Why the C-Suite Hit Snooze on Your D&I Initiative and “Woke” Alarm

Why your diversity and inclusion initiative failed

Diversity creates more resilient organizations. Inclusion builds more agile teams. And C-suites everywhere hear the alarm bells ringing—and smack the snooze button again, and again. Why aren’t your diversity and inclusion initiatives getting the urgency they deserve? It could be any of the following.

1. It’s Not Lit And They’re Woke

Kidding .. what does that even mean? But it could be that the language you use to describe the diversity and inclusion initiative doesn’t resonate with your audience. If it isn’t speaking their language about the business initiatives they care about, they’ll tune it out.  “Because it’s the right thing to do,” might not enter into a business person’s field of vision. That is until it impacts the bottomline—and it ultimately will. Talk about their immediate responsibilities for innovation, agility and stronger teams. If you’re talking to those who value being “woke,” they already get it.

2. Not Funny. Not Different. Not Fun. Hard Pass.

Roll out “another Powerpoint step by step methodology to tell me blah, blah, blah that I already know” and watch the eyes glaze over. If they show up. You’re not going to get buy-in. Everyone certainly has better things to do than listen to platitudes from the rah-rah expert of the day repeat what the last one said that didn’t lead to any actionable change. You can’t bore your way to change. Said another way, you can’t impact change until you have their attention, and to get their attention you need to do something different. Talk about how you will impact innovation, agility and build stronger teams

3. Welcome to Your Roast

It’s like a bad high school cheer: “You say ‘diversity,’ I say ‘everybody but me.'” That’s what other’s thoughts might leap to when they hear diversity: “more of everybody but those like me.” To them, “Please, let me sign up for a couple of hours of how I’m ruining the world by my existence,” is not an attractive invitation. For many in the C-suite,  any of these settings could look like a trap—and they’ve spent a career avoiding those. They can easily rationalize their choices by saying that they need to focus on business activities they see as priorities. You know, like innovation, agility, and stronger teams.

Improv Makes Way For Innovation, Agility, and Stronger Teams

Improv isn’t like traditional diversity and inclusion training. It uses exercises that highlight the team as a whole and promote active listening and others’ focused awareness—key steps toward creating a diverse and inclusive environment. It brings everyone together in a safe environment where they can “Yes, And” their way to a better workplace environment for everyone, one where unusually high innovation, agility, and strong collaborative teams are the norms.

What can Improv do for your business? Find out at The Second City Works.

How Diversity Succeeds Where Monocultures Fail

Monoculture prevents innovation and diversity

Improv Makes Way For Diversity

Fact: monocultures will always be susceptible to catastrophic collapse … no exceptions. Monocultures take vast resources to resist the constant pressure of change and maintain that singular state. That might be great for a farmer and his crops (for a while) but it’s the death of agility and innovation in any environment.

Diversity Is More Than Societally Correct, It’s Smart Business

Diversity makes things stronger and more adaptable to change (NOTE: it also makes us smarter.) That applies to nature, business or anything. In nature, the Ash trees are a great example. One small change—enter the Emerald Ash Borer—and Ash trees everywhere are in peril. In business terms, you could think of them as disrupted, with dire consequences.

What Are You Sowing?

So, about your business environment—what do you see? If your business has one defined type, a monoculture, well it was nice knowing you. Change is going to happen, either to your business, your customers, or through stronger competitors. Studies show that diversified teams are more flexible, adaptable to change, and better at innovative problem-solving.  Top to bottom diversity helps to predict the organization and weather shifts from all directions.

On the Masters of Scale podcast, Sheryl Sandberg implored that diversity has to go past racial, national, age, gender, the expected examples. While all of that is important, you also need diversity in personality.  “If you are a white male who likes to code and sci-fi movies, you probably don’t want your whole team to be that,” she says. You need personalities that will drive like the devil in spurts and others that will be the calm in a storm. You need input from the center and from the edge.

Improv Fosters Diversity

All of us is better than one of us. That’s a key phrase that improv uses to build ensembles that are able to share, discover, succeed and fail together. All of these components are critical to building an organization that is others’ focused, recognizes divergent opinions, and is able to innovate and thrive on the global business stage.

The problem is that the benefits of diversity—the edge opinions, the inherent cultural insights, the different perspectives—won’t grow in the wrong environment.

Improv Provides Safe Growing Zones

It takes concerted action and trust in knowing that it’s alright to push the envelope. Trust provides the confidence and safety that their contributions are valued. Businesses that are trained in improv principles report the following:

  • More engaged employees
  • Deeper customer insights
  • More effective collaboration
  • Increased team productivity
  • Faster innovation
  • Improved global communication
  • Inclusive leadership

Improv Yes, And You Can

Improv can seem like a deceptively simple way to tackle big issues such as diversity, but that’s what makes it effective. It’s not “making it up” as you go. It’s about applying a defined set of principles, beginning with “yes, and …” (the cornerstone of improv) in situations that you and your team can learn and practice to become more effective at handling any number of situations in life and business.



Improve Bad Conversations With Improv

Improv can minimize bad conversations

Bad conversations cost businesses untold dollars every year—how much are they costing you? How much of the verbalization in your last meeting was actually beneficial to the cause? Seventy percent?  Sixty percent? Lower? The odds are if you actually timed it, the number would be startling. (You could appropriate this website for your purposes and give it a whirl next meeting.)

The result of these bad conversations are stone walls, hurdles and no’s that make communications take forever.  Worse, they don’t lead to useful conclusions. Unfortunately, many of the culprits don’t even realize the effect that they’re having. Instead of working Yes, And that could move things to the next step, they throw out the stop-strips and slow things to a crawl. Here are some of the major offenders.

Real-time Fact Checker – This person stops every conversation to re-assert, “actually” that they know more or better than whoever is talking, usually interjecting a point that is not critical to the conversation. Example: Oscar from The Office.

Aggressive Agreer – What’s the problem, they agree, right? Wrong. This person one that agrees with what was said, but has to add their own, unnecessary point, becoming almost contrarians while agreeing. Example, you say. “The sky is blue.”They say, “It’s not as blue as it used to be.” That’s not the point.

Swirler Twirler – What if … this person could make up their mind? Your meeting would be a lot shorter and move from one point to another. The swirler twirler continuously restates opposing viewpoints “to make sure we covered all of the bases.” We did. And we did it again. And again.

HEAR WHAT I SAY!! – Bring the oxygen tanks because this person is going to use all of the air in the room and you’re going to know it. How? They’re never going to cede the floor. They’re going to talk until the time is up.

Say It Again, Sam – This person waits until the meeting has reached a conclusion, then restarts the meeting by repeating what was said previously as their own thoughts. Step, by step.

Silent Denier – Think that person that hasn’t added anything to the meeting isn’t listening? Wrong. They’re waiting until the meeting is over so that they can tell everyone privately how they disagree with everything that has transpired. But they’re not going to speak now.

Teach An Old ____________ New Tricks

But there’s hope. Improv techniques can shake these aspiring conversationalist into patterns that move things forward. How? It starts with “Yes, And.” Like any change in human behavior,  becoming aware of what is verbalized and what the intended audience hears and experiences is the first step. The exercises that are the basis for improv bring these out in a natural and non-threatening way with guidance from seasoned practitioners.

The results are that conversations continue to a conclusion quickly. This can enable groups to explore more ideas and discover if they’re viable or doomed to failure. By allowing for multiple iterations, organizations find the agility and transparency that are the keys to success.

Improv Exercises In Practice

Here are some examples of how improv exercises could Yes, And the bad conversationalist above into a more aware and others’ focused state.

The Real-time Fact Checker –  Exercise: Take that Back

Aggressive Agreer -Exercise: Follow the Follower

Swirler-Twirler –Exercise: String of Pearls

HEAR WHAT I SAY!! –  Exercise: Word at a Time Story

Say It Again, Sam – Exercise: Last Word Response

Silent Denier – Exercise: Thank You Statues

You can find instructions to these exercises as well as more examples and case studies in the excellent book, ” Yes, And” by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton.

How to Be Visible When You’re Working Virtually


Working virtually has a number of advantages for both the company and the employee, the first and most important creating more engaged workers. But it’s not without its challenges for both sides. 

Remote offices have perks, but require diligence to maintain visibility.

For the Virtual worker in a remote office, a lack of facetime can mean out of sight, out of mind. And that’s not good for a career. Here are some tips on how remote workers can ensure their lack of an physical presence doesn’t make them invisible.

1. Jump In, Ease Out: Remote workers skip the commute and parking hassles. That means they can often be ready and focused to work earlier then office-bound colleagues and finish up details later without stressing to beat rush hour.
Action: Log in early with relevant questions or responses to start the day. Or share something interesting that you’ve found that might inspire someone else. Use the ending part of the day to plan your next day’s activities.

2. Maximize Focused Time: Most remote job roles require blocks of times that are uninterrupted by needless meetings, office chatter, and other interruptions. Diligent remote workers can tackle set time to delve into deep problems and ask for input when they need it.
Action: Use your calendar to block time appropriately, with visibility for the rest of the team, but ensure that you’re not excluded from necessary meetings.

3. Use the Technology: Many offices struggle to know what anyone is doing on a daily basis when colleagues are in the office. When associates are out of the office, it’s even worse. Don’t leave it in doubt or to chance.
Action: Communicate through channels the team uses, and acknowledge even the less important conversations that inevitably happen. Even though avoiding the extraneous chatter is one of the benefits of working remote, don’t ignore it completely. Participating keeps you present and in the loop office loop.

4. Set the Agenda: Just because you’re not on site doesn’t mean that you don’t have goals and things to accomplish. But you have to tell them. Being remote doesn’t mean that you can’t meet—the best companies do it and you can too. There’s a variety of technologies available that make meeting anywhere possible.
Action: Create the meeting, invite the team, and run the agenda. Being remote is not an excuse to not be proactive. Be diligent with recording what transpires so that you can refer to it later.

5. Nurture Personal Connections: All work is personal, and in many ways being remote enables even stronger connections. Communication can occur at a variety of paces that fit any number of parties and their time frames.
Action: Again, use technology to stay in touch with current and past colleagues. Sharing useful or interesting items will help you stay engaged and the lucky recipients as well.

6. Be Present: When you’re in meetings virtually, contribute. That’s why you were invited. It’s not enough to log in, put the microphone on mute and carry on as if you’re not there.
Action: Plan for the meeting, have questions, and actively listen. Take notes. Follow up afterward to make sure action items are clear. In other words, treat it like a meeting on site, because the remote you is “on your site.” It’s also a great idea to check-in and ask how you can help when you have openings on your calendar.

7. Facetime: When you do have a face-to-face meeting or are on site maximize your time to make an impression and build your value.
Action: Make a list of what you’re working on, what’s going well and where you could use assistance or feedback. Schedule quick meetings—even just coffee—in accordance with your needs. Need approval? Schedule the higher-ups first. Need validation? Check-in with your peers.

A Virtual World of Opportunity

Working remote allows employers to hire the best talent wherever they are and workers to contribute in ways they never imagined. It has proven to lead to great business results and improved work-life balance. It takes diligence and dedication to make it worthwhile for both parties, with a lot of it falling on the remote worker to make sure that they and their contributions are seen.


Mobile First? Not So Fast—Consider the Journey

While there are good reasons to make mobile a priority—from the 50% increase in travel-related searches on mobile to improved search rankings to controlling design costs—the perception that everything is mobile or mobile only, is misleading. In fact, what’s more common is using multiple devices during the day and for adults to choose the best device based on their objective.

The previous is an excerpt from a blog post first published on Nov. 7, 2017 on  Wilson Advertising, Mobile First? Not so Fast—Consider the Journey.