Recognizing the distinction between your different target audiences and what makes them special is what you need to understand to connect with them or any “cultural shift” population. Does your organization know how to answer these four fundamental questions about your employees and customers, which directly connect to the six characteristics of the innovation mentality?
- How does cultural upbringing (i.e., heritage) shape their mindset?
- What strengths and capabilities fuel their desires?
- What are their ultimate goals and ambitions (i.e., what matters most to them)?
- How do their core values and beliefs (i.e., what they stand for) affect their lifestyle choices?
Today’s changing workplace requires a strategy that every employee, external partner, client and customers can embrace. Simply put, we need the wisdom to connect to the people and cultures that don’t look and act like us without undermining who and what we are and stand for. That’s what many of our corporate values tell us we should be doing, but we really don’t. That would require leading with diversity of thought and the six characteristics of the innovation mentality, which allow for the evolution for our businesses. For example, anybody in a service or sales business in any industry is responsible for managing and maximizing opportunity with clients. They can take the first steps by asking these questions: How do you greet people (employees, external partners, clients/customers) that don’t look like you? How do you make them feel important? How do you set expectations? Generate leads? Deliver reports and evaluations? How do you get them to come back again?
The objective should be to stop unknowingly creating tension when we ask these questions and start strengthening the people who can help build momentum to answer them in bigger and better ways. They can help us make the right investments that will capture new market share using the six characteristics. And if you don’t act to do it and keep doing it, some other company will — domestically and internationally. This is already happening. Look at the “American” beer companies Budweiser and Miller; they’re no longer owned by Americans. We’re losing control of our marketplaces because we’re not managing the shift.
How are successful companies doing it? By embracing the innovation mentality and differences to form genuine connections. As Fred Diaz, Nissan North America Inc.’s vice president and general manager of North American Trucks and Light Commercial Vehicles, once told me, “Multicultural is not a flavor of the month. We embraced it by being aware, adapting to changing mores, aggressively executing and being authentic.”
Yet there is still work to be done by many companies. I still see ads that are designed for the general market and someone simply translated it into a Spanish spot with a Spanish voice-over. That is the most disrespectful, inauthentic thing you can do to this audience. Why does it still happen then? The reality is, according to surveys done by my company, 78 percent of leaders have difficulty understanding the consequences and effectively articulating the requirements to thrive in these rapidly changing workplaces and marketplaces. They make excuses for inaction instead of leading through diversity of thought and creating new best practices and protocols. Why?
- They’re afraid of losing control.
- They lack the courage to challenge the status quo.
- The change management required challenges them.
- Playing it safe is their security; they fear the unknown and are unwilling to take ownership.
- Supporting silos allows them to sustain negative disruption, which allows their irrelevant thinking to be perceived as relevant.
All these reasons fly in the face of the innovation mentality. You can’t become more afraid of making decisions at a time when you need to step up your game as opportunity gaps widen and the emergence of new competitors abound. You need to be more vulnerable. These gaps are like plate tectonics — the rigid outermost shell of our planet that moves naturally and inevitably. These gaps will exist whether or not Americans have prepared for the shift.
Now, the hard work begins: Your company must continue to evolve, sustain and keep driving change in the face of success. Your leadership must work with a generous purpose, lead to leave a legacy and embrace the long-sightedness of diversity of thought and the innovation mentality instead of the shortsightedness of more sowing. If you see an increase in sales from embracing and investing in the CDS, will you increase your investment the following year to build engagement or will you expect similar increases the following year using the same tactics and budget?
When diversity and inclusion initiatives are weak, one-off tactical approaches without strategy or follow-up and little depth, the result is some initial success followed by an immediate flat line or regression. When you see opportunities in the right way and drive that through the four skills of opportunity management (see, sow, grow, share) and the six characteristics of the innovation mentality, you can use this success to resow opportunities. That leads to genuine sustainability and inclusion. But until you do that, you’ll continue to give away your innovation mentality to competitors that already have it. Hyundai learned this when its Japanese competitors in the U.S. seized the opportunity to take over the Hispanic market.
Other countries have seized our opportunity gaps to gain market share. Put aside concerns about the diversity of our own citizenship for a moment. More and more countries, such as China, India, Brazil, South Korea and Indonesia, are growing fast and turning into entrepreneurs that want nothing more than to sell to America, the largest economy in the world.
In the next five years, it won’t be just our own shift populations who become our competitors, it will be people from other countries who’ve sent their top talent to the U.S. and built a pipeline for personal and professional development. These graduates return to train people in their mother countries on how to best see and seize opportunities in America. In other words, they come here and invest in our system, then teach what they’ve learned to their own countries so they can compete against us. Despite having no intention of immigrating, they’re using America’s “immigrant perspective” against us by embracing its six characteristics. Coincidentally, they have the innovation mentality and wonder why we don’t.
It doesn’t matter where I travel — Scandinavia, South Korea, Mexico — everywhere I hear the same thing: Why, given the strength of its corporations and educational institutions, do Americans seem to be getting weaker in their thinking? Until I heard objective audiences saying that, I hadn’t noticed how much we’re losing our edge.
At a time when innovation is at a premium, we need enlightened leaders to take ownership for the business, the people they lead, and the customers they serve. They must frequently reinvent themselves and have the mindset of always having a strategy for change that is focused on constant evolution with this end game in mind. Leadership must be seen as a privilege and duty to ensure we are continuously investing in people and that we are always adding value to make our people better and drive growth for our businesses through them. The more people who can see beyond the obvious and anticipate the unexpected, the more they become the business’s most valuable asset against those who are slow to make decisions and take action. I know leaders say things like this in their speeches and companies tout this ability in advertisements and annual reports, but very few are acting upon those words. If they were, traditional thinking about “diversity” in its most corporate sense would no longer exist — and we’d be solving for the right things.
All this will bring with it challenges but also new opportunities and ideas, but leaders don’t see them because their mentalities are stuck connecting to the old ways. This is why to be truly inclusive and sustain success, you need to “evolve the solve” from the inside out — not just for your leadership identities but for your corporate ones.