Why Diversity Programs Do Not Work

Research results show, that diversity training programs do not work.

The conclusion does not contradict thousands studies of the last decades, which proved, that training teach people only to fill self-assessment questionnaires the right ways. The number of women and minorities’ members employed actually shrink already within the next five years following the training (Dobbin and Kalev, 59). Neither hiring skills’ assessment tests can improve the situation: if not sabotaged by hiring managers, which apply the tests selectively, the test results are cherry-picked by decision makers, this only amplifying bias. Neither can performance ratings, often low-balling women and minorities, change the statistics. Since 1985 black men have barely gained ground in corporate management’, white women haven’s progressed since 2000 (ibid). The study also confirmed once again, that doing and practicing skills works much better than theoretical awareness and role-play simulations, torn out of the actual context and real time.

Changing training policies really matters: voluntary programs produce much better results. Compared to the compulsive, ordered from the top training, voluntary training is free from the resistance of angry managers, accused in discrimination, and work much better for the purpose as highly-motivating goal to make the difference.

Instead of outlawing bias by control and punishment, engaging managers doing the right things, like participating in recruitment campaigns and mentoring programs, lead to diversity-oriented hiring. Contacting the real people, speaking with the candidates work better, than strategically communicated guidelines: the human, face-to-face contact speak for the diversity the best way. Social accountability and transparency of management decisions, appealing to human ethics of equality and justice, also support any diversity task forces’ strategies the best way.

Any tool proves to be highly effective, if it is based on the same principle: ‘working toward a common goal as equals” (ibid, 58). Agile cultures and self-managed teams working as equals over the same project bring different people together.

Therefore designing a bias-free organization is quite realistic: changing the core process support the change of attitudes and behaviors, which often is the up-hill work of ‘improving people’s inclination to be inclusive [which] is incredibly hard…bias affects everyone, regardless of their awareness and good intentions’ (ibid, 64-65). The range of bias is enormous and ‘outsmarting’ them by training is hardly possible (Burell, 75); neither eliminating all situations which could allow bias is realistic. But changing the way HOW the things are DONE here can help a lot with changing people’s everyday experiences and further beliefs, values and attitudes.

What is conclusion?

First, traditional training approach in regard to culture change bring poor results.

Second, other ways of people development, like learning by doing, are highly effective compared to traditional ways.

Third is that the basic concept of inclusiveness is equality – treating each other as equals – brings us to reinventing organizations as self-managing and agile, or to flat and matrix structures.

Bohnet, I. Designing a Bias-Free Organization , an interview with Iris Bohnet, Harvard Business Review, 2016.

Burell, L. We Just Can’t Handle Diversity.Harvard Business Review, 2016.

Dobbin, F., Kalev, A. Why Diversity Programs Fail. Harvard Business Review, 2016.

UX/CX and Service Design with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

Interdisciplinary and experiential, Lego Serious Play as a collaborative  Service Design tool explores User/Customer  Experience insights, leading to new service concepts, prototypes and blueprints.

cph jam 2016 logoUser/Customer Experience (UX/CX) interactions are a valuable source for IT & business analysis. Higher customer satisfaction and loyalty to well-designed services  cannot happen without exploring the User and Business-integrated connections between any touch-points, infrastructures, front-end and back-end applications, systems, data and communication patterns.

The ability of the business to capture and analyze the data revealing the customers’ needs and behaviors will depend on the methods used.

The current preferences to statistic analysis still neglect the ‘rich’ data value which could be contributed to the analysis by alternative methods. The problem with predictive analysis is the data biased by the existing rules of the game, for example customer behavior is led by the existing rules and services, so this data might miss fresh, innovative insights. The other fact forgotten is that customer is always a human, using the language, tangled to emotions and culture.

Therefore learning by exploring metaphors could lead to different results than statistics. Revealing the meanings, interpreted in an experience context, learning and extracting knowledge with Lego Serious Play could be a good tool to contribute to the customer-oriented services design, secured by highly inclusive 100% participation and idea acceptance.

prototypesFollowing the empathy philosophy, which is the heart of the design thinking, Lego Serious Play defines the user/customer needs by means of  a metaphor and story-telling,  broadening the entire scope of the ideation phase. Following the service design process further on to prototyping, LSP tests the prototypes by special application  techniques.



Multiple iterations in a visual play develops the idea further on before the service is implemented or delivered. Further development using the model and landscape is possible also after the service starts running.  Making the most of what is  achieved in-the-field, the service becomes fully adjusted and bring real customer satisfaction.


One of the  Service Design successful examples is the recent win of the Blue Beach Bricks team with BRICKZY LSP facilitator  at Copenhagen Service Design Jam 2016

cph jam pres


Critical and design thinking tool,  developing flexible and agile mindset and embracing different cultural and social points of view, Lego Serious Play contributes with the value of boosting communication, cultural sensitivity, strategic decision-making, collaborative and other ‘soft’, people’s skills of the team. Moreover, the participants as the process and models owners are dedicated to the project and it’s further implementation, improving the service delivery and  back-end/front-end operations management.


LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Copenhagen MeetUp

We have opened LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Copenhagen MeetUp this November  – to show how the method works and challenge it’s team building power again.DSC_0083

Meet Up  often gathers people who have never seen or contacted each other before – the people which would like to discuss a theme or do something together. – We offered to Meet Up around the bricks!

The idea to meet is not only to learn about the method, but try it hands-on, understand it’s power – and get new insights about the challenges people experience at work, at home and in their private life.

DSC_0098Exploring possibilities and reconsidering old thinking tracks, the solutions are found together. We discussed multiple challenges and different themes, like product development, individual careers, job searching, budget dilemmas, business growth, personal choices… Whatever theme, the models keep the excitement and provoke questions going deeper and deeper – sometimes completely other direction than expected range of the theme. Focused on a model, self-making  articulating  discover new facets of personality and inspire the new roads to be taken – and solutions to be found soon.

DSC_0020Despite the workshop takes only around an hour, we had the feeling in the end of each session that now we are all very good friends, knowing each other for a very long time. We had great FUN doing things together and will definitely meet again in future.

DSC_0100We invite everybody  to join us the next meetings in Copenhagen. The plan is to get as many people as possible to try the method. In future we are also going to explore specific themes with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.

If you are not in Copenhagen look for Meet Up groups locally – we are community of trained facilitators meeting around the bricks, the method connects models’ builders  all over the world.

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 21.33.17Find out more about our Meet Up in Copenhagen and see more pictures of the fantastic models we have created recently at  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Copenhagen MeetUp Hope to see you there soon!

Understanding Values: A LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop for diverse teams

This time we played  at IACCM- SIETAR Austria- CEMS conference at Vienna University of EconomicIMG_3934s and Business.


Education systems  should be able to secure the corresponding comm10420013_920318181351209_5535880320922460966_nunication and collaboration skills and cultural sensitivity. But even when education programs provide students with theory and cross-cultural awareness, the skills still remain a question of further practical application.

What are the methods that would support the awareness and develop the skills? ‘Knowing’ often is not ‘doing’ –  skill development takes time: the more effective the method is, the shorter to the result.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® as an alternative facilitation method can close the gap between the awareness and actual performance. The method with 100% participation principle is enormously inclusive. It combines the team building with hands-on communication and collaboration skills development, which are wiennaessential  and very specific for diverse teams.Therefore the method is highly effective  to work with students’ and business teams.12096266_920314281351599_7326484782100469753_n

We used an hour to focus on individual values and challenges and start a shared landscape discussion, building and sharing. One of the participants commented:  “If it would be without bricks, I would have never shared so much”. The method proved to work successfully in-the-field.  All the theory was left to further individual reflection over the culture landscape models including diverse voices and values.IMG_3914


Corporate/organizational culture negotiation process is important for team unity. Achieving the understanding of common values and careful handling of individual interpretations is essential for taking ethical team decisions in future.

We were three teams of academics, business trainers and education specialists. All of us are working with cross-cultural theme, diverse teams and diverse student communities as the result of global development. Initially 12 people signed up, but with the bricks on the table the workshop started as two tables of 12; the next day an additional workshop took place.


Models and Empire

Challenging empire of instruction, experiential ways of learning construct new vision, revisiting habitual thoughts.

If we want to keep the empire, we take the same old way. We teach, they learn. Because we think we know the right way and we are wiser. Because we believe in positivism, systems and science. Knowledge is power, and we exercise it on others.

We let the empire fall down by itself, if we ask questions. If we sort out with ourselves what we actually believe in, we need to re-construct the world.

Discharging the learning-by-doing battery release enormous amount of power. We take new tracks and other lanes, turn into ‘dead-ends’ – and find out that actually they are not what is on the road map.

We lean into our vision and strategy and fall in love with it, because finally it is OURS.


Direct Instruction or Inquiry Learning?

The recent research conducted in China has reported that traditional ways of direct instruction, or a ‘chalk and talk’ approach in education produce better results, than collaborative ways of inquiry learning. This means that learning styles’ preferences also do not matter. Arguing the results Kevin Donnelly refers to different learning goals and learning content that demand more flexible and complex approaches, so the conclusion is drawn that there is ‘no only one correct way to teach’.

The danger of being too quick after the latest news is that the ‘eyes-opening results’ immediately become prescribed educational policies, with UK schools being urged to follow Chinese practices, more here.  The statistical results, like 72% of class interaction, when ‘facing the teacher’ makes the score, does not show how this kind of interaction works and why it works, as well as do not analyze the quality of this interaction.

Another thing is that when excellent performance results are cut out the context, the picture gets even more distorted and results more misunderstood. The Chinese methods should be analyzed taking into consideration the context – Chinese education tradition and reality with all the dark sides of it. 

Opposed to the research in China, the results of the research in Finland argue more for less state policies’ interference and control and suggest interactive, hands-on techniques as leading to the best results.

Comparing where the studies were conducted, it can be suggested that not only to the goals and content, but major factors like history, tradition, culture, politics and economy matter. Hofstede has shown that ‘software of the mind’ is connected to the educational tradition, this tradition the result of major factors.

The methods providing the best performance results of direct instruction in China would probably not work the same way in UK. They will not work in Denmark either; for example, comparing the ways of Russian and Danish education, only the deep understanding of the major context can suggest the most effective ways.

It does not mean though that education just drag behind the tradition. Any good teacher is a great innovator if listening to the breath of the class, to the heartbeat of the world around. The last century reflection and the ‘world village’ are working the same way as T.S.Eliot noticed – in close dialogue between the classics and the new.

What could be the conclusion? It is the context and the moment that is arguing for the way the things are done, the children and grown-ups taught. It is the local culture, history, content and purpose, the moment and gut feeling that suggest the best and appropriate – and thus effective- way.

The way we teach also influence how the knowledge and skills are implemented by the learners further on. If teachers are sensitive to the moment of truth, the implication do not abuse the knowledge and the skills acquired. Pointing to the ‘dark side’ is often about the ethics of contextual application, like with emotional intelligence working more like breaks rather than the engine.

NO COMMENT and decision making

“On the other side of liberation sits chaos and paralysis” – “the paradox of choice” noticed by Barry Schwartz seems a symptomatic agenda of the day watching the news: NO COMMENT.

We are used to consider history as a narrative of a deliberate pursue of wisely planned, good and ethical happy-end.

But in real life the things do not work simple and straight-forward.

First, the turns of the history result in sharp edges of opposite extremes, like the ‘white slums’ in South Afrika. Liberation, development, freedom, ‘being together’ with the new have ironically the dark side.

Second, the next moment of freedom is paralysis of tabula rasa, not knowing – where are we now?

One can only be wise when looking backwards into the past – when the far consequences are already there. In present wise rationality, great principles, risk management and smart ideas are dissolved and hidden in a mess. We sporadically pick up what the gut feeling tells us as the first most reasonable solution at hand, muddling through the context, that’s it.

NO COMMENT escape definite short-sighted judgements. Ideology, read-into history chaos, reflects the preferred narrative about ourselves. The sooner we – luckily- suspect that something is ‘wrong’, the better for us. The ugly duckling story.


The other lane


“Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?”

The simple question Naomi Karten (2009) put starting the preface of her book on communicating change is a marvelous metaphor stirring up the depths of our everyday swimming.

How often we really dare to drive the other side?

Why should we? – perhaps we are looking for something else we are used to – like left driving -‘an eye-opening experience’.

The quest of the mind, tired of endless sea horizon on board, rise everybody to take a window seat at the moment of departing or arriving to the harbor – the glance should be attracted to something like a chaotic line of the industrial buildings, dirty quays, ship yards. We go home immediately after the sun is down and forget the dawn as soon as the sun is up.

Taking the other lane – the other forest road instead of a highway – is a slow and simple experience, but there is a chance of tasting the local bakery treats or wild berries instead of a hotdog and take-away coffee. Bigger is better?-Less is more.

Sometimes we are put into the other lane – forced into change by finding ourselves in other culture – working globally. We are put to drive left instead of right. The possibility of being smashed brings us to the wisdom of learning new habits, but why should we start in the rush-hour downtown? The traffic is traffic – but only three colours signal of what to do and where to go. Any high-speed broad highway ends up at the toll station or the airport to fly home. – Have you really seen the best of it in the five stars?..

Here we are now for the beauty of it.