Expansion: The Missing Link to Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion

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I was honored to present “The Missing Link to Sustainble Diversity and Inclusion” at TEDx Rose Tree in Media, Pennsylvania in November, 2019. In my talk, I introduced the new concept of “expansion.”

Here’s a little background on the concept:

Diversity encompasses all of the dimensions of human identity that make us who we are. Diversity includes all characteristics that shape our identity “lenses,” –our beliefs, values, world views, perceptions—which thus influence our communication, our behaviors, and ultimately our relationships with others.

Inclusion is the practice of creating an environment where everyone feels equally valued and respected for their individual diversity. Inclusive environments ensure that every person is able to participate fully in organizational life, and has equal opportunities to leverage their talents, skills, and potential.

Expansion is the practice of building community across the broad landscape of their differences. Expansion relates to actively broadening one’s sights beyond the comfortable social networks in which they typically reside. It means seeking out new voices, divergent ways of thinking, and pushing oneself to challenge existing schemas.

Humans have a natural tendency to group themselves into “us” and “them” categories. The more we stay locked into our comfortable, like-minded groups, the less likely we are to be willing to understand or value those we perceive as the “other.” Once individuals have a belief about those they perceive as the “other,” they continue to draw from the same well of data to confirm their beliefs.

In order to build and sustain a healthy, thriving organizational culture free of harassment or bullying, it is imperative to engage not only in inclusive but expansive behaviors. It’s not enough to compel people to comply with policies. They need to intellectually and emotionally connect with the humanity of people who they perceive as “other.”  They need to challenge existing beliefs, acknowledge personal biases, and actively advocate for a fair and respectful organizational culture.

This talk is a call to action to lean into the uncomfortable dialogue and seek out the perspective of those we deem the “other.” I introduce 3 key practices to build expansion: embrace multiple realities, engage in broad perspective taking, and practice emotional ownership. In the next few blog posts, I will explore each of these practices in depth.

Many thanks to all who supported me in making this talk a reality, especially Stacy Olkowski and the TEDx Rose Tree crew, Jake Voorhees, my incredible speaker coach, and my partner in emotional ownership, Charlie Meisch. Much love.

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