A final blog post for now…

I am truly thrilled to have been chosen to take on the role of Director of Inclusion for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

I think it shows great foresight by the RIBA to think about inclusion from an overarching perspective, acknowledging the benefits I can bring with skills in Cultural Intelligence (CQ).

Inspired by the post by Gloria Ataa Sekyere on the impact of these kinds of posts on LinkedIn, I will share some of my personal journey to reach this point.


It has been a long and sometimes difficult road for me to get here. There have been moments of real personal challenge, heartache and strife to overcome.

I remember, many years ago now, sitting in a meeting with a senior leader. I had come second – again – in a job interview but I’d impressed this person so he’d asked for a chat. I tried to assert how we needed to be more inclusive in the way news/broadcast agendas are set, reaching out to communities and allowing them to tell their stories, their way: “We need to give the unheard voice a place to speak!” I announced. “That’s a great line”, he replied. “It’s not a line”, I said, “it’s what I believe”.

But having articulated it, I knew it had been the motto I’d been living my whole career, and I needed to remember it.

Coming second in job interviews became the in-joke in the family. It’s how I ended up in one organisation which had a process called “also-suitable”, which meant I came second, but if a similar role came up within six months, I could be appointed with no further interview. And a job came up!

On at least four other occasions whether I went for roles (internally and externally), and I was even the best candidate! But a decision was made not to appoint.

Feedback appeared to have no consistency and on one occasion I was simply told, “you had the best strategy, the best approach and the best presentation, but we just had this niggle…”.

At another point, a wonderful moment at the time, I was headhunted, by those who knew I had a lot to give. But when my sponsor moved on, those around me ominously closed in, claiming publicly, “Marsha’s never going to live up to the way she was recruited” and my working life became unbearable. And thus, The Painful Years began.

I couldn’t rule myself out though. So, I made a plan to work for myself, and with the help and support of my husband, friends, family and particular colleagues, I executed it, despite all the challenges laid around me. I continued to develop myself, my knowledge, my expertise and my skills in order to ensure I was giving the unheard voice a place to speak.

Making the plan was important, because, as I often tell myself, and my girls, whatever you believe becomes your reality.

Working for myself has been so rewarding. To watch the light bulb moments, and to see others discover the real change that CQ can create in bringing about inclusion, has been brilliant.

Developing my own Inclusive Culture Pyramid™ tool and putting it to work has been so transformative.

However, working for myself has demonstrated to me where my own strengths lie. Unheard Voice Consultancy Ltd was always about doing inclusion work, rather than because I had particular ambition for the business or was particularly entrepreneurial, and it has well-served its purpose, to position me for this role.

I can now put all that accumulated learning to work, in one direction.


Working with the RIBA, those unheard voices in the built environment will not only have a place to speak, but will be listened to, as, together, we work to build a better world.

There will be more challenge. There will be more strife. But there is also hope. And step-by-step, there will be change.

It’s inclusion for all, or it’s not inclusion at all.

As I close it down for now, I say thank you, to all of you, who have supported me with Unheard Voice Consultancy Ltd.


A short while ago, I posted on Twitter about privilege and the impact on me as racism, and I received a lot of challenge on that.

I – absolutely – understand the challenge, which is why the conversation is so important. What are our different perspectives? And how do we come together?

When I was threatened with legal action (despite my post being anonymised) my heart was, quite literally, jumping out of my chest. I looked down at my fitbit which registered 140bpm.

It was then I saw a message from an ally. She reached out to me to ask how I was and demonstrated solidarity.

If it wasn’t for THAT message at THAT moment from Robin Stevens, I know I would have crumpled, run away and withdrawn, and those who wish to shut-up the conversation about these matters would have won.

Allyship is so important now, to people of colour (POC*) who are trying to open up anti-racism and to be heard about next steps. The thing is, next steps are impossible if we need to tackle inherent issues of privilege and fragility. Black people and other POC will keep on receiving this, sometimes very hurtful, kick back when they try.

So, potential allies, Tom Ilube CBE suggests the following 6 things:

A – Advocate; use your privilege and give up your opportunity to speak, to give a platform to underrepresented voices.

LL – Listen and Learn; (do the work first) and with people of colour with whom you have a trusted relationship, ask them about their experiences

I – Intervene; whether or not there are POC in the “room”, call out inappropriate behaviours or language. It has greater impact if there are no POC present.

E – Engage; look out for and support those pushing the case for equality.

S – Sponsorship; actively fight for individuals of colour whose personal outcomes you can assist.

Thanks so much, Robin, for allyship when I needed it most.

With help like that we can keep the conversations going.

(*Terms to describe Black and minority ethnic people, or those non-white, are all problematic. I prefer POC).

Don’t “Treat Others as You Wish to be Treated”

It’s a primary principle, isn’t it? In terms of treating people with dignity and respect?

Matthew 7:12 – “So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you…”

It’s also known as The Golden Rule.

There’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to it and its references across world religions.

The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures.[1] It can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although other religions treat it differently. The maxim may appear as a positive or negative injunction governing conduct:

  • Treat others as you would like others to treat you (positive or directive form)
  • Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form)[1]
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form)[1]

So, who am I to come along to say “don’t bother, it is, in fact, a misguided thing to do”?

Well, I know I’m not the first person to say it, but it seems like the message isn’t, really, being received.

The issue is that to “treat others as you wish to be treated” has at its core a shaky presumption: that I wish to be treated in the same way as you wish to be treated.

How do you know how I wish to be treated? Are my values the same as yours? Are you not, in fact, assuming, and imposing your ideas upon me, if you treat me the way you wish to be treated?

I understand, at its core, the idea is that to deal with others with humanity, dignity and respect, but if you don’t know what dignity and respect are for me, aren’t you in danger of not actually following the ideal behind The Golden Rule?

And so, we need a revision.

We ought to treat others as they wish to be treated.

We need to understand what others consider to be dignity and respect, and show that to them.

We must treat others as they would wish to be treated, because to do so through our own lens is to not take into account what they consider to be respect, dignity and humanity, it would be our own view of it. Understanding someone else’s values is tough, but ultimately totally worthwhile.

So how do we understand someone else’s values?

The good news is, there’s a way. This is where we need CQ™: Cultural Intelligence.

CQ™ is the ability to relate and work effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. Based on more than twenty years of research across over 100 countries, we know that there are four capabilities that need to be developed in order to relate and work effectively with people from different backgrounds.

Cultural Intelligence begins with CQ Drive—the curiosity and motivation needed to work well with others. Next is CQ Knowledge—understanding the kinds of differences that describe one group versus the next, without resorting to stereotyping specific cultures. Third is CQ Strategy—learning how to plan effectively in light of cultural differences. And finally, is CQ Action—being able to adapt behaviour when the situation requires it.[2]

The even better news is, CQ is measurable, with an assessment.

Incorporated into this is the concept of 10 Cultural Value preferences, which describe basic tendencies in the way that people prefer to work and live.

By understanding your own preferences in this area and comparing them with typical norms for other groups you will develop insights that can help you understand other people’s actions and improve your interpersonal effectiveness.[2]

The best news is, CQ is an improvable skill.

By taking these steps to understand yourself and then the preferences of others, and then using CQ as a framework of behaviour to act differently, and continually learn, you can treat others as they wish to be treated and truly fulfil the sentiment of The Golden Rule.

1.      Antony Flew, ed. (1979). “golden rule”. A Dictionary of Philosophy. London: Pan Books in association with The MacMillan Press. p. 134.

2.      Cultural Intelligence Center Culturalq.com

A Letter to Everyone I Know

I need your help. 

I was going to post this a while ago, but I was worried about reactions, so I didn’t. 

But now, people I know are hurting so badly, I must.

The last few years have caused me to examine myself, who I am and my place in the world. I consider myself a hard worker and a decent, reasonable person. I don’t intentionally hurt others and I am generally law abiding. When I behave against any of that, I try to look at myself and my actions and try to adjust. I am of reasonable intelligence and I am always studying to get more qualifications in order to prove what I have learned. 

However, my experiences and ambition have been marred by something, and every day I see life damaged by it.

Something ugly.

I wanted to understand that ugliness rather than just be angry and despondent about it, and so over the last couple of years or so, I have committed to reading a number of books, reports and accessing resources to see what is the background to it. 

What I found dismayed me even more. I came to realise my own complicity in it but also my powerlessness.

Two ideas have lodged with me: one, to paraphrase Dr Robin DiAngelo, if it had been only up to women to do so, they would have achieved the right to vote without the need for the suffragette movement; they needed men to make the change, and support it.

And another quote stuck out, so clearly, so brightly, that it is imprinted itself on me as an explanation for everything. 

“…if all you’ve known is privilege, then equality feels like oppression.” – Dr Adam Rutherford 

This, together with Rihanna accepting an award at the NAACP asking her friends, who are not people of colour, to “pull up”, because our struggle is yours too, has prompted this article.

The help I refer to, is I need to ask you to be anti-racist.

I am! I hear you cry.

I’m sure you are against racism as an idea, but can you see it for what it really is? Do you continually act against it?

Well, if you can answer yes to these four questions then, you are indeed, anti-racist. 

If not, I’d really like you to consider doing the work, so you can act in future. 

– Have you read Dr Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Reni Eddo Lodge, Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race?

– Do you understand the role of whiteness (and, for those of us who are people of colour, being socialised as white) in maintaining racial oppression in today’s world?

– Do you engage in real conversations within trusted relationships about race with people of colour knowing they can cause you discomfort?

– Do/Can you call out systemic and institutional racism? Not just obvious overt examples?

Please be assured, I am not directing this post at any individual. I know I’ve hardly had any conversations about race, real ones, with anyone except my husband.

It’s really important to understand, it’s not just up to people of colour to educate you, you have to want to find the info and do it for yourself. 

So many of us are tired.

Racism is about impact, not intention; that’s why calling out the bias in systems is so important and the thought processes that get them there.

It means overturning the core of yourself and seeing what’s there and observing all systems, institutions, processes and people around you. 

The veil will be lifted, the scales will fall from your eyes, and then, only then, will we have a chance of beating this ugliness, called racism.

Understanding Cultural Values

BBC News story

There are two sides to this story…


Denmark’s freedom of expression. China’s right to have their culture and flag respected.

Depending on your perspective, you may have a view which falls on one side or another. However, there is no ultimate right or wrong, they are just different perspectives.

The question is, do both sides understand why the other side feels the way it does about it? Have either side referenced the other’s right to react in the way they have, in making their point? Or has it become a matter of right and wrong?

If we are to live in a peaceful and collaborative, prosperous society, we must understand our own values, how they compare with other people’s and be willing to stretch to understand those other perspectives.

We don’t have to agree, we simply have to understand, and, then, if possible, try to find a collaborative solution. Or agree to disagree.

This requires CQ (TM): Cultural Intelligence.

The CQC, Cultural Intelligence Center, has done a great deal of academic research and determined there are 10 Cultural Values which are spectra upon which we all have a preference. Whether we are e.g. short-term or long termist, expressive or neutral, multi-taskers or focus-taskers.

The way we perceive freedom and respect differs across cultural norms, globally. Where we are in the world, our personal socialisation, education etc. determines how we would view the disagreement in this article.

How we would manage such a disagreement is down to our level of CQ.

Coming to an understanding of this kind needn’t bring a place into a state of anarchy where no one knows what’s right or wrong, or what our values are. We retain our core values and preferences, whilst gaining insight.

By truly being able to acknowledge someone else’s point of view we can enter the space for real consensus building, the secret to every successful relationship. Whether we’re a country, or an individual.

Compromise has become a dirty word, as if it’s come kind of concession or condescension. It’s a realistic approach to bring about a world where bridges are built, borders are removed and walls come tumbling down.

The question then remains – do they want to?

And that’s one of the core capabilities of CQ, wanting to. Having the motivation – CQ Drive – to push through the discomfort of facing difference, and coming out all the better for having and grown and learnt from it.

What should Denmark do? How should China respond?

The magazine needn’t do anything, but the politicians weighing in ought to acknowledge the slight. They can open up a conversation about satire and what is and isn’t acceptable in both cultures. And ultimately, I expect, agree to disagree. But with cordial recognition of the different perspectives.

No doubt the magazine would then post a satirical cartoon of the meetings, but at least then, those commenting would know how to handle it.

Inclusion vs Belonging

inclusion /ɪnˈkluːʒ(ə)n/

noun the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.

belonging /bɪˈlɒŋɪŋ/

noun an affinity for a place or situation.

I wish to open the debate into the use of terms in our space regarding the replacement of Diversity and, specifically, Inclusion, for the term Belonging, in job titles, department names and thinking.

My concern about this, is the term Belonging is about how a person might feel, whereas Inclusion is about what people, structures and systems need to do. This is an important distinction.

The term Belonging, I argue, absolves people and organisations from taking responsibility for what needs to be done and places the onus on the individual regards to their interaction with where they work.

Some people are quite happy to go along to their workplace and be productive in a space where they feel included but they don’t feel the need to Belong at work. They may prefer to Belong at home with family, friends or even Belong in a solitary space. However, whatever their preference about Belonging, everyone should feel their values, difference and perspectives are respected in an Inclusive environment. A responsibility that lies with leadership.

As with all movements in Political Correctness, the move is normally around changing language in order to change our thought processes and subsequently modifying our behaviour. I worry that the phase to change the emphasis from Inclusion to Belonging is actually a subversive one, possibly unconsciously motivated, to undermine the work of D&I. As it’s not possible to call out something we might do unconsciously, I’m taking this opportunity to be the diverse voice and to call it out for what I believe it to be.

Whether D&I fatigue is setting in at your organisation or not, I would urge people not to be sucked into this change to using ‘Belonging’ instead of D&I, for the reasons I outlined.

I would suggest you shouldn’t look for a name change that will not only do very little but actually may detract from the core of the work we’re trying to achieve, instead, look at what might be causing fatigue and address that. D&I has enough trend-setting motivations inherent in the work itself, when done effectively, without the need for a rebrand.

Of course, as always, I advocate Cultural Intelligence, CQ (TM), as the academically proven way to move forward from awareness to successful tangible action with Inclusion. And if the people who wish to Belong can then feel that they do so, that’s great, equally, those who don’t want to, but are still valued, that’s the ideal outcome.

So, I say Inclusion, not Belonging, is the priority and that should remain the focus of job titles, department names and thinking.

As always, I invite your thoughts.

For more information on CQ (TM) check out my other blogs, my website unheardvoice.co.uk or culturalq.com

The “Problem” with Immigrants

Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking

This is my new favourite book: Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking. It highlights everything I have ever thought about Diversity and Inclusion and backs it up with empirical evidence.

It came to my attention after listening to this excellent programme: Start the Week on BBC Radio 4, Monday 7th October. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000935s

I recommend you get a copy of the book immediately and enjoy the insight and clarity Syed brings to the arena. It’s 11 hours well spent listening to as an audio book too.

As you will, no doubt, be aware, immigration has been the subject of some of the most vitriolic exchanges in the political narrative recently – across the world.

The problems that immigration causes. The issues immigration raises. The concerns immigration leaves.

As the child of immigrants who did nothing but contribute to the society in which we live, indeed my mum must have saved thousands of lives in her 41 years with the NHS, and my father was proactive in saving the diminishing trade of bespoke tailoring in the UK training and employing scores of people, and my being married to an immigrant, I know the above narrative to be a hurtful fallacy.

I wish to share the following extracts of Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas as they’re rooted in research and academia and put to bed some of the myths around immigration.

First of all, a definition from the book. The term ‘recombination’ refers to the smashing together of disparate ideas to give birth to innovation.

A study published in December 2017 revealed that 43 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 were founded or co-founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, rising to 57 percent in the top thirty-five companies. These companies produced $5.3 trillion in global revenue and employed 12.1 million workers worldwide in everything from tech to retail and finance to insurance. This is not an isolated finding. Immigrants make disproportionate contributions to technology, to patent production and to academic science. A 2016 paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives showed that US-based researchers had been awarded 65 percent of Nobel Prizes over the preceding few decades. Who were these innovators? More than half were born abroad.

[Immigrants] have experienced a different culture, a different way of doing things. When they see the business ideas in a new country, or a particular technology, they do not see something immutable. Irrevocable. Set in stone. They see something that could potentially be changed. Reformed. Amended, adapted, or subject to recombination. The very experience of seeing different place seems to offer psychological latitude to question conventions and assumptions. Let us call this the outsider mindset. Immigrants are not outsiders in the literal sense of physically standing outside a particular convention or paradigm. Rather, they are outsiders in the conceptual sense of being able to reframe the paradigm. To see it with fresh eye. This provides them with the latitude to come up with rebel ideas.

Immigrants have another advantage, too, inextricably linked with the notion of recombination. They have experience of two cultures so have greater scope to bring ideas together. They act as bridges, facilitators for ‘idea sex’. If the outsider perspective confers the ability to question the status quo, diversity of experience helps to provide the recombinant answers.

This is why the outsider mindset is set to become such a powerful asset. That is not to say that we don’t need insider expertise; quite the reverse. We need both conceptual depth and conceptual distance. We need to be insiders and outsiders, conceptual natives and recombinant immigrants. We need to be able to understand the status quo, but also to question it. We need to be strategically rebellious. To return to immigrants, there are doubtless additional reasons to explain their outsize contribution to innovation. The kinds of people who choose to migrate are likely to be comfortable with risk-taking. Given the barriers they often face, they are likely to develop resilience. But while these traits are important, they should not obscure the significance of being able to question the status quo and step beyond convention.

Those passages are taken from Chapter 4: Innovation, between pages 137- 143, and all claims are referenced in the book’s notes.

Immigrants are part of the solution, however, the impact of being a person of colour, and – likely – an immigrant or child of an immigrant, is that often, when we do point out issues with organisations and we try to work on them and push for accountability, the organisation turns on us and we then are termed the problem. This is the issue where diversity of thought – the rebel ideas – exists, but that is not, actually, welcomed.

Some organisations want to look diverse, but not take on the challenge and opportunity of doing so – so where does that leave immigrants?

Fighting for Diversity and Inclusion, or putting up and shutting up. And that’s the sadness of it.

More about Matthew Syed here: https://www.matthewsyed.co.uk/

The Unconscious Bias Awareness Fallacy

My D&I colleague, Carmen Morris, recently wrote an article, on LinkedIn, about her concern about Unconscious Bias (UB) awareness training. Also, I saw a post by James Elfer of MoreThanNow. Look them both up.

I decided to respond to some of the detractors in the comments with the following information and thought it might be useful to share in an article, as it exceeded the comments character limit by quite some way and required six separate replies!

It’s well documented that UB awareness training is a “sop to inclusion efforts” (this is a direct quote from a Head of D&I at a prominent organisation). It is clear that realising UB exists, how it manifests itself and the impact is important (think of the paper cuts analogy*), but expecting people to be aware of their unconscious and mitigate themselves, is not actually possible.

Take this recently updated academic paper which aggregates into one, 492 studies on the matter, with nearly 90-thousand participants. https://psyarxiv.com/dv8tu/

It concludes: We found that implicit measures can be changed, but effects are often relatively weak (|ds| < .30). Most studies focused on producing short-term changes with brief, single-session manipulations. Procedures that associate sets of concepts, invoke goals or motivations, or tax mental resources changed implicit measures the most, whereas procedures that induced threat, affirmation, or specific moods/emotions changed implicit measures the least. Bias tests suggested that implicit effects could be inflated relative to their true population values. Procedures changed explicit measures less consistently and to a smaller degree than implicit measures and generally produced trivial changes in behaviour. Finally, changes in implicit measures did not mediate changes in explicit measures or behaviour. Our findings suggest that changes in implicit measures are possible, but those changes do not necessarily translate into changes in explicit measures or behaviour.

So, even if weak changes in implicit bias occur, they do not mediate downstream changes in explicit bias or behaviour.

The recommendation from the author of the report: Do not try to change implicit bias… Instead focus on working around it. Target other inter group outcomes and teach folks to create procedural changes that prevent the influence of hidden biases.

Add to this, the work of Alexandra Kalev, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University, to quote from the BBC website…

Alexandra Kalev … has done a lot of research into unconscious bias training and her findings are astonishing: it’s not just that bad training doesn’t work, but that it can be counterproductive, actually reducing the number of women or people of colour in management positions. She has found that efforts to get people to suppress their stereotypes can actually work to reinforce them. Often, any positive change is weak and short term.

“One theory is that if training tells us we’re all biased, we might no longer think we need to make an effort or that making an effort will make a difference. Afterwards, a participant might come away with a sense of relief: they’ve been shown that their bias isn’t really their fault at all. The eagerness to label all bias as unconscious could allow us to evade responsibility for the harm it causes.

And many businesses might see the training as a complete solution to their discrimination problems: a quick fix. But although unconscious bias training opens the door to fruitful conversations about bias, by itself it won’t make you or your company any less biased than you were before.”

A face-to-face UB course which I have also done, again, whilst good at helping people realise UB exists and how it manifests itself, it doesn’t focus enough about impact and still expects people to mitigate themselves, and makes no mention of the requirement of processes and structures to change in order to assist with mitigation.

This report by the EHRC also points to raising awareness being useful – as I say, helping people realise what UB is part of the knowledge piece to open the conversation – but evidence for behaviour change is weak. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/research-report-113-unconcious-bais-training-an-assessment-of-the-evidence-for-effectiveness-pdf.pdf (This is the correct report link despite bias being incorrectly spelled).

Daniel Kahneman, the “father of heuristics” says it’s extremely difficult to catch yourself doing something unconsciously. When asked why you made a decision you’ll convince yourself of a valid reason, when in reality your unconscious forced you to come to a conclusion based on your bias and short-cutting of information, a cerebral process of which you’re completely unaware. And yet the conscious decision-making process, which you do control, is “who you think you are”.

To conclude, the repeated suggestion in training we can by being aware we can mitigate our own unconscious bias is not correct. We must stop saying and teaching that. We need to put less store by the training and more by the overall structures and processes we need to create, implement and enforce to mitigate it. We must also put more effort into creating a culture of feedback where it’s ok to call it out other’s bias because a diversity of staff can see and feel it more clearly than we’d ever be able to in ourselves, and for the recipient of that feedback not to be defensive about it.

And, allow people who can see and feel them, to call out issues, and don’t then vilify them for it.

* Please listen to Rob Neil OBE on Binna Kandola’s excellent podcast series, Racism at Work: https://pearnkandola.com/racism-at-work/ He says he heard this and it made sense, that one paper cut may be relatively unharmful, you may forget it, it stings later, but repeated paper cuts take their toll, may become infected etc. And such is the impact of micro incivilities associated with UB.

Photos by rawpixel.com from Pexels.

Creating an Inclusive Culture

How do you create an inclusive organisational culture?

We bandy around the word ‘culture’ when talking about organisations and it’s often used when describing what needs to change when wanting to steer any business to becoming more diverse and inclusive.

What has been missing, though, is an understanding of what is meant when ‘culture change’ is mentioned.

So, let’s agree on some basic definitions.

Diversity is, simply, the mix of visible and invisible difference. We often talk about race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, disability, marital status… but this list is not limited to the Protected Characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, it’s not exhaustive, it includes neurodiversity, socio-economic background, graduates, goths, fairy believers… etc. etc. etc. Diversity is simply the mix. Diverse is not something other people are. We are all part of diversity. (And whilst we at it, ‘ethnic’ isn’t something people of colour are. Everyone has an ethnicity. If you mean ‘ethnic minority’, then please use the word ‘minority’ after the word ‘ethnic’).

Inclusion is when all manner of diversity is accepted and valued. Even when that difference feels unpalatable, inclusion means you respect the difference.

So, what is culture? If you consider, there are organisational cultures, nationalistic cultures, ethnic cultures, the goth culture, the culture of Pride, deaf culture … what does that mean and refer to? In some cases, we hear “the way we do things around here”, or a shared system of values and beliefs. Still, I feel these are not specific enough to be helpful.

It’s very important to differentiate between creating a ‘Culture of Inclusion’ and being ‘Inclusive of Cultures’. The latter is another way of talking about being inclusive of diversity, and in that respect the word Culture would be too narrowly and, in my opinion, incorrectly defined.

The clearest and most accessible definition I’ve found is: Culture is what is ‘Acceptable and Familiar’.

If you’re trying to create a Culture of Inclusion though, what does that look like?

Well, the crux of the matter is that what’s Acceptable and Familiar to me, may not be Acceptable and Familiar to you. In order to be inclusive, we have to realise that what is Acceptable and Familiar to another is not wrong. It’s simply a different perspective. Many people are brought up to believe ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. ‘Treat others as you wish to be treated’. But this needs to be revised, and in creating a Culture of Inclusion we have to ‘Treat others as THEY wish to be treated’.

But how do you know how to do that?

This is why you need Cultural Intelligence (CQ™)1. Q stands for quotient, because as well as a skill, CQ™ is a measurement. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) isn’t enough, because you’re still approaching people through your own lens. Someone with high CQ™ means they’re much better at seeing through ‘the other’s’ lens.

Cultural Intelligence (CQ™) is the capability to work effectively with people who are different from you2.

So, to create an inclusive organisational culture, CQ™ has four capabilities3 you need to look at, at different levels: as an individual, as departments and overall as a business.

Four Capabilities of Cultural Intelligence

You first have to identify what you consider to be Acceptable and Familiar. Then, how motivated are you to think differently about what’s Acceptable and Familiar? This is CQ Drive.

What do you all need to know in order to respect and value to difference you come across? How do you ensure everyone has access to this information as you gather it? This is CQ Knowledge.

How do you plan for your interactions with others? What amount of time do you give to staff for adjustment?  How do you check your assumptions? This is CQ Strategy.

How do you put these into action? Can people openly provide feedback calling out issues and biases? This is CQ Action.

In order to then embed change, all four capabilities have to be looked at in terms of the four building blocks in the McKinsey Change Model4. In a McKinsey Global Survey, they examined successful transformations and found that they were nearly eight times more likely to use all four actions as opposed to just one5.

Fostering understanding and conviction: There’s clarity as to why the change is needed. CQ™ helps outline this as part of CQ Drive.

How your staff are developing their skills and talents – are they getting the training they need to help them understand CQ™? And developing CQ Knowledge about different values and norms?

Role modelling – are you behaving in a highly culturally intelligent way? Are the people around you? Are leaders following through on their own learning?

Are the policies and structures in place allowing you to reinforce with formal mechanisms? Whether that’s about recruitment, pipeline schemes, mentoring, clarity of vision, mission and organisational goals etc. Is it possible for your people to do their jobs in a high CQ™ way?

If implemented this is a clear system that will start to get you the results you need if you’re serious about changing organisational culture to become more inclusive.

But it is not easy.

There is no silver bullet. If you’re expecting a 30-minute corporate online video, a morning workshop or even a day on its own is going to provide results, that’s highly unlikely.

Get ready for hard work

The introspection required here is difficult and you and your organisation are expected to be vulnerable. Being open to being wrong, being told repeatedly you’re wrong, and getting up again anyway, until it is right, is obligatory. It requires great generosity and patience of the part of the under-represented and oppressed whilst you try, despite everything we/they have already had to deal with.

It’s naïve to think, even then, in a world where we’ve achieved a true Diversity of people and Inclusive culture, we’re all skipping around happy in a circle, singing songs and being immensely profitable and innovative; managing difference is effortful and requires ongoing resource. It’s challenging.

It is my opinion that within that challenge lies our evolution as a human species. We need to adapt our brains to stop calling on the biases that our “cave-person” inside tend to cause us, thinking we need to retreat to safety or act out in defiance or self-defence. Life needn’t be any longer about ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘dog-eat-dog’, “I have more, therefore I’m better”.

If we are to flourish, we must learn to not be threatened by difference, and truly acquire a deep understanding of self and each other for the betterment of all.


If this is a journey you would like to take, or lead your organisation on, please get in touch via LinkedIn or online www.unheardvoice.co.uk

1 https://youtu.be/SqzUYll9Hfo

2 https://culturalq.com/

3 https://culturalq.com/about-cultural-intelligence



UN confirms, Brexit has caused a rise in racism

Last week, I posted the above picture and the following on Facebook:

This is my skin colour. And, despite a child coming up to me to see if it rubbed off 20 years ago, it remains. It will do, until I die.

Today, I had to face two racist incidents within two hours, whilst out and about doing my job. They were both people disgruntled with immigration and one referenced Brexit. 

If you are in any doubt that the political narrative around immigration and Brexit in this country is not causing a rise in racism, please remove that doubt.

This is real, today.

Then, co-incidentally, later that day I read these words of Tendayi Achiume, the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur: “To be clear, Brexit has not newly introduced racism and xenophobia to the United Kingdom – both have a long legacy that extends as far back as the historical European projects of slavery and colonialism. That said, national debates and certain practices and policies before, during and after the Brexit referendum in 2016 have amplified racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the United Kingdom.”

If we are to address this as society, as a whole, we need to be Motivated, understand what we need to Know, Strategise putting that in place, and put it into Action. The foundational principles of Cultural Intelligence.

To read the original summary, the full report will be published on 8th July, please click here: UN expert condemns entrenched racial discrimination and inequality

The question is, how motivated are people to create change in this area? Without this fundamental principle being addressed, there will be no change.

Any person of colour, who regularly mixes outside their comfort bubble, will have faced low level racism around immigration for all their lives, but for it to be as in your face as it’s becoming, is worrying and frightening.

It beholden upon us all to make people aware, and to challenge it when we see or hear it.