There is NOT an APP for that!

What came first..?
A few weeks ago I received an email through LinkedIn asking me if I had a few minutes to chat with a fellow who is selling an app that would provide inclusion education for employees.  He claimed that at least one university was already using the alpha or beta version of this app.  He was asking for my input regarding his intention to expand his business into the public and private sectors.
My reply: “I believe that the computer and social media are incredible tools that can augment and enhance effective diversity and inclusion education, but are not sufficient on their own in this very sensitive area.”  He responded that they plan to offer blended education using a coach and online modules. I wonder how you can develop and test such an app before you check in with the subject matter experts.

Effective Education

In 1990 I set out to develop sexual harassment prevention and EEO (equal employment opportunity) education that would make a difference.  I was working at an organization that had a very low percentage of women and the mandatory aspect of the sexual harassment prevention and EEO education did not go over very well with most employees. I needed to reach my audience within the first 5 minutes of the workshops or I would lose them entirely.  So, I designed interactive exercises that got people talking right away, instead of torturing them with a slow, painful recitation of EEO laws facilitated through death by Power Point.
Many people approached me at the end of the sessions and thanked me, often hugged me and told me that they – frequently the same employees who had approached me four hours earlier, saying that they did not have time to waste sitting in this class –thought the session could be longer. They had more questions and wanted to do more brain-storming with the other participants. That they had actually had FUN! 

Can you relate?

I am not sharing this with you because I need to brag about my accomplishments.  I am sharing this with you because it is important to understand how critical it is that education in this sensitive and dangerous – yes, dangerous – subject matter is facilitated by someone who really knows the subject and how to reach the participants. That means that effectiveEEO, diversity and inclusion education is interactive and considers the fact that everyone in the room has strong feelings about discrimination and has had a myriad of experiences that result in the development of personal lenses of filters.  Diversity and EEO education is not the same as training someone how to use their cell phone.  This education is about relationships and so, the participants need to practice relating. 

When I used the word organism in my article, “The Evolution of Inclusion,” I was not using it as a metaphor. Organizations are comprised of people, not widgets and so I recommend that we take a more human approach to educating members of organizations about preventing sexual harassment, the history and laws pertaining to discrimination and EEO, diversity theory, and the value of creating an inclusive environment.  This recommendation is not based on legal requisites or on the fact that discriminatory behavior is not nice, it is based on the fact that people need other people in order to do their jobs successfully. In other words, people – all people – are interdependent.

What difference does difference make?
I know, I keep bringing up that word, interdependent, but it is the right word to use.  We are interdependent and if you have ever participated in team building sessions, you know that interdependence is at the core of those efforts.  I do not hear enough about this in discussions on diversity and inclusion.  We hear a great deal of discussion about ‘them’ and how ‘they’ are not doing whatever it is that we want them to do, (who ever ‘they’ are).  Well, let’s help people to discover their interdependence and then perhaps they will become independent from their fears of ‘them’!

This can only be achieved through interactive exercises that help people to experience change.  Perhaps they will experience a change of heart, or a change of attitude or a change of opinion.  This is always my goal when I prepare educational sessions for clients.  How might I help the participants to learn how they see others?  How might I help the people in the room to understand that different is only different, not better or worse, necessarily? (For example, I like chocolate and cheese – both a bit too much.) My ultimate goal, however is to help people to understand that different is better. Being around difference is better for us.  It makes us smarter, more interesting and more creative.  Difference makes us more aware of ourselves, not in a self-conscious way, but in a self-celebratory way.  Difference is delicious and beautiful and fun!  And there is not an app for that!


~ Wendy

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