Survival of the Fittest: Redefining Success

Investigating the complex topic of success these days means reflecting as much on our past to understand how we got here as finding our way forward. Times are a’changing at break-neck speed . We’re faced with the evolution of social norms beyond our control – yet how does this relate to how we judge success? And how does this relate to diversity and inclusion?

I spoke to Carol Borghesi – Customer Strategist and Speaker with a wealth of experience in consumer culture, plus I have added my own views on the topic…

Human superpowers as an imperative of success – Carol’s view

Apparently, Darwin wasn’t the author of the survival of the fittest quotation – although he most certainly inspired the many variations on the theme. Like this one, for example:

“The law of evolution is that the strongest survives!’

Yes. And the strongest, in the existence of any social species, are those who are most social. There is no greater evidence of the urgent need to redefine success than the realisation that we are way beyond brute strength and hunting prowess as the benchmarks of ‘fittest of our species.’ As the 25-year-old daughter of theologian and host NPR’s of “On Being”, Krista Tippett, told her mother: “We are revisiting the definition of what fit means, taking in that the genius of our species is as much in its superpowers of cooperation & interdependence, of generosity beyond kin and tribe, as in our muscles of fighting and winning”. This opens the door to a very different interpretation and composition of workforce capabilities and talent. A very significant departure from command and control; power concentration and winner- take- all approaches.

And what an ideal time to seize upon diversity and inclusion – human superpowers as an imperative of success…

There is a connection between how we judge success: title; size of salary; and accomplishments and the people we recruit. We see people as “what they do” and “what they’ve done.” I cringe at the prominence of my own credentials in any introduction, because it doubles down on this message that you have to have a big career; that you have to be number one; that “you are what you do”. It is a myth and an ideal that applies to very few roles in life. The wisdom of the ages applies after all: what we do for a living is in service being human. The good life isn’t guaranteed by the externalities, it’s despite them.

There’s an ocean of evidence that points out correlation between values; character; and aptitude and being a good employee. And yet we persist in following the same recipe in recruitment. Now is the time to move away from salary & perks that have little or no impact on the overall wellbeing of employees and create working environments that enable living well.

Diversity and Inclusion begins to take hold when we change recruitment processes have become even less human centered and more algorithmically driven. The problem with algorithms, of course, is they tend produce what you already have. Not what you don’t yet know you need. That’s why we struggle so much to shift the mix of backgrounds and thinking styles and representations of our customers from “same old same old” to substantially diverse and inclusive workplaces. Struggle, however, is what ensures survival of the fittest.

The evolution of workplace diversity – Lynda’s view

In the 1960’s, social and political changes resulted in the passage of civil rights legislation that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex and even age. Arguably, the ‘beginning’ of diversification.

Fast forward to the 80’s, the concept of workplace diversity has evolved in both scope and complexity. On the simplest level, this evolution has added more demographic characteristics to be considered in the workplace—for example, religious practices, family status, and sexual orientation.

Yet why it that this quote: “It’s hard to define what diversity is because everyone has an opinion.” – (Goldman Sachs diversity ad, 2000)… absolutely speaks volumes… although this ad appeared almost twenty years ago. What has changed during this time?

From seeing so many different levels of working styles, there is such an expansive definition of diversity. There’s so much more emphasis now on mental wellbeing – how people think, feel and behave at work and their acceptance, performance at work, satisfaction within a role, opportunity to progress… there are so many factors to consider. So how are we adapting to the changes? What shift in paradigm will lead to a more integrated, diverse and inclusive culture?

Following this year’s _Making Diversity & Inclusion a Business Reality event_, we discussed this in detail and for me, the main point is that D&I shouldn’t just be a ‘box ticking’ exercise. It needs to fundamentally become integrated within the workplace. It’s not simply about employing what might be deemed as an adequate number of women, minorities or disabled people in the workplace and moving on… rather, it’s a much more profound company-wide shift in mindset that redefines the culture and approach.

This is what will redefine success… and ultimately ensure the ‘fitness’ of future managers and CEOs.

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