A Diversity Expert on Why Inclusivity is a Low Bar, and Indivisibility is the Real Aim
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A Diversity Expert on Why Inclusivity is a Low Bar, and Indivisibility is the Real Aim

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A Diversity Expert on Why Inclusivity is a Low Bar, and Indivisibility is the Real Aim

Denise Hamilton is an author, speaker, and consultant who focuses on the people side of change. She is the founder and CEO of WatchHerWork, a digital learning platform for professional women, and All Hands Group, a workplace culture consultancy. Denise is a columnist for MIT Sloan Management Review and has been featured on NPR, MSNBC, Forbes, and Newsweek, among many others.

Below, Denise shares five key insights from her new book, Indivisible: How to Forge Our Differences into a Stronger Future. Listen to the audio version—read by Denise herself—in the Next Big Idea App.

Indivisible Denise Hamilton Next Big Idea Club

1. If we could be Indivisible, we could be indestructible.

To be indivisible is to move through the world with a deep understanding of the value, strength, and beauty of others. It goes beyond knowledge. It is a practice of bridging difference to activate the unique capabilities of others and of yourself.

Like our physical bodies, interdependence is the genius of our design. The heart doesn’t fight with the lungs about which is more important. The muscles in our legs are the most powerful in our bodies and carry us through the world, but those legs are rendered useless without the aid of the tiny structures in our ears that keep us balanced. In the body, it’s not about size or position. If you laid out your intestines, they would be over twenty feet long. That doesn’t make them more important than the tiny pituitary gland, even though it weighs less than one gram. One does not matter more than the other. Each part plays a vital role, and all are required for optimal performance. It’s about the parts working together.

What if we could evolve as a society to develop each member to their fullest potential? There are many tools being suggested and implemented to achieve this objective, but I believe we must revisit and agree on the ultimate objective: to be indivisible.

2. Are you a truth seeker or a keeper of the story?

Some of our stories are broken, incomplete, and sometimes even outright lies. But our stories are our teachers. They tell us who we are. They tell us who the bad guys are and what the hero looks like—who should be rich and who should live happily ever after.

“Are we trying to match our world to our stories or are we telling the stories of our actual world?”

When our stories protect our status, the removal of them can feel threatening and force us to make the difficult choice: are we going to actively pursue the truth or will our energies be spent protecting broken stories? Are we trying to match our world to our stories or are we telling the stories of our actual world? There is a nostalgic longing for an imaginary world that bears little resemblance to reality. We must decide the posture we will assume when presented with difficult truths. We can spend our time longing for the “good old days” or take the responsibility to create a new future based in fact.

This is not easy, and there can be grief associated with the loss of our stories. The discomfort can make us feel destabilized and lost. We must find ways to manage this uncertainty and keep our commitment to honesty.

3. We must be owners, not renters.

We are heirs to a legacy in need of our attention. It’s not perfect, but it is ours. We have inherited a beautiful old house with great bones. It’s ours to protect and benefit from, but you don’t inherit the assets without the liabilities. Unfortunately, we often act more like renters rather than owners. Owners care about long-term viability. Renters? Temporary use. In other words, owners fix the plumbing and the foundation; renters use peel-and-stick tile.

There are far too many among us who operate as extractors who see this legacy that we’ve been gifted only as a vehicle for their individual personal advancement. They not only fail to plant trees for the next generation, they aggressively seek to pluck up the trees generously planted by others before us. We have lost our ability to see our interconnectedness.

It’s our generation’s turn to write the next chapter of the American story. It’s our opportunity to make sure we do not regress but move forward. And we can only do that if we assume responsibility for the future and each other.

4. We must respect the work of change.

One of the most confounding things about change is our constant underestimation of the work required to create it.

We like to believe that we are open-minded, receptive people. That when we get new information, we are eager to incorporate it into our understanding. But I don’t think we’re always right about that. We love our stories, and they do not give us up easily, even if they’re untrue. For example, we have used the term “sunset” for generations, but we know it’s actually the Earth that moves, not the sun. What would happen if I started a movement to change the term from sunset to earthset? Do you think there would be some resistance? This simple change would require Herculean effort. Change is hard.

“There is no 10-second solution for 10-generation problems.”

Too many people prefer a beloved lie to an uncomfortable truth. This makes the work of change difficult and requires us to fortify our efforts when approaching change.

We must also budget for disappointment, setbacks, and challenges. There is no 10-second solution for 10-generation problems. We must find and cultivate a well of patience and a commitment that can withstand challenges when they inevitably come.

5. We can and must do hard things.

The work of building the future is hard, but we are people who can do hard things. We sent a man to the moon in a tin can using computers that aren’t even as sophisticated as the phones we carry around in our pockets today. We are more powerful than we know.

My personal reminder of this is Harriet Tubman, who was an enslaved woman born in the 1800s on a plantation in Maryland. At the age of 27, Harriet ran to freedom, by herself, in a feat that should amaze us all. She could not read or write. She had a disability. She had no map, no horse, and knew no one in the North. She had no forged papers, and had she been caught, she would have been brought back to the plantation, maimed, or possibly killed.

But still, Harriet ran.

Not only did she free herself, which was astounding, she returned to the South multiple times to free over 70 others, sometimes three or five people at a time. Remarkable.

Do we have less assets than Harriet Tubman? Are we less capable? Less equipped? Of course not. How dare we move through the world with hopelessness and helplessness? We must access our considerable power to be architects of the future.

To listen to the audio version read by author Denise Hamilton, download the Next Big Idea App today:

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