I was reading a book recently about Diversity and Inclusion (Roscoe, 2019). There was a quote by Verna Myers (2012), that Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance. Is this right? It sounds nice - like having a room full of people happily dancing to loud music, having fun together. It is a social, extrovert experience of fun that is assumed to be universal. I would not want to deprive gregarious people of a fun-filled party, but you would not find me attending it. It is not how I do fun.
If we want an organization to be inclusive, we need to think about how it works for everyone. It is not created by inviting everyone to a dance and then requiring them to dance. It appears to be inclusive but it does not lead to any structural change. If anything, it simply reinforces the power of party-organizers discussed by Daniel Juday in his article, “Inclusion Is Not Being Asked to Dance”, 2017.
Inclusion reminds me of the Chilli Pepper Problem, or the Tale of Two Cities, a simple model discussed in the book, Complex Adaptive Systems (Miller, Page 2007). It goes like this:
Imagine a county in which people are genetically pre-disposed to like either green chillis or red chillis, but not both. The government of this country wants its citizens to be as happy as possible and to socialize to swap ideas and innovations. The government therefore organizes an annual picnic and lets each town discuss and vote democratically on the type of chilli to provide at the picnic.
This country has only two towns. They either can decide to have a green chilli picnic, or a red chilli picnic depending on the outcome of elections.
Now the towns both have just 3 people in them, 2 green chilli eaters, and 1 red chilli eater. They meet, chat and vote fairly, and both towns choose to have a green chilli party in accordance with the wishes of the majority.
Chilli Pepper Picnic Votes
The government was pleased at the success of these events and wanted to conduct a Chilli Pulse Survey to measure the extent of its success. They thought they would have created a 90% happiness rating. They were shocked at the final score though: just 66% of the population were happy. They told the towns that they had to meet fairly before the vote to discuss in full the chilli requirements and argue out their differences.
The following year, the annual picnic meetings in both towns became heated and divisive. Green chilli eaters could not understand why the lone red chilli eater in their community hated green chillies so much. Red chilli eaters felt misunderstood and alienated. The vote happened: each town still wanted green chillies served, which was the democratic, majority choice. Nobody could disagree with the result. The picnics happened, everyone seemed happy, and the Chilli Pulse Survey was conducted again.
This time, the score was 100%. Everyone who attended the event enjoyed it and felt happy. The government was delighted. However, 33% of the population did not attend the party, and they all seemed to be the red chilli eaters. This was not the government intention. It now had happy citizens and alienated citizens. It decided to set up a Red Chilli Eater Support Group, and also a Green Chilli Eater Support Group for reasons of equality.
During the next year, there was a lot of discussion and problem solving in the Red Chilli Group. A steering committee was created, a JIRA board set up, surveys conducted, and a widely accepted in-group Strategy Document was created, called Red Hot and Fair: A Strategy For Equality in The Annual Picnic Season. The Green Chilli Group simply met and socialized. They too were happy.
The Red Hot and Fair documents were sent to the government. It was controversial because it involved a significant change of habits. The Red Chilli Group were praised for their creativity and ability to work without major disagreements, unlike in local town meetings. The gist of the policy document was to have a green chilli picnic in one town, a simultaneous red chilli picnic in the other town, and cheap transport between the towns. Each year the parties would be held in alternate parties, so that every two years each town had one of each type of picnic. This would draw like-minded people together, and they could eat the chilli of their own choice.
After the events were held, the Chilli Pulse Survey showed everyone had been happy, including the Red Chilli group who had initially been regarded as reactionary and unlikely ever to be happy. Nobody felt excluded.
Even though this story is a simple one, it can help to show some of the issues regarding diversity and inclusion. The following bullet points are just a few that stand out for me:
that everyone agrees with in the group, and the group being happy.
groups with majority views, if happiness is to be maximized.
Personally, I do not like either red or green chilli peppers, so I am not moving to either town in that country.
Roscoe, 2019: Advancing Diversity, Inclusion and social Justice through Human Systems Engineering, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Advancing-Diversity-Inclusion-Justice-Engineering/dp/1138387983Juday, 2017: Inclusion Isn’t Being asked to Dance, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/inclusion-isnt-being-asked-dance-daniel-judayMiles, 2012: Diversity is Being Asked to the Party, https://www.cleveland.com/business/2016/05/diversity_is_being_invited_to.html (Miller, Page 2007): Complex Adaptive Systems, https://press.princeton.edu/books/paperback/9780691127026/complex-adaptive-systems