenges organisations are facing made more pronounced by virtue of the War in Ukraine, Climate Change, The Pandemic, The systemic inequities highlighted by Black Lives Matter, have amplified the need for a much more ambitious approach to inclusion.
    • Where do organisations start? First off organisations must recognise that Diversity and Inclusion are distinct, are two different concepts that are complimentary
    • Diversity is about the vast mix of different individuals, their experiences, talents, perspectives and the ways you harness this collective superpower is through inclusion
    • Conventional approaches to inclusion are too narrow to harness the potential of this collective superpower.
    • An expanded view of inclusion is about employing a strategic eco-system that you could liken to a traffic management system such as a roundabout to ensure safety outcomes. That system is much more than how drivers feel or behave but includes road signage, signals, licensing, penalties and maintenance.
    • Many myths prevail about inclusion and some include the idea that results can be achieved by using piecemeal approaches. Others include the replication of best practices used by other organisations that in fact fail. An example of such is implicit bias awareness training
    • Organisation set up inclusion practices as optional if Inclusion is not indivisibly linked to business outcomes, profitable growth and business decisions
    • Simple solutions to inclusion like asking for a silver bullet do not work, instead a rigorous and practical eco-system is required.
    • Overcoming conventional approaches is critical especially when ever widening stakeholders are demanding resolutions to societies inequities.
    • Unless Leaders can break through ineffective piecemeal initiatives where inclusion is glossed over and is disconnected from the heart of the business then organisations will never reap the benefits inclusion provides as evidenced in the research.
    • Businesses are facing huge challenges such as Artificial Intelligence, Climate Change and now War. To find sustainable innovative solutions requires more thinking and from a greater pool of heads.
    • Indivisible talks about 3 P’s – Performance, Preparedness and Purpose to get at inclusion and an inclusive work environment.
    • Organisations can fail to recognise market opportunities as evidenced by an example of a tech company whose design failed to consider left handed people and people with smaller extremities, mostly women.
    • A whole approach works. Alison and Rebekah describe their eco-system model and approach used in organisations.
    • Integration looks like people being rewarded for inclusive behaviour, behaviour that helps fulfil business goals. Employees are really astute at including alternative perspectives and calling in others views. It is important to paint a picture of what an inclusive environment looks like.
    • Schiphol airport is an example of an integrated inclusion eco-system at work described in the book.
    • There are many unintended and often invisible systemic biases at work in organisations, organisations who might ordinarily consider themselves inclusive. Consider the case of Carla a case described in the book.
    • The book was written for all functions in the organisation and often it is the case that particular functions, such as procurement, are delighted to know that they can consider inclusion in decisions and thinking
    • Teams can start by creating a really safe environment to discuss what might be being excluded on their teams. Important for teams to be really present so that they can readily start to notice the ways they are invisible to excluding people, ideas etc.
    • Create Psychological Safety through the practice of crafting team agreements and expectations of each member. Discuss how inclusion and inclusive practices could achieve the teams purpose and goals.
    • The 10 enablers of inclusion housed in three clusters; connection, common cause and opportunity goes down well in organisations
    • The team can look across these 10 enablers to see what they are currently doing well and what gaps could be managed to create a consistent culture of inclusion
    • Practices such as listening without interruption,  collaboration equity such as that provided by a company called Powernoodle and using or instituting a role for a person to notice barriers to inclusion on a team are all ways to further the dialogue on inclusion.
    • One of the main points of the book is that inclusion is about everyone and everyone is responsible for making inclusion happen.
    • There are many useful resources provided in the book to help people navigate this important topic. They include; the Inclusive Eco-System, 50 practical actions stakeholders can take, innovation metrics and a questionnaire as well as a free guide for Indivisible readers to create action circles and further their knowledge and insights on the creation of an inclusive workplace.


    Resources shared

    Indivisible: Radically rethinking inclusion for sustainable business results by Alison Maitland and Rebekah Steele.

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