Often, DEI initiatives focus primarily on building a diverse team. Inclusion itself may fall to the wayside when an inclusive environment can truly thrive by inviting each member to participate in collaborations– particularly those who are accustomed to being silenced, ignored, or patted on the back instead of being listened to.
In order to produce high-quality collaborative results, a team must 1) offer opportunities for reflection, and 2) create a psychologically safe environment. This is what enables collaborative work to flourish.
Developing practices in your team that allow contributions and ideas to be shared evenly among members is crucial. By enhancing participation, you can build a more inclusive culture.
One strategic initiative that companies like Google hold, are that teams establish the rule that all agendas for meetings will be sent in advance of face-to-face meetings. Having this balance between presenting and participating encourages employees to make contributions rather than the executives to present.
Employees can participate in shaping these meetings by participating in these efforts to counteract the bias toward ideas that may be presented by members with more authority or power. When team members all have the ability to participate in important decisions, there is room for creative thinking and meaning-making. Your team can also decide what practices to use to encourage creativity and collaboration.
You can also generate new ideas by using brainwriting instead of brainstorming as a tool to encourage the inclusion of many different perspectives. The concept of brainwriting is when group members jot down ideas or thoughts independently in response to a question or problem-solving prompt. Studies demonstrate that brainwriting generates more ideas and better quality ideas than brainstorming. One of the factors contributing to this is that you are less susceptible to bias or a tendency to get distracted by other people’s ideas when coming up with your own.
Listening nonjudgmentally is another way to increase high performance on your team and build a psychologically safe environment. A non-judgmental listening approach involves allowing a group member to express his or her idea completely, and then responding in a way that validates its potential. The opposite of non-judgmental listening is when we use phrases like “we’ve done this before or this won’t work”. These responses can frustrate the person giving the idea and make others feel unsafe to raise their own ideas.
Your organization can shift continuously in the direction of an inclusive environment by educating your team on subtle biases through strategic programs, support, and resources– then following through by leading by example and holding all members accountable, regardless of role or status in the company.