On the groundfloor the program was accessible for all: drinks, food, all Amsterdam made. Think of Kesbeke, Frites uit Zuyd, and the best peanut butter I ever ate – but strange enough the website of the festival doesn’t even mention them, nor some other very good products that show the best of Amsterdam.
On the 3rd floor, there was a mixture of concrete stuff like lamps, jewelry and a spectacular artist in velvet (Velvet Matters), her work is really worth a visit! However a big part of the floor was empty and there were also objects like this one on the left – again no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
The idea of an Amsterdam Maker Festival is great, I heard many positive reactions on that. For a next version, there is some work to do. For example, what is Amsterdam Made > does it really include Leiden, Nijmegen and the like? The festival seems to expand Amsterdam not just with a small circle but by conquering all of our country. And who exactly is the public for this festival: kids, grownups, nerds, general public, people who come to buy something, or people interested in some kind of experience (and then: what experience)? And last but not least: the website of the Amsterdam Maker Festival that is not very accessible for general public and does not mention half of the things general public would be interested in (like finding back the special peanut butter whose name I did not write down when I was on the spot). Amsterdam is a great brand that inspires many people. I really hope this will be continued!
For two years my company Seba (www.seba.nl) and the Dutch Foundation for Refugee Students UAF (www.uaf.nl) ran a project for refugees at work. Yesterday we presented many best practices to utilize refugee talent at work. One would say, why is that necessary at all? But it appears that employers and recruiters do not automatically recognize the talents of refugees, also the high educated with Dutch diplomas. To develop these best practices, we cooperated with organisations like Dubois&Co, Hogeschool Leiden, NS, Van Houtum, Vluchtelingenwerk and VUmc so the background of our findings is real life! See for more info (Dutch only) at: UAF
We did do research about findings elsewhere in the world, but there was not a lot of specific information. Some was about migrants in general, other was about the coaching of refugees. Hardly any material was found to study how organisations can and will use refugee talents, what is necessary for that at organisational level. If you have such material about organisations in your country, we are very interested to hear from you. Refugees are often entrepreneurial as they face the need to set up and establish themselves in a new environment so why do they not get more involved in organisations and instead colour the ranks of unemployment figures – not just in the Netherlands?
Migration and the intake of refugees can diversify and enhance the skill level of the population, increase economies of scale and foster innovation and flexibility. One interesting detail: we found that five of Australia’s eight billionaires were people whose families had originally come to the country as refugees.
Want to order this die on the photograph (Dutch only)? Available for free from email@example.com
Diversity in governance
“During every match there are three minutes that really matter“, football icon Johan Cruijff said. I put this quote in my new book about diversity in the governance of public housing corporations. It relates directly to diversity competence at board level.
Diversity does not matter ‘all the time’. It is not about political correctness. It is about being open for it ánd recognizing it ánd the ability to make it work for the board and the organisation in the right moment: those three minutes that particularly matter! That is a specific competence that first of all chairs need, and then also other boardmembers.
Is diversity in governance an issue for public housing corporations? The board members I interviewed in the book agreed on that, but they saw it in a different way. Some would put accent on the board dynamics and decision making process that are richer and more balanced in a diverse board. Others just comment on the fact that there are still few women, younger people or people with a minority background at board level, considered as less favourable for the public image of housing corporations and also less favourable for the necessary knowledge about customer needs, as the customers are much more diverse than the boards are.
The title of the book is ‘Kwaliteit staat op nummer één’, quality comes first. That is what people often say when talking about diversity in governance, as if appointing ‘different’ people would mean bringing in less quality. Football icon Johan Cruijff said: “Quality comes first but quality must serve the entity as a whole“.
Buy my book at www.diversityshop.nl, www.bol.com, www.boekenroute.nl or in your local bookshop and read all about board principles, actuality in governance and diversity, practical cases and tools and so on… and please send me your feedback or other reactions, I will be happy to hear them!
Diversity at work – diversiteit op de werkvloer
In the Netherlands managers often feel confused about cultural differences. The main confusion derives from the question: does this person act ‘like that’ because of his cultural background or is he ‘like that’ as a personality?
Apparently managers seem to consider culture as a source of behaviour that they have to take into account, while personality as the source of behaviour means that they will not accept the behaviour they see. As they cannot decide ‘is it culture or personality’ they are facing a dilemma in how to deal with ineffective behaviours at work – let alone the question how to deal with customer behaviour that is perceived as probably culturally different.
Last week I published a new book about diversity at work: Diversiteit op de Werkvloer (available in Dutch at www.diversityshop.nl). It shows how culture works out in daily business life. One chapter of the book proves that culture exists, another chapter that it doesn’t exist. There is no way managers will solve their business issues by analyzing culture as an objective fact. In line with that way of thinking, diversity at work is much larger than just culture.
The perception of difference matters at work (and also in other situations): when you see somebody, do you see a person that looks like you or that is different from you? And how does that influence your acts, your decision making?
The perception of difference includes not just culture but also gender, sexual orientation, age and many things that cannot be seen directly but can still be perceived like education, class or intelligence. Those who develop insight in the mechanisms of perceptions and skills in handling them, will be most succesfull when confronted with diversity at work.
Meet me at lunch!
Want to know more about this? Inscribe for an interesting lunch meeting and meet me in Amsterdam at 6th December or The Hague at 14th December, more info at www.seba.nl
On an Amsterdam conference in July the Company Pride Platform presented the Declaration of Amsterdam ‘Call to Action’ (see also: Company Pride ). The Company Pride Platform wants a free and safe workplace for employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – ‘pink’ I’d say but most professionals say LGBT employees so I will do that too. Four focus points are essential in Company Pride:
– inclusive corporate cultures
– working environment beyond legal minimum requirements
– active leadership from ‘straight’ allies and LGBT role models
– collaboration between ‘straight’ and LGBT for mutually beneficial improvements
The Company Pride Platform’s conference in July was a mixture of raising awareness, story telling and a call for active leadership. It was meaningful and moving to be there. The urgency for active leadership in Company Pride is clear on all levels of the organisation. Especially safety is an issue to be taken into account: socially, physically and mentally.
A note on the side of this all is that quite some questions arose to which answers already exist. Diversity is not that recent an issue; some aspects may be particular for LGBT, but most aspects are common regardless of the subject being gender, age, handicap, etnicity, religion or LGBT. LBGT is relatively ‘new’ in this area, it certainly is a taboo in many places and not free in quite some countries. That however is an extra argument not to approach LGBT in a too isolated way, don’t loose energy by reinventing the wheel again and prevent that subgroups have to fight against each other to get leadership attention.
My experience is that every subgroup is afraid that it’s particular interests will disappear when cooperating with others; in this light, the focus point of inclusive corporate culture is the only road along which the diverse employees of the 21st century can and will ‘feel valued, can be their authentic selves and realize their full potential’ as the Declaration of Amsterdam says.
It was really not an easy thing to develop: our first video about diversity. The point is that my book, originally edited in Dutch, was now translated in English but I do spend most of my time in the Netherlands: so how to sell an English book like that? I asked for advice on linkedin and was not disappointed. Many ideas came up, among which the idea of this blog in English and, as said, a Youtube video.
Talking about diversity in Youtube style means that it can not be like anything that I usually present in front of public or groups who are waiting for a enthusiast, funny, but also serious or thorough story. Or is that thoroughness just something that I particularly value myself?
My book is about the ten critical success factors of diversity management… way too boring for Youtube! Who will have the patience to watch ten factors…??? So to create the video we went back to the essence of diversity and tried to find symbols to express that essence.
Please tell us whether we were yes or no successful in that ambition; you can leave your comments on the Youtube site under our video, we are curious to hear from you!
A new report is released by McKinsey & Co about the lack of women in the top ranks of organisations, see the online article. In this article we read that women need more coaching and more offering of leadership training. An unanswered question is: do men also get this coaching and leadership training and is that why they reach to the top while women don’t?
What I see around me is that women seem to need coaching and training where men can do without. It can be a temporary solution to offer coaching and training in such a situation, but it is not sustainable because the question why women need more coaching and training to reach to the same level is left unanswered. All too often the source of the diversity problem is connected to the way women are (‘no ambition or planning’) or the life they live (‘because they have children’). Solving the problem then ends up with changing women’s lives and mindsets, something that was tried before and it clearly didn’t work.
The article also mentions another, more interesting line of thinking: “As part of its research, McKinsey also analyzed the makeup of executive committees at Fortune 200 companies and found women make up just 15% of the top management panels. These “women are doubly handicapped” because 62% occupy staff jobs “that rarely lead to a CEO role,” the study said. In contrast, the report found that 65% of men on the executive committee hold line jobs, which typically involve profit and loss responsibility for an operation.”
Coaching and training is nice, but risk taking is better. Perceptions connect risk taking more with men than women. Organisations must face implicit perceptions that influence nominations. Women must stop to accept the all too often offered safe road to staff jobs and ask for line jobs only. Forget about leadership training for women: women be the leader you want to be and focus your energy on risk taking responsabilities!
New Orleans 2006
Many people seem to be surprised by the lack of looting in Japan in the aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami. Isn’t that normal human behaviour to become looters after a disaster? Some say that there are several Japanese articles about looting by Japanese looters that the western media didn’t pick up. Others say this is Japanese discipline, contrary to for example American reactions to disasters.
It reminds me of New Orleans 2006 where we had an international diversity conference in the months after Hurricane Katrina. We studied the role of the media in the aftermath of the disaster. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, the levees broke and the water came into town, mixing with factory chemicals and other polluting materials. This is why survivors broke into supermarkets; bottles of drinkable water could be found only there.
What the media showed was two things:
1. black people entering and leaving supermarkets: ‘looters who were profiting from temporary non-surveillance’
2. white women with kids entering and leaving supermarkets: ‘victims left on their own, searching for healthy water for their children’
Both social workers and the army were influenced by the media and acted accordingly which aggravated the suffering of black victims. It was strange to be at that conference and analyze this just a few months after the disaster: so recent, so real!
Are the Japanese more disciplined and less looters than the Americans are? Maybe this is true. However maybe not just the Japanese but also the media are more disciplined in Japan than they were in New Orleans.
In the Republic of Amsterdam we live with the myth that managers are rewarded objectively. We select them for certain qualities like getting the best out of a diverse team and it is only for good results that they will get our appreciation and be promoted. This sounds so nice and reasonable! But….
In between our ideas and daily reality stands a thing called culture. Culture is the subtle, invisible factor that determines ‘the way we do things here’. Culture colours our perception of the results achieved. Once upon a time, there were objectively formulated results in the Republic of Amsterdam. I guess they still exist but somehow in daily life the interpretation of the results has changed.
Most valued are not the managers who create a productive work climate where a diversity of team members give the best of their talents and offer excellent but stable outcomes: too boring! Most valued are those managers who extinguish a fire, who solve a crisis. And of course in order to extinguish a fire and solve a crisis, managers do need one. In case of non-availability, managers in the Republic of Amsterdam have become expert in creating them: exciting! Fire and crisis make your work visible: it is hard to attract media attention without a good crisis, so never waste one.
Although this mechanism can be quite funny, especially when you’re an insider trying to predict where the next fire will break out, it doesn’t work out for diversity. In this climate, managers with characteristics of heroism survive best; they set the agenda in Amsterdam, much more than the diverse customers or workers’ insights do. It won’t help to re-formulate the results! Reviewing ‘the way we do things here’ and facing our perceptions is the best way to make progress; tobe less of a fire fighter and more of a leader serving clients…
What many organisations hope is that political circumstances like 9/11 will stay without effect for their daily practices; business as usual is what they want. But what many European organisations face nowadays is a deep involvement with the political events in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordania, Jemen and other countries from their workers with Arabic background.
My company was consulted for different problematic situations about 9/11 in organisations, one of them even 2 years after 9/11. In 2001, the workers had had a fight because some workers wanted to have a 3 minutes silence for the victims of 9/11 and other workers had refused to be silent ‘as you have never asked for silence for the victims of Palestine so why should we be silent this time’. The managers of that organisation did not want to involve since it was ‘about politics’ and 2 years later this had evolved into an organisation where teams were divided along ethnic lines – and so were the lines of (non-)cooperation and communication. It was not an easy job to repair this situation and to get back to normal working structures after 2 years of distrust, pain, anger and so on. Politics and diversity had entangled in a complex way and new energy was needed to disentangle them.
Most organisations try to avoid politics and stick to business as usual. This is very good, but it does not always work. Politics can enter into your company anyway; that is what a diverse, globalizing world brings forward. Therefore in 2011 we do not need managers who tell people what to think or not think: we need managers who are able to manage this process, to create the right balance between discussion and true listening to each other on the one hand and business as usual on the other. Avoidance might work sometimes, but the risk of avoidance is larger than the risk of managing the process.
In my book Making the Difference this is the sixth success factor: “managers who recognize and identify the dynamics of diversity, and take action based on the benefits of diversity“. Managers who are able to create a business where workers listen to each other with respect will find out with those workers how that attitude will further benefit the business.
Read also: Egypt Arab spring or winter?
How does a Dutch author sell an English book? Last week I asked this question to quite a few of my linkedin contacts. In november 2007 my book Verschil moet er zijn about the critical success factors for diversity management was published in the Netherlands and almost immediately succesful. Recently it was published in English under the title Making the Difference. You can find it at the publisher’s bookshop and in bookstores like Amazon and Ingram. My experience is that publishers’ efforts to sell a book are limited – and I want my book to sell!
For the Dutch version of the book, it was more easy for us (‘us’ is my company Seba): we helt lunch meetings in different cities, I gave presentations, spoke on BNR, we had many customers interested in the book etc.
Now we are facing a new challenge, since Seba is based in the Netherlands and almost all our customers are Dutch speaking persons. So I asked for creative ways, ideas and advices to promote the new book Making the difference. The amount of tips coming in was heart warming, it is great to experience in practice that linkedin connections are willing to read your message and spent some time on thinking about it! What I liked most was the idea to have the book ‘leaked’ via Wikileaks 🙂
Many others adviced me to start a blog and twitter more so that the world can find out more about my ideas. Thus, by the end of 2010, this new blog is born…
Read more that might be interesting for you:
It’s nice to be creative
Refugees at work: best practices
Women entrepreneurship: trademission to Turkey (3)
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi