Over January, like many people, I’ve taken the chance to read the books I haven’t had the time to read. Many were linked to my interest in diversity and inclusion (D&I).
When I started my role as a D&I Leader nearly a decade ago, my primary source of information was books and reports I could find online. Unfortunately, D&I, particularly cultural diversity, wasn’t discussed extensively in the media then.
Today things are different; it’s much easy to find information and there are also many more courses.
As I furthered my studies and wrote my book, I’ve grown to appreciate the benefits of reading widely and deeply into D&I. However, I’ve also learned that a lot of information, particularly in the media, only presents one or part of the story. Further, the analytics may keep suggesting certain types of posts to you, which means that you don’t gain broad perspectives.
Improving D&I is a ‘wicked’ problem that touches on a broad range of topics – society, organisations and individuals – and the intersection between them. If it was so easy to improve D&I, consultants would have worked out how to resolve it by now!
If you are in a leadership role, want to improve your organisation’s D&I and need to keep up with developments, read widely! Here is my advice:
1. Broaden your sources of information
As business leaders, we are all short of time. I know how it feels; I didn’t have time to read much until I left full-time employment. Before then, I barely had time to skim the business press headlines!
My recent mini-survey suggests that 40% of leaders use newspapers/business magazines, 40% use podcasts and videos, 15% use books, and only 5% use academic research to keep up to date on D&I matters. I am sure many also use a mix of sources and their networks.
Today, it’s easy to use Google and watch short videos to find the answers to our problems. Social media has led people to try to summarise messages into a 1-minute video. However, effective D&I solutions must be well thought through and tailored to your context. This requires leaders to have a broad range of views that consider changes in society, organisations and people.
In addition to attending the growing number of academic programmes available from institutions such as INSEAD, as well as participating in D&I networking events, here are my thoughts on how to find good sources of information on D&I trends:
- Source information from around the world. Don’t just read information produced in your country. D&I trends tend to move from country to country, so it is essential to read widely.
- Listen to podcasts. I personally like podcasts, as they allow a deeper understanding of an issue than newspaper articles, which only present a tiny soundbite of information.
- Read business magazines and online blogs. They are definitely a good source of information. I enjoy such Harvard Business Review and INSEAD Knowledge. Whilst much of their views are backed by academic research although their research may not fully resonate in your local market, they do suggest on practical solutions for business leaders. If you wish to deep dive into a topic, have a look at the journal articles that support these articles. Focus on the abstract, literature review and discussion paragraphs if you struggle to read the whole article. Many journal articles can now be found easily online via Google Scholar or Researchgate.
- Read books and articles by authors that are supported by good research. Consider audiobooks that you can listen to them in your car or as you exercise.
2. Trust your sources
Consider the credibility of the information that you are reading. The more robust the research behind it, whether qualitative or quantitative, the better.
Over time, I’ve grown to appreciate the benefits of reports and articles backed by independent research by people with good academic qualifications and practical experience. And that research doesn’t always need to be quantitative; strong qualitative data also provides excellent sources of information in the D&I space, particularly given that D&I change programmes require leaders to understand people’s feelings.
Do note that not all ‘thought leadership’ and OpEds may not be backed by robust data. Further, some reports are written by organisations to help them help market their firm’s services. So, it’s essential to read widely!
Some of the books I read this month
I enjoyed Dr Akshaya Kamalnath’s book, The Corporate Diversity Jigsaw, released in December 2022. Her excellent book explores the link between board diversity, corporate diversity, and corporate cultures.
I’ve also been reading about how emotions inhibit organisational change, as well as about organisational attachment. Two easier reads were Stuck: How to Win at Work by Understanding Loss, and The Pivot Point: Success in Organizational Change. Workplace Attachments: Managing Beneath the Surface is a more academic yet fascinating read exploring attachment in the workplace. All three were co-authored by Dr Victoria Grady.
Finally, I am keen to understand the Asian-American experience. I am currently reading Stuck: Why Asian Americans Don’t Reach the Top of Corporations by Margaret Chin. I also read Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now which is an easy and fun read, as well as Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong, which provides fascinating insights into the experiences of growing up Asian American.
What I listened to this month
I’ve been listening to Dr Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey’s podcast, The Element of Inclusion. His short podcasts and book reviews provide interesting insights.
What have you been reading and listening to?
Karen Loon is the author of Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations: Lessons from Those Who Smashed the Bamboo Ceiling.