You don't know what you don't know - Disney edition

Was talking about diversity and inclusion this morning and then this popped up in a Disney fan group I'm in. And it's spot on. You don't know what you don't know.

 Problem solving is benefited from including people who know things you don't know. #humanisticmanagement  #humanisticleadership #disneywisdom 

Diversity, Inclusion and Social Impact

 There is a LOT of debate about the value of diversity and inclusion initiatives these days.  I am a big fan of diversity and inclusion. I view D&I as both a moral and a pragmatic good. I just don't see how anyone can solve problems effectively without an inclusive process. The reality is, we don't know what we don't know and getting input from others improves our problem solving process.

As a professional, I teach how to create inclusive workplace cultures by eliminating bullying and harassment. I teach a combination of humanistic philosophy combined with behavioral science. 

I understand some people have soured on the idea of diversity because they've been subjected to crappy diversity training that doesn't work. And there is plenty of evidence that says, our current approach to diversity training, doesn't work.  The fact our current approaches don't seem to be working, doesn't mean we should give up. Diversity is both a moral good and a pragmatic one.

So, how do we accomplish this?   Well, I'm glad you asked.  I was recently named an Expert for Social Impact.  They interviewed me about my work and my approach and - gave me an opportunity to opine on the question: If you could change one thing in terms of DEI, what would that be? 

My interview is here: 

While I encourage you to read the whole article - because it will tell you more about me and my work - and maybe convince you and your company to hire me, I do want to include my answer to this question here:

If you could change one thing in terms of DEI, what would that be? 

Hoo boy. Ok – here it is. There is a flawed assumption that underpins all diversity and harassment training. And that assumption is – if we just tell them it’s wrong, they will stop.

Harassment training is basically two hours of – it’s illegal – don’t do it. The same thing happens with diversity training. Here’s how historically this has hurt people, we need to change. Never, in the entire history of humanity, has asking bullies nicely to stop, ever worked. Never. Not once.  Bullies bully because it works. In order to make them stop, we have to make it stop working. Changing hearts is important, changing behaviors is even more so.

In order to make bullying stop, we have to learn how the behavior is rewarded and consciously change the rewards and responses to their behavior to trigger behavioral extinction.  

Often, this requires a complete rethinking of the systems we operate in. When I teach people here is how behaviors are reinforced and what is required to make them stop, only then can I help them look at the individual elements of the system and discuss how each element either serves to reinforce the unwanted behavior, or whether it helps to extinguish the unwanted behavior. Having learned this, we can now discuss how to tweak the system to create effective change.

A few years back I gave a talk about how to create happier more inclusive workplaces in India. One of the executives asked me about whether this works for a specific situation in their company. But he was framing the problem in an ineffective way. I kept telling him – nope. You have it upside down. What you are suggesting won’t work because your entire framework on how you think about this is upside down. You are concerned about outputs when you should be concerned about inputs and how your structure and systems is responding and rewarding the inputs.

Whether we are talking about how schools deal with bullying or whether we are talking about how government agencies respond to harassment in the workplace, the problem is the same. The reason we haven’t been able to extinguish the unwanted behavior is because the system itself is rewarding those behaviors. This is ALL fixable. But we have to take a systems approach to the problem and to do that effectively, we have to educate ourselves on the science of how behaviors are learned and more importantly unlearned so that we can start addressing the systemic nature of the problems.

What words do I avoid in my teaching when I talk about Humanism?

A couple of weeks ago, I gave the Sunday "sermon" for the Humanists of the Treasure Coast. My talk was on the True Holy Trinity for Humanists.

In the Q&A afterwards, the topic came to how to best market humanism and specifically to language we use to do our marketing. 

The problem with Secularism:

A big part of the problem movement Humanists have is we focus so much on secularism that we forget to promote the other aspects of the philosophy. 

Secularism is important to Humanists, but our secularism is in service to our morality and ethics. The ethics come first and should be central to our outreach.

There are several reasons for this. One is that while secular is a great word, it's not well understood.  When I was the executive director for the Humanists of Florida Association, I did some market testing on promotional materials. What we found about the word secular made me shy away from it as a marketing term. 

Here is the problem in a nutshell. Most people don't know what it means, so they guess. They pull apart the word and end up with secular - must have something to do with sect. Our audience doesn't want to have anything to do with a sect, so they immediately lose interest. The very people who would normally be drawn to Humanism, are repulsed by the word secular, even though they are technically secular. They just don't know it. In marketing, it's best to meet people where they are at their level of knowledge and introduce them to something and make a good impression. The word secular creates a bad impression. It's best to avoid it.

This led to another question: what other words do I avoid.

I don’t avoid words as much as I choose to use the language of my listener or audience. How do they talk about morality?  That is the language I use.

There are no concepts I avoid. Rather – I attempt to speak the language of my audience so they can understand the concepts fully – in a way that makes sense to them. 

This applies to all my work everywhere.  If someone asks me about a concept they hold dear, I talk to them about how that concept is important, even if I didn't highlight it in my talk.

Everyone you meet is an individual

Part of my practice as a Humanist and as a Humanist educator is to recognize that all individuals I meet are individuals, with dignity and worth.  My job is not to teach people, but to empower them to be the best most ethical people they can be.  

I don't need people to be like me. I want them to be themselves in all their glory. If I can do that by helping them find their moral voices, then I count that as win. What language we use is irrelevant to me. Humans share a basic ethical vocabular in terms of what we value. How we describe and talk about those common values may differ, but I don't like to get hung up on that. What language do they use to describe the love of their fellow humans? What motivates them to act ethically? That is what matters.

What are problem solving skills and how can you improve them.

I was recently asked by a reported some questions on problem solving. The questions were specifically about how a job candidate can highlight their problem solving skills in the hiring process and in interviews, but I also think these skills are helpful in general. 

Problem-solving skills--what they are?

Problem solving skills are basically the methodology you use to approach solving problems. It’s good to have a framework through which you work out problems. This gives you structure and helps ensure that you don’t – miss something – in solving the problem. Think of this as the scaffolding for your thinking. Not the thinking itself.

How to improve them?

Through practice. It’s like anything. The more you practice working within a problem-solving framework, the easier and more automatic it becomes. The first step is to have a problem solving framework though.

How to show them off in a job search?

Mostly, I would want to know that you do indeed have a framework for problem solving. If I ask a question about a problem you solved, I not only want to know that you have experience solving problems, I want you to take me through the steps you took to solve the problem so I can better understand your problem solving framework.

Why are problem solving skills important?

If someone doesn’t have a framework through which they solve problems, then when problems arise, they tend to use a crap shoot approach and hope for the best. Most just require on the job problem solving. Some jobs require this more than others.  If you don’t have an effective framework you work problems through, you may end up not solving the problem at all or worse, making your existing problem worse.  A good problem solving framework and the skills required to work through that framework greatly increases your chances for successful solving the problem.  The last thing an employer needs is employees who make the problem worse through good intentions. Good intentions aren’t enough. All business are in the business of solving problems. If you don’t solve people’s problems, you won’t be in business long.

The different steps/stages to solving a problem?

I break the problem solving process down into 3 main components, all of which require different skills.

1.    Make sure you are solving the real problem. It is astonishing how many people get this wrong. Lots of people work on what I call proxy problems. Problems they think are causing their problem but really aren’t. The result is lots of wasted time, energy and money being spent not solving your real problem.  An example of this is if you are a farmer and you think you need it to rain to water your crops. Your real problem is that your crops need water. The proxy problem is needing it to rain.

a.    Skills required: self-examination, critical thinking, creativity

2.    Make sure you really know what is really causing your real problem.  Once you identify your real problem, then you need to understand what is really causing your real problem.  Right now we have a labor shortage. Until we know what is really causing our labor shortage, we won’t be able to fix the problem. Just as there are proxy problems, there are also proxy solutions. Is the problem that people make too much on unemployment? Or is the problem just that there aren’t enough people in the workforce to meet demand? Or is it something else entirely? Until we know what exactly is causing our real problem, we won’t be able to solve it.  Think of this stage as diagnosis.

a.    Skills required: scientific literacy, critical thinking

3.    Find a solution that will really work to really solve the real cause of your real problem.  Once you know what is causing your problem, you now need to know what will really work to really fix it. Not all proposed solutions work. Some cause additional harm. Taking the time to find a solution that will not only work, but will work effectively is key. Bonus if you include other ethical considerations into your solution so that you not only fix your real problem, you do it in a way that adds extra benefit to your organization and the society in which it operates.

a.    Skills required: scientific literacy, critical thinking, ethical compass.

Ethical Problem Solving

Ethics are rarely talked about as a problem solving skill, but when you think about it – what is considered a “good” solution is an ethical question. Good is an ethical term. How do you determine what a good solution includes?  That requires having a moral conversation.

How job candidates can improve their problem-solving skills--and leverage them during their job?

Job candidates can improve their problem solving skills by being more deliberate about how they solve problems.  Think about what would make an ideal solution to the problem and then figure out if it’s possible. Integrate your ethics into your problem solving skills and immediately, you will see an improvement in your decision making and problem solving skills.


If you want to learn more, you can take my course on Reality Based Problem Solving -

This is available for individuals and groups. 

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