Working Together

from Duncan Smith, ADC Associates

Welcome to this monthly newsletter.

Over 30 years of working to develop and support good leadership and organisational cultures, and helping clients navigate the realms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, one of the things that keeps me going is sharing ideas, knowledge, and perspectives with a wide range of people. 

The goal of this newsletter is to share some of the knowledge, understanding, insights, and approaches that I’ve been privileged to pick up along the way.

We know we face plenty of challenges as individuals, as organisations, and simply as humans living together on this planet;  here I hope to showcase some of the solutions that can help us work together, better.

Each month we will explore topics relating to leadership and organisational culture, global diversity and inclusion, gender, culture, bias, and more.

I hope you find these sharings interesting and useful – and whether new to you or reminders, that they stimulate your thinking and your practice. If there are topics you would like to see explored here, feel free to contact me. 

Best regards,
Duncan Smith


Closing the Intention - Action Gap

I recently had the privilege of attending a talk by Professor Iris Bohnet of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her book What Works: Gender Equality by Design, published by Harvard University Press is a great resource to help close what she calls the Intention-Action gap.

Useful reminders from her work include:

  • The question is not “Do we have bias?” it’s “Which biases are we bringing to this conversation?”
  • The business case alone does not work – there needs to be an emotional attachment to the topic.
  • Asking whether Unconscious Bias training works is equivalent to asking “are restaurants good?”
  • Targets – what important business initiative doesn’t have numbers attached?
  • No surprise – the research shows that D&I training on its own is not effective.  Necessary interventions include Education, Priming (leaders using positive priming to reinforce the importance of an inclusive culture), Systems and Structures, and Accountability.

For a useful, comprehensive, — and free! – resource to check the effectiveness of your interventions, get the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks:

Working with Bias

Expanding the Pause

Of course, we all have biases; what’s necessary is to

  • Recognise and accept that we all have biases
    • Sometimes an assumption is made that it’s only the majority, or the power elite, who are biased – so for example in places where white men dominate the power structures men are biased, white people are biased, etc.  In fact, a bias is simply a preference. We all have biases, positive and negative preferences; before starting to react to someone else’s biases (or your perception of them) accept that your own biases are at work, notice what they are, and work with them.
  • Practice self awareness in a consistent and ongoing way
    • One of my biases is that we all need to do our own work first. It may be a cliché, but I believe deeply that if we want to change the world, we must change ourselves. Another way to put it is that if we want to help create and sustain a more inclusive, more equitable world, we need to constantly exercise awareness of, and work skilfully with, our own thoughts and feelings. I find the practices of mindfulness and compassion – for ourselves as well as others —  to be essential for this.
  • Pause between stimulus and response
    • A quote variously misattributed to Viktor Frankl and Stephen Covey says “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power and our freedom.” While the actual source of quote is unknown, it is a powerful reminder that the key to closing the gap between intention and action lies in noticing the stimulus and expanding the pause before we respond. In that expanded pause we notice our reactions, become aware of our biases, remind ourselves of our intention to work together, and consider a range of ways in which we might respond.
  • Biases inherent in Diversity and Inclusion work
    • A resource I find quite useful is the Diversity and Inclusion Approaches Insight and Impact Worksheet from the Centre for Global Inclusion. Understanding our own bias in our approach to the work, and the biases of our organisation or client, gives us more options, helps us understand limitations and blindspots, and expands the repertoire of approaches and solutions.

Inclusive Culture

Acknowledging inequity

“If every executive carries a hammer, it might not occur to them that some jobs need a screwdriver.”

This quote from the Economist beautifully encapsulates the kinds of blind spots that permeate organisational cultures, resulting in systemic inequity and exclusion. While the messages in this article are not new —  “the existence of hidden biases shows that the paying field in not level” – it’s encouraging to see clear, evidence-based acknowledgment of systemic bias becoming more widespread. 

If we genuinely want to create inclusive cultures, acknowledging the inequity is the first step.

Overcoming Negative Bias

Hope for the Future

How often do we see the future depicted as a bleak, dystopian, de-humanized place? To leave a film about the future encouraged, motivated, inspired, and refreshed is a rare experience.

The film “2040” provides just such an experience. A hybrid feature documentary film chronicling a global journey to meet innovators and changemakers in the areas of economics, technology, civil society, agriculture, education and sustainability, 2040  was created by filmmaker Damon Gameau as a response to the impact of climate change on his young daughter. In it, he shows how people round the world are using solutions available right now to improve the health of the planet and the societies that operate within it, from marine permaculture to decentralised renewable energy projects. While distribution of the film is currently limited, it deserves to be seen widely.

Resources and information are available here:

Upcoming Events

Understanding the Inclusive Organisation
I look forward to being at the Academy of Management conference in Boston, August 9-13, on Understanding the Inclusive Organisation.

If you’re going to be there and would like to connect, do let me know.

Many of the ideas discussed above are addressed in the book Foundations of Diversity, available online or at

If you have any questions or comments relating to this newsletter, please feel free to contact me directly. Please note that I will not be responding to online comments.

We’ll be back next month with more.

All the best,


Recieve our Monthly Newsletter by Email

* indicates required

Receive our Monthly Newsletter by Email

Posted in

Leave a Comment