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New Book on Culturally Intelligent Innovation

davidlivermore | January 18th, 2016 1 Comment

DRIVEN BY DIFFERENCE: Releases February 17
Pre order now.

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The following is an excerpt from an interview about the book:

Q: What prompted you to write this book?

A: I’m insatiably curious. That’s what drives any research or writing project I pursue. And the same is true for this book. I was reviewing some of our research that revealed a troubling finding—homogenous teams often perform better than diverse teams do. Homogenous teams get things done more quickly and as a result, they consistently come up with more innovative solutions than diverse teams do when left to themselves. That’s not a very popular message in an age when everybody is talking about the importance of diversity.

However, diversity unquestionably offers a rich resource for innovative solutions. It’s just that it’s not automatic. It requires a culturally intelligent strategy for effectively using a team’s diversity to come up with more innovative solutions. Our research findings revealed some recurring practices that are essential for tapping the potential of diversity. I wasn’t content to simply see those findings reported in the tables of an academic journal. I wanted to see these insights help teams and organizations in the real world.
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Q: You argue that hiring a diverse workforce is not sufficient. Why not?

A: If you’ve ever had a roommate, not to mention a spouse, you probably know the answer to this. “Different” ways of doing things is a novelty at first but under stress, differences can become the source of conflict and annoyance. It’s easier to work with people who think, act, and behave the same as us. So simply hiring a more diverse workforce is not sufficient. And it can actually make productivity and innovation worse.

Our research reveals that cultural intelligence is the moderating factor in whether diversity is an asset or liability for innovation. Cultural intelligence (CQ) is a research-based measurement that predicts how an individual will work and relate with people from different cultural backgrounds. Diverse teams comprised of members with low CQ, significantly underperform homogeneous teams. But diverse teams comprised of members with moderate or high CQ, significantly outperform homogenous teams on pretty much every measurement—not the least of which is innovation.
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Q: In the book, you mention a vital area of concern – diversity fatigue. What is diversity fatigue and how should it be addressed in the workplace?

A: Many individuals, particularly in workplaces across North America and Western Europe, can’t bear the thought of one more diversity workshop. Shame and an emphasis upon punitive measures for not embracing diversity are prevalent in many approaches to this topic and that rarely brings about lasting change. Other times, diversity measures are viewed as solely being about compliance or as having little to do with bottom line results.

On a brighter note, many organizations have moved toward an emphasis on teaching about unconscious bias—the automatic impulse an individual associates with certain cultural groups. I’m a big supporter of this effort and we’ve collaborated with some of the leading researchers at Harvard in this space.

Awareness is the first step. But it’s not enough. The question I often hear is, I know my biases. So now what? This is where cultural intelligence (skills) comes in. And then teams need to develop a strategy for using a fusion of their cultural differences to drive innovative results. Together, these solutions offer a fresh, sophisticated way of approaching diversity.
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Q: How did you discover the 5D Process for Culturally Intelligent Innovation?

A: As both a researcher and business leader, I’ve been helped immensely by the work of people like Clay Christiansen on disruptive innovation and the innovation models that come from Stanford’s d school. These models together with our research on cultural intelligence are what led to the discovery of the 5D process for culturally intelligent innovation.

The process includes the kinds of things included in most books and models on innovation, such as identifying a pain point, coming up with a solution to relieve that pain, and designing with the end-user in mind. What we wanted to discover however, was how those consistent innovation practices need to be adapted for a culturally diverse team of innovators or users.

For example, Jeff Bezos insists that high level meetings at Amazon include an empty chair, which represents the customer. Apart from cultural intelligence, you might assume a customer wants what you want. But by using the 5D process, a team can design for a diversity of customers. And if the room already includes a diverse team, that’s all the better because it provides built-in insights around what the customers represented by the empty chair want.
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Q: What is the number one issue that derails diverse teams and how can it be overcome?

A: I think it’s the absence of a strategy for how to effectively address and use the diversity on the team. By nature, we’re attracted and drawn to people who think and act like we do so without an intentional strategy to lean into and use the differences on a team, they inevitably create conflict and gridlock.

An effective strategy begins with looking at the two forms of diversity that most powerfully influence what happens on a team—visible diversity and underrepresentation. Instead of being afraid to name the differences, a culturally intelligent strategy explicitly identifies the differences and then creates processes that minimize the interpersonal conflict that ensues from the differences and maximize the informational diversity from the team.

Apart from a strategy for how to effectively use your diversity, it’s unlikely the diversity will lead to innovation and may actually work against it.
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Q: In your opinion, which companies are getting it right and how can others learn from them?

A: No leader or company gets it right all the time. In fact, mistakes are one of the best ways to improve cultural intelligence and come up with innovative solutions. But our research has uncovered dozens of companies that have worked hard at developing a strategy for culturally intelligent innovation. Several of them are featured throughout the book including Google, IKEA, Coca-Cola, Qatar Airways, and Novartis.

Novartis uses their employee resource groups to effectively design medications for culturally diverse patients. In the world of finance, you have CEOs like Ajay Banga (MasterCard) and Brian Moynihan (Bank of America) who personally chair their companies’ diversity and inclusion councils because they believe there’s a direct link between their diversity efforts internally and customer satisfaction. And despite the diversity challenges facing most tech companies, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, says, “One of the secret sauces for Alibaba’s success is that we have a lot of women.” Women hold 47 percent of all jobs at Alibaba and 33 percent of all senior positions.
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Q: If readers took only one thing away from the book, what would you hope it would be?

A: It’s my hope that all of us will slow down the impulse to view a different perspective as threatening, wrong, or inferior and instead, to see it as an opportunity for growth.

In those moments when we see things differently from those around us, we have a few choices: We can hold on to our views, defend them, and argue for their superiority. We can let go of our views and entirely acquiesce to the views of others. Or we can allow our perspectives to be broadened, enriched, expanded, and deepened. Culturally intelligent innovation begins with changing our impulse from Why can’t you see it like I do? to Help me see what I might be missing! Together, we can work together to come up with innovative solutions to solve problems big and small.

The Power of Attention for Culturally Intelligent Innovation

davidlivermore | December 14th, 2015 No Comments

 

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At the end of January, our new book on culturally intelligent innovation will be available in bookstores everywhere. This month’s article is an excerpt from Part 1 in the book.

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If you buy a silver Honda, you start seeing silver Hondas everywhere. It’s not that there are really any more silver Hondas on the road. But this simple reality demonstrates the power of the mind to more readily notice whatever you’ve been thinking about most. And the more you think about diversity and innovation, the better your climate for culturally intelligent innovation.

Your life has largely been fashioned by what you’ve paid attention to and what you haven’t. If you paid attention to other things, your reality and life would be very different. And a great deal of research supports that we become what we practice. If you develop patterns of being mean and nasty, you will get mean and nastier. If you practice being kind and caring, you will get kinder and more caring.[1] The same is true for an organization. The behaviors and respective priorities of a company or university shape what and how they operate. Our individual and organizational personalities become a composite of the things that grab our attention.

If you still aren’t convinced of the power of attention, how does your back feel right now? That information was available to you all the time you were reading the previous paragraphs but it’s only when it’s brought to your attention that you bring it up to the level of awareness. When you’re driving and you become engrossed in the news or a conversation on your phone, you become less aware of the scenery. You’ve turned down the sight dial in your brain so that you can allow the auditory inputs to capture your attention. And according to something psychologists call negative bias theory, you pay more attention to unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, or the annoyance of a bad driver than to positive emotions because the negative ones are more powerful.[2] Negative bias theory has enormous implications for a culturally diverse team. Imagine a team meeting that includes a working lunch together. Because we’re socialized to eat in a certain way, watching someone eat in a different way can be jarring and strike us as rude or even barbaric. If you’ve learned that good manners includes closing your mouth when you eat or breaking off small pieces of a bread roll rather than picking up the whole thing, seeing someone deviate from those norms immediately surfaces on our attention. But when people eat like we expect them to eat, their behavior largely goes unnoticed. You’re unlikely to notice when someone eats “politely” but you’ll most definitely notice when they don’t. Good manners, respect, and appropriate professional behavior are culturally bound.

Beware of too quickly assuming someone isn’t acting professional or demonstrating confidence. Similarly, we’re less likely to notice a colleague’s cultural differences when things are going well. He’s just “John” or “Jose” when you’re working without any conflict. But when something negative occurs, the first impulse is to view John or Jose in light of his culture. Suddenly the thinking becomes: You just can’t trust people from that culture because they end up letting you down. Giving undue attention to negative feelings shrinks your world and your breadth of perspective. Focus on the positive and you’ll expand your view. This is the power of attention.[3]

How to Pay Attention to Culturally Intelligent Innovation
Your mind is your most powerful asset for innovation. Spend time thinking about innovation and it will help foster creative breakthroughs for diverse users. Maintaining and developing a climate of culturally intelligent innovation among a multicultural team requires a deliberate, ongoing effort. Our attention and therefore our companies are easily distracted. But there are a few practices that can help.

Map Your Differences
Start by paying attention to your differences rather than tolerating or overlooking them. Identify each team member’s differences. Create a list with names and the most relevant differences they bring to the team. Start with the two kinds of diversity that are most relevant for how you work together: visible diversity and underrepresented groups. Consider other differences that might also be relevant such as personality styles, skills, industries previously worked in etc.

Many of the organizations we work with use each individual’s cultural value scores from the CQ Assessment reports to create a team list that everyone posts by their desks. That gives each person a visible reminder of the different values and orientations each team member brings to the team.

Prime for Innovation
Priming is the process of presenting a particular stimulus to make us feel and act in a certain way, such as a supermarket that puts “freshly cut” flowers at the entrance of the store so you think of freshness from the moment you enter. To what degree do people across your organization share a vision for innovation and looking ahead? And to what degree is diversity consciously linked to innovation as a resource for new ideas?

The most important way to prime for culturally intelligent innovation is for the leadership to surround themselves with a diversity of perspectives, utilizing that breadth to drive their own innovative approaches. Innovation needs to be built into every person’s role and across all the systems and processes for product development and implementation. Images, signs, town hall meetings, and written messaging need to be used to keep everyone’s attention on the customers of tomorrow.

Become conscious of blind spots
Tap into the power of attention by becoming more aware of your subconscious. Take one of the tests at Project Implicit and consider which groups of people you find most difficult to trust. How might that difficultly connect to a deeply rooted bias? And how might it be closing you off from innovative breakthroughs? By becoming more aware of unconscious bias, you begin to retrain the mind to open yourself and others up to learning from the perspectives of others whom you may otherwise tune out.

Train yourself (and others) to think differently
The brain is an amazing organ. And we can train it to be consciously thinking about innovation through things as simple as taking a different route to work or shifting around our morning routine. One of the best ways to consciously innovate is to disrupt your habits at least once a day. Make a habit of forcing yourself out of autopilot. Change up your morning routine. Drive to work a different way. Work from a different space. Don’t always run your meetings the same way or in the same place. When your team comes up with a solution, stop and ask each other whether this is the best option or whether a third alternative is worth exploring.

Beware your gut
The gut can be a shockingly reliable mechanism for decision-making because our subconscious has been programmed over time. When assessing a familiar situation, the gut often leads to a better result than spending hours reviewing pros and cons. But the gut is subject to enormous error when the cultural context changes and as a result innovative solutions are often missed. Consult with others and consciously suspend trusting your gut. Questions your assumptions and proactively seek out third-way solutions.

Conclusion
Paying attention to culturally intelligent innovation is not enough. You also need to develop a process for effectively leveraging the diversity on your team to come up with more innovation solutions. But there’s tremendous power in what we pay attention to and what we don’t. You can’t force yourself or anyone else to have eureka moments. But the degree to which you consciously utilize the diversity around you and explore creative solutions is directly tied to the probability of producing innovative results.

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Portions of this article excerpted from Chapter 2 of Driven By Difference: How Global Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity. Download a sample chapter and pre-order your copy now.

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Advance Praise:

“This book provides a compelling and refreshingly practical account of how and when to use ‘CQ’ to drive higher levels of innovation performance.”
— Paul Polman, CEO Unilever

“Livermore makes a strong, science-based case for why diversity and cultural intelligence matter more than you think. Rooted in research and amplified with powerful case studies and examples, this book is an essential read for those hoping to leverage an increasingly diverse workforce to drive innovation.”
— Daniel H. Pink, author of TO SELL IS HUMAN and DRIVE

“This book is a must read for any leader wishing to develop more culturally innovative teams and organizations.  Dr. Livermore’s in-depth research provides the missing link to diversity efforts that are not being fully leveraged.”
— Andrea Kelton-Harris, Sr. Diversity Leader, Harvard University

“Filled with numerous examples and straight talk on how to drive culturally intelligent innovation, Driven by Difference should be mandatory reading for your entire team. ”
— David Butler, Vice President of Innovation, Coca-Cola

“Driven by Difference presents an intriguing, compelling, and thought-provoking approach to unleashing the creative and innovative potential of diverse teams.”
Anthony Mayo, Director of Leadership Initiative, Harvard Business School

“For more than two decades, there has been a discussion of the link between diversity and innovation. This book succeeds at advancing our knowledge of this link by providing the frameworks and practices that guide us to think and act culturally intelligent as we leverage diversity to innovate.”
–Lynn Wooten, PhD, Associate Dean, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

“Through concrete research and real life examples from across the globe, David Livermore’s new book shows us how diversity can be consciously linked to innovation.”
Anindita Banerjee, PhD, Renaissance Strategic Consultants, India

[1] Susan Smalley & Diana Winston, Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness, (Philadelphia: Lifelong Books), 2010, 134.

[2] John F. Pratto, Automatic vigilance: The attention grabbing of negative, social information, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61 (1991): 380-391.

[3] Barbara Fredrickson, Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive, New York: Crown, 2009.

Cultural Intelligence: The New Link to Creativity

davidlivermore | April 8th, 2011 2 Comments

My MacBook Pro makes me happy. Really! I’m a happier man because I’m writing this article on my slick Mac. My I-Phone has the same effect on me. And even though I’m loathe to EVER wait in lines, I did exactly that for 3 hours a few weeks ago so I could be among the first to own the latest and greatest I-Pad 2.0. Apple and innovation seem to be pretty much synonymous these days. With each product launch, they remind us that the new competitive frontier in the global economy is innovation and creativity. And they keep doing it.

Now there’s a new way to up your creativity—Improve your CQ or cultural intelligence. Creativity and innovation are the newest payoffs that have emerged from research on individuals who can be described as culturally intelligent, that is, they’re capable of working effectively across various cultural contexts. For a number of years, the research on cultural intelligence has found some other important and recurring results for individuals and organizations with higher levels of CQ: Superior cross-cultural adjustment, improved job performance, enhanced personal well-being, and greater cost-savings and profitability. But this newest finding—increased CQ correlates with improved creativity and innovation—creates an entirely new impetus for assessing and developing CQ.

In the preliminary studies examining creativity and cultural intelligence, creativity was evaluated by assessing subjects’ creative problem-solving skills and their ability to generate new and productive ideas. It’s not surprising that creativity and cultural adaptability are correlated. A great deal of what’s required to work effectively in a cross-cultural context requires creative solutions: How will I negotiate this deal so that I come home with a signed contract? The way you negotiate effectively with a Japanese firm will be very different from how you do so with a Saudi one. We could make the same argument about negotiating with two firms in the same country given their unique organizational cultures. But creative solutions are especially needed when negotiating across national borders.

The studies on creativity and CQ did not indicate that international experience by itself is what yields greater creativity. There are many globetrotting managers who continue to lead with their gut, unaware that their colleagues or clients in various cultures are the ones creatively adapting to them rather than vise versa. And when we travel widely but not deeply, the demand for creative adaptation is more subtle. When you return to the comforts of the Marriott at night, only certain aspects of your creative impulses have been exercised.

Bilinguals scored better in creativity than mono-linguals. And creativity was found at relatively high rates among first and second-generation immigrants. But there were many other individuals who didn’t have that kind of diverse background whose cultural intelligence still enhanced their overall creativity.

On the whole, creativity was most likely to be higher among individuals who:

  • Demonstrated an intrinsic interest and openness to the cultures they encountered
  • Could not only describe a culture but could juxtapose it with their own by articulating both similarities and differences
  • Could tolerate ambiguity, hold things in tension, and be okay without an abundance of firm, categorical answers
  • Were members of diverse teams—not only nationally and ethnically but functionally and ideologically

Creativity is arguably the driving force determining the scope of your long-term impact. In what way does your work make an obvious contribution to your field? Does it add something new and substantial? Does it generate new spinoffs? And/or does it provide new and exciting ideas?

Cultural intelligence is one of many ways to increase your overall creativity. But given the growing importance today of being able to effectively work across a diversity of cultures, why not get the double benefit of improving your CQ and simultaneously improving your ability to be an innovator who makes a long-term impact.

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