Case study (continued)
This team was quite heterogeneous regarding preferences for direct and indirect communication. The COF assessment revealed that the full spectrum was represented with members preferring direct communication (clarity matters most when delivering a difficult message, at the risk of offending or hurting) and indirect communication (sensitivity matters most, at the risk of misunderstanding). Furthermore, over 60% of the team scored unfavourably on the ability to communicate directly and close to 50% scored unfavourably for indirect communication.
In the preliminary one-on-one interviews I had with members of the team, some complained that certain members were too direct, which they perceived as aggressive. Others, upset by colleagues, would passively accept the situation without confronting their peers through fear of alienating them.
Seeing the COF team histograms allowed team members to reframe issues that had become personal into a cultural misunderstanding and offered them a path to bridge the gap: leveraging direct and indirect communication patterns can be achieved when you are clear on the content and sensitive in the form. For example, one member with a clear orientation for indirect communication mustered the courage to speak up to confront colleagues, when necessary, while another member with a clear orientation for direct communication made an effort to soften their tone. The team achieved D&I 2.0 by taking the best of both cultural perspectives while sacrificing neither.
Unattended internal diversity regarding direct and indirect communication had been a source of misunderstanding, frustration and conflict. When leveraged, it became a source of creativity. The open and constructive exchange of ideas was now possible because team members had learned to be mindful of differences and to speak both candidly and tactfully.
D&I 3.0: Implicit (or hidden) diversity
Cultural diversity may be external (visible differences such as ethnicity, gender or age) and internal (cultural preferences regarding time management, communication, thinking, organising and so on). This dichotomy is related to the known surface-level/deep-level diversity distinction (Meyer, 2017) and to the associated D&I 1.0 and D&I 2.0 approaches described above.
This distinction is useful in that it allows us to describe and then enlarge our inner territory. By expanding our worldview, we access new external choices and become more effective. The separation is apparently an illusion, however, and reality is not that simple. It is more interconnected and complex than we think. In line with the holographic/complexity/organic paradigm (Bohm, 1980; Talbot, 1991; Morin, 2005; Rosinski, 2010) that transcends the still-prevalent mechanistic worldview without excluding it, I have proposed a complementary dichotomy (2019): cultural diversity is explicit (manifested) or implicit (hidden but nevertheless potentially available). In other words, for example, a team might come across as relatively homogeneous and would not be considered diverse under the usual definitions (referring to visible characteristics or to internal/cognitive diversity). However, from a holographic standpoint – which accounts for notions such as Carl Jung’s collective unconscious as well as coaching’s belief in the vast, yet largely untapped, human potential – this apparent homogeneous team would be still considered diverse and heterogeneous, albeit in an implicit, enfolded sense.
Inclusion at the 3.0 level is about tapping into our unconscious diversity potential and leveraging it, individually and collectively. I have shown how this concept can be put into practice when coaching teams in order to remove cultural blindspots and access teams’ hidden cultural potential (Rosinski, 2019).Download Article 1K Club