Working Together

from Duncan Smith, ADC Associates

Welcome to this monthly newsletter, in which we explore topics relating to leadership and organisational culture, global diversity and inclusion, gender, culture, bias, and more.

In this issue:

  • Piloting through chaos: Leaders Transforming the World for the Better
  • Responding to difference: A few Basics
  • Beginner’s Mind

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

Best regards,

Duncan Smith

Leadership and Learning

Piloting Through Chaos

Leaders Transforming the World for the Better

Kaospilot is an extraordinary “Education Design Agency” based in Aarhus, Denmark, that provides “high engagement and impact for collaboration, creativity and new leadership.” A hybrid business and design school, Kaospilot provides multi-sided education in leadership and entrepreneurship, with programs designed not only to shape students to fit the future, but to help them create it.

As a recent Kaospilot Masterclass graduate, I wanted to share some reflections and learnings from this refreshing and inspiring approach to leadership and to learning.

  • Start with the vision, rather than the outcomes, in mind.
  • Apply Design Thinking to your leadership and your learning
  • Remember that to be an effective leader, you are also a constant learner, and that learning involves transformation and transition.

To read the full article click here.

*Thank you to learning designer, facilitator and strategy consultant Ramon Marmolejos for this reminder.

For more information on Kaospilot see

Diversity and Inclusion

Responding to Difference

A Few Basics

Working with Diversity and Inclusion is simple, not easy. As always, it starts with us. Here are a couple of behaviours and reflections that may prove useful.

  • The behaviours are often simple; for example – use reversability.

If you say something about a woman and refer to her gender as part of what you say, would you do the same thing for a man? For example if when referring to a female political candidate you describe how she’s dressed, would you make the same comment about a male candidate? If you say something about someone of a different race or culture than your own, particularly if that person is from a minority background in your setting, and you refer to that person’s race or culture, would you do the same thing for someone from the majority race or culture?

Thanks to Catherine Fox for this reminder. See her book “Stop Fixing Women: Why building fairer workplaces is everybody’s business “ Newsouth Books, 2017.;

  • How do you challenge a comment that increases exclusion – such as a sexist, racist, or homophobic comment?

If you say something about a woman and refer to her gender as part of what you say, would you do the same thing for a man?

  • Bringing your whole self to work.

We bring our whole selves to work every day. The question is, how much of ourselves are we willing to show, and what aspects of ourselves do we keep hidden? We make conscious choices about what to bring, what to hide, and how to protect ourselves, based on the culture around us. What aspects of ourselves that we keep hidden could increase our engagement and enjoyment of our work, and add value to the workplace around us? What would need to change in the culture for this to happen?

Working with Difference

Beginner's Mind

As mentioned above, working with difference is simple but not easy. A very useful way of approaching our experience with difference is to apply the insights from another activity that is simple but not easy – mindfulness.

Sharon Salzberg, one, of the preeminent Western teachers and writers in this space, suggests that this idea of “simple, not easy” often seems to rub people the wrong way. We have learned to think that something simple should be easy, and that it’s complexity that is, and should be, challenging. If our conditioning tells us to think in terms of achievement and goals – always being better — we might think that being a beginner is a state we should try to get out of as quickly as possible.

Training in mindfulness defies these associations and invites us to see the enormous power in beginning again, an infinite number of times.

Our willingness to return to the present moment again and again, in order to be tuned in to our thoughts and feelings with clarity, takes intention and effort. If we want to improve our ability to respond in a positive way to differences that challenge us, rather than responding through resistance or conflict, we need to start with being able to clearly see our habitual responses.

To read the full article click here.

For more on Sharon Salzberg, and her book Real Happiness at Work, see and

Upcoming events featuring Duncan Smith

Upcoming Events

Siggraph Asia 17-20 November, Brisbane, Australia
Duncan will be presenting two sessions on “Diversity and Inclusion in the Asia-Pacific – Why, What, and How?” on November 18

The Story Conference – 27-29 November, Melbourne Australia
Duncan will lead a session on Using Stories in Diversity and Inclusion Work on November 29

Duncan Smith is an educator, consultant, advisor, and facilitator, who helps people work together more effectively, make better decisions, and create more inclusive cultures. For more information see

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 do not engage in online comments or discussions.

We’ll be back next month with more.

All the best,


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