Cisco Blogs


Cisco Blog > Inclusion and Diversity

Let’s agree to disagree

I’ve been watching a TV series called You Can’t Take it With You in which business guru Sir Gerry Robinson helps bring families together to write their wills. Given the differing values, priorities, perspectives and emotional sensitivity of those involved, it’s unsurprising that -- if not visible, then just below the surface -- there’s always a degree of tension or even conflict amongst family members.

What many of the individuals do -- like so many of us in the workplace -- is try to avoid that tension or conflict altogether, or simply ignore it. If we can’t say something nice, our mothers taught us, don’t say anything at all. Of course, Sir Gerry’s task is to help the families tackle these difficult challenges and decisions. Inevitably, tension or conflict becomes unavoidable, and with it the potential for it to get disagreeable or even destructive.

So what is surprising is just how often he manages to pull off a minor miracle and turn conflict into collaboration. From favouritism, to boys versus girls, to judgments about people’s lifestyles to plain old-fashioned prejudice, Sir Gerry has helped negotiate a way through them all.

The typical strategy says Sir Gerry is to avoid conflict and close down dialogue and discussion (“I’m not prepared to talk about it”). Whilst this approach appears to work for many, stubbornness and inflexibility set in. And when tensions bubble to the surface, people already convinced of the rightness of their view become increasingly polarised around conflicting positions and values. The result he says is ‘destructive conflict’, which is personal, vindictive, and a source of pain.

Other strategies include reducing tensions and stresses by one party simply accommodating the wishes of the other -- a one-sided ‘win-lose’ situation. But this simply glosses over the issue -- something Sir Gerry won’t accept. Another widely accepted means of resolving conflict is to accept that there needs to be give and take on all sides, involving a series of ‘concessions’. A ‘win-some, lose-some’ strategy.

But Sir Gerry believes that when managed properly, conflict can have many positive aspects and even bring about innovative solutions. His ‘constructive conflict’ approach works because those involved have a positive learning experience from the event and see that theirs is not a case of ‘right against wrong’ so much as ‘right against right’. By creating the conditions for each party to both speak and listen he ensures they understand both the what and the why of their differences. By opening up dialogue and sharing and assessing the reasons for the conflict, issues can be clarified which results in more possible alternatives and opportunities to solving the problem. A clear ‘win-win’ strategy.

So how do we manage conflict so that it’s a positive not a negative force? I think it starts with the simple notion that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And that we have to make it “safe” to be different,  to take opposite points of view and to disagree. When people know they can stand up and say what they believe without being castigated, guess what? They will!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Staying Relevant

It’s against human nature to react favorably to the disruption of process change. Continuous improvement means continuous change, and change takes people out of their comfort zone. How have you seen people react to changes in their work? The typical reaction is resistance. As Machiavelli pointed out in The Prince roughly 500 years ago, there is no constituency for innovation: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

- Brad Power, Harvard Business Review Read More »

Tags: , , , , ,

Diversity is a no-brainer, says Bank of America

“I can’t emphasise enough just how important – and real – diversity is at Bank of America. Everything we do in the company supports one of our core values: inclusive meritocracy. For us, diversity is all about inclusion. It is not just about gender. It’s not just about ethnicity. Here, diversity and inclusion mean respecting and valuing all nationalities, cultures, religions, sexual orientation, economic and social backgrounds and disabilities. By working with our differences, we can develop innovative products for our customers and a unique environment for our associates.” Geri Thomas, global diversity and inclusion executive from the Bank of America Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Collaboration: What Does it really mean?

If you type the word “collaboration” into any of the search engines, you’ll get 82 million results.  I’m quite sure this won’t surprise you since we hear the word “collaboration” all the time.

I have the privilege of speaking to audiences up to 100 times a year. And can you guess the most popular topic they ask me to address?  You got it. Collaboration!

I’ve learned a lot about collaboration in researching for these keynotes, and in discussing it with top business leaders. This has led me to the following five observations:

1.    Definition – There is a lot of confusion on the very definition of collaboration. If you ask 20 people, you might get 20 answers.

2.    Value of collaboration – For the most part everyone agrees collaboration is a good thing to do but many haven’t defined what value it brings to their company, or why to do it at all.

3.    How to do it? –  “Effective collaboration” requires a major focus on culture, the deployment and use of technology,  the adoption of process / governance for positive results. Few companies focus on all three.

4.    Bad is worse than none –  Morten Hansen points out in his book Collaboration, that bad collaboration is a waste time and resources and produces no results.  Deciding not to collaborate is a better option than bad collaboration.

5.    Used interchangeably with “innovation” –  There is clearly some confusion with the relationship between collaboration and innovation.  By being innovative you aren’t necessarily being collaborative and vise versa.  There are interdependencies between the two but they are not the same thing.
Read More »

Tags: , ,

Cultural Considerations of Facebook

“The one thing all the popular Japanese social media platforms have in common is anonymity,”

Facebook has more than 500 million active users and is the most popular social media channel in the world. But accordingly to an online article from The Next Web, Japan is one of Facebook’s lowest performing markets. Out of an online population of almost 100 million, there are just 2 million registered Facebook users which represents a penetration of just 2%. Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,