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12 Dec. 2013 | Comments (0)

As Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) leaders scan the landscape for ways to enhance the value created through D&I, how can they be more inclusive of broader sources of insight? Many corporate leaders learn primarily by surveying practices engaged at other corporations. Some examine an even more limited slice by benchmarking only with direct competitors in their own industry or within their own region. 

Although the collection of current D&I practices in corporations is one good source of information, it can be limiting. It is difficult to significantly advance the value of D&I, achieve critical breakthroughs, or gain a competitive advantage when all companies are emulating each other by focusing on the same pool of approaches to this work. 

I have come to appreciate that many of my most groundbreaking ideas for D&I are sparked by interactions with diverse sources, including initiatives lying far beyond the walls of corporations. Recognizing this, I have made it a core practice to consider how a wide variety of organizations are effective in their work, an effort that requires relentless curiosity, humility, and a sincere openness to learning. Engaged in this manner, I seek to translate, extract, adapt, and integrate the learning into a corporate environment as I work to help business leaders design new and inclusive ways of working to achieve increasingly meaningful and sustainable results. 

Where can you gain insight and inspiration outside of your sector?  Here are some individuals, organizations and approaches that have impacted the work I do:

Social innovators and social entrepreneurs:

Learn from those who focus on purpose beyond profit. Social innovators can be a model for a sharp focus on new approaches to deliver impact and outcomes that matter. They often demonstrate a model for an ideal alignment between values, actions, and outcomes.  As innovators, they also create novel perspectives, partnerships, and ways of working to address particularly difficult and persistent challenges.

• How is Tostan able to bring about generational change in just 3 years with widespread impacts positively impacting human rights and gender balance in education, health care, leadership, development and more? 
• How does Roots of Empathy cultivate empathy to foster inclusion and mitigate bullying?

Complex transformation experts:

Seek new insight about methods that bring about lasting change. The ways change is successfully managed for many common business initiatives have failed to fully address the unique complexity of D&I transformations. Learn from those who cultivate the conditions that bring about change when it is extraordinarily difficult. 

• How does REOS Partners help navigate extremely complex change and sticky challenges, such as mapping the transition away from South African apartheid?

Organizations which are transparent about failures:

Gain an advantage over the many organizations that hide and ignore failure by learning from a balance of best practices, worst practices, and promising practices that need to be refined to deliver proven results. Learn about robust processes and share lessons learned from failures, while also gaining knowledge about actual lessons others share from their failures.

• How does Engineers Without Borders learn from failure as they nurture systemic change?


Take advantage of the wealth of academic research to broaden contemporary insight into your work. Even more fertile can be insight gained from non-traditional academics who take a more inclusive, collaborative, and cross-sector approach to co-create insight and solutions in partnership with communities. 

• How does Project Re•Vision use digital storytelling and other arts-based methods to dismantle stereotypes, speak back to dominant narratives, and enhance inclusion and equity? 
• How has ICASP (the international Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project) developed a new field of interdisciplinary research exploring musical improvisation to bring about social change?

Innovation incubators:

Tap into the rich source of information from organizations that stimulate, foster and advance innovation. Study their processes, tools, and success stories to find out how to generate, develop, and execute breakthrough ideas.  Adapt those ways of working to create new value in D&I. 

• How does the MaRS Discovery District nurture innovation?

International NGOs

Gain fresh perspectives from non-governmental organizations that are working on human rights initiatives which overlap with corporate D&I opportunities. Much can be learned from how effective these organizations are despite severe resource constraints. Even more, many of these organizations have been effective in managing diversity and cultivating inclusion as they bring diverse individuals together to meet a critical need.

• How does Oxfam rapidly build trust among multicultural volunteers that must quickly form effective teams to address a crisis?

By taking a more inclusive approach in the search for effective ways to deliver results across sectors, regions, and disciplines, you can expand the possibilities to create something new that proves useful for your work in D&I.

Where do you look outside the box to find diverse perspectives and diverse ways of working that can help your organization break free from the status quo and break through to D&I results that matter?


View our complete listing of Diversity & Inclusion blogs.

  • About the Author: Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele is a senior fellow providing diversity & inclusion (D&I) expertise for The Conference Board. She serves as program director for both the Diversity & Inclusion Executives and…

    Full Bio | More from Rebekah Steele


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