DEI for Innovation 1: Building innovative teams, with Sharon Delaney McCloud

A diverse team makes companies stronger and more productive. In this series, Kurt Merriweather, The Diversity Movement’s VP of Products and Innovation, talks with DEI leaders about how diversity, equity and inclusion can lead to incredible developments in your organization and beyond. In this episode, Kurt talks with Walk West’s Sharon Delaney McCloud about why he wanted to create this series.

 

Transcript

[00:00:00] Kurt Merriweather: [00:00:00] Welcome to Winning with Diversity, a podcast to help you learn the strategies to transform your business through diversity, equity and inclusion.

This is episode one of our series on DEI and innovation, where we discuss techniques and approaches to build high-performing teams that operate more effectively and unlock new opportunities for business growth. I’m your host, Kurt Merriweather, VP of products and innovation at The Diversity Movement.

And today we’ll be exploring how we help companies transform themselves through technology. Data-driven insight and new approaches to DEI plan execution. I’m thrilled to be joined by Sharon Delaney McLeod, a multihyphenate uh, and professional development that walk west also an adjunct professor at North Carolina state university, a consultant at the diversity movement at Ted talk speaker, a former news anchor and professional speaker.

Extraordinary. Welcome to the show, Sharon. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:00:59] Thanks [00:01:00] so much Kurt, what a very nice introduction. And I’m thrilled to be on the very first episode. 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:01:05] Uh, well, I wouldn’t have it any other way than to kick things off, uh, with the two of you at the two, the two of us, hopefully we’ll cut that out, but happy that, uh, the two of us could kick this off.

And so you’ve been an integral part of what we’re doing. Uh, at the diversity movement. So I wanted you to talk about, um, how you got involved and why you think, uh, you know, clients that we’re talking to or other people you’re talking to, uh, think diversity equity inclusion is so important, uh, especially as it relates to innovation.

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:01:37] Absolutely. First Kurt I think it would be important to just give a little bit of background on my diversity journey and just so that people can understand from the lens in which I look at things I’m the child of immigrants. And that plays a very, very important role to me. I like to say that I’m a citizen of the world.

And I [00:02:00] mean that through and through. So my parents immigrated to the U S kind of searching and looking for the American dream.

They got transferred and I was actually born in east Africa and so went to really diverse schools and had some amazing opportunities as a child, and then moved to the United States when I was in the third grade and moved to this small community out in long island, New York.

And it was the most homogeneous population of people I had ever been around. And it was so odd and it seemed frankly to me, very bland and the sameness was all around me. And then we only lived there for about three years before moving to Miami. Well, Miami felt much more like home. As far as having that unique perspective from so many different cultures, Miami is such an international city.

And so that really formed who I am and, and really loving to learn and be curious about people of all [00:03:00] backgrounds. And so when. We walked west, uh, we’re doing, we do professional development training. That’s the part of the practice that I spend most of my time and my colleagues, you and Donald and, and Jackie, and several of us had been doing a lot of speaking and training on.

Bits and pieces of diversity, equity and inclusion. For me, I was doing a lot of women’s conferences and, and talking to high level teams about gender equity, but not until. We started really delving into the full holistic picture of DEI. Did I start to learn about all the other things and you know, like our, our partner, Donald Thompson likes to say, I I’ve, I’ve become a competitive learner and you and Jackie and he and I, and others on the team really dug in and, and yeah.

When after the learning part and [00:04:00] got our, uh, certified diversity executive part. And so our certification and that has been an incredible. Learning curve for me seeing DEI from a whole new perspective that I had never considered before. And I thought I was, you know, pretty woke on the whole situation and I was not.

And then the other thing that I’m finding now, Kurt is when we’re going in and doing professional development training for the C-suite. One of the first things we’re asking now that we weren’t doing before is how do you talk about diversity, equity and inclusion as a leader for your organization? What is your messaging look like?

How do you talk about it? Are you comfortable talking about it? Where are you in that journey? And so it’s really opened up a whole new line of discussions, which then leads to the innovation on how people are going to learn. And that’s where we come back to you. Kurt. 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:04:57] All right. Well, I think it’s time to [00:05:00] flip the tables and of course, this is comfortable for you interviewing side of this.

And so, uh, I’ll, I’ll let you go ahead and, uh, I’ll sit in the hot seat or the guest chair and. We’d love to answer any questions you have for me then around, uh, how we got started. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:05:19] Yeah, Kurt, I mean, this is, and this is actually much more comfortable for me to me be asking you the questions. And so I’m, I’m in my sweet spot right now and, you know, Talking about everybody has a very unique journey and their DEI knowledge and education and life experience.

And with the diversity movement, I love that, you know, for you now you get to really be in that world 40 hours a week. I know way more

this week is just half your week. Right? Part-time on that. But tell us. A little bit more about what your DEI journey has looked like over the course [00:06:00] of your career and as a black American growing up here. 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:06:04] Right. Um, so I. Experienced this in lots of different ways. Uh, so when I was, uh, studying engineering at Ohio state, um, I happened to be the president of the national society of black engineers there, um, and have always looked for opportunities to connect, uh, other people who are unrepresented underrepresented and provide opportunities.

Uh, and so that was the thing that I became passionate about when I was there is to help students say, you know, you can work at, uh, at that point, the company before Boeing and, uh, companies that probably people have not heard of before, but technology companies and provide a path to, uh, organizations that we’re looking for for different kinds of employees.

And so I’ve been passionate about that. Providing the bridge, [00:07:00] uh, since, uh, I was in school and so had the opportunity to, uh, work at Proctor and gamble and be one of the leaders in their, uh, employee resource group there, uh, coming out of school and help put together a conference. And at that point I had no idea that Procter and gamble was an anomaly.

I thought every company was like 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:07:21] that. Oh, well, so with that ERG there, back then, there weren’t. Really diversity officers at any company. And when I say back then, we’re, we’re probably talking 20 years ago. Right. 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:07:33] So we’re talking about, uh, you know, if I date myself a little bit tonight. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:07:38] Yeah. And so ERG is where they just kind of, or those affinity groups, was that a new-ish thing with corporate America?

Kurt Merriweather: [00:07:46] It was, I mean, Proctor and gamble was probably one of the first organizations to do that. Xerox is one of the organizations that people point to is the originator of, uh, employee resource groups. And so this was early days. And, [00:08:00] uh, we had the opportunity to, uh, have the organization invest in and make sure that, uh, black employees had an opportunity to network and connect and have mentorship opportunities.

And so I didn’t know how far ahead Procter and gamble was. And so, um, Throughout my career, I’ve recognized that that was an anomaly. And so there are many organizations that don’t have that kind of venture infrastructure set up to think about how to help their employees, uh, be connected to.

Opportunities to innovate in their organizations. And so we had the opportunity at that point to have speakers come in. And I remember having a speaker come in from a technology company talking about, uh, what his journey was as an alumni of Proctor and gamble. And so it opened my eyes to other opportunities that existed.

And so that was one of the things that was formative for me in, um, thinking about what was next. And so, uh, so I could go on and on about my background. But I think [00:09:00] having been in so many different spaces, so many different organizations, knowing what it’s like to be the other in an organization, I want to make sure that other people don’t have to experience that and that they’re recognized for their achievements and the things that they do, uh, beyond, uh, physical characteristics, like, uh, race, sexual identity or sexual orientation or gender identity.

And so when I think about. Innovation the way I think about it is broader than technology. It’s really about how do you bring different kinds of people together? Who’ve had different experiences so that they can do something amazing that hasn’t been done before. And so technology now is a piece of that, but it’s, it’s really.

Getting the right people in the right seats, uh, who are not the same to come up with ideas that they wouldn’t have come up with otherwise if they worked together. And so that’s, that’s how I think about, uh, my background, my past, and she’ll spending time at. Stanford and some other companies and AOL and [00:10:00] discovery, and, uh, that just merged with Warner media this week.

It’s a huge company now, but having those opportunities to work at some of those organizations, you know, as definitely formed, you know, how I think about innovation 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:10:11] and I love that the innovation piece it’s it’s. I think that the easy default, when you hear the word, innovation is technology, but innovation is.

Also so many other things, it’s new kinds of thinking, new kinds of perspectives. And so I love that idea that innovation goes hand in hand with all things DEI. Now, why are you doing? And have you decided to kick off and start this particular podcast, the DEI and innovation together? 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:10:45] The reason for kicking the podcast off is to.

Have opportunities for other folks who are thought leaders in their respective spaces. So we can start to dig into those areas that I was touching before around [00:11:00] innovation. And so innovation from thinking about, um, business model innovation, uh, thinking about, uh, technology innovation, certainly, uh, thinking about bringing new products to market and design thinking is something that a lot of people have talked about.

So how do you approach a business problem? But from a designer’s perspective and how do you come up with new ideas and prototyping new ways to approach problem solving. And that’s important when organizations are rolling out diversity, equity and inclusion programs or initiatives, because it’s really about.

Change management or business transformation as much as anything else. And so when you’re thinking about an organization as a product, and you’re thinking about how to change the design of that organization, then thinking about that organization with I’m going to run a pilot. I’m going to see how that does.

I’m going to get data around how that did, and then I’m going to scale that that’s a way to think about, uh, just about anything, but a lot of people don’t think about that in the context of [00:12:00] diversity, equity and inclusion. So I want to have, uh, leaders from their various disciplines come and talk about, uh, how they innovate, but doing it through the lens of having different kinds of members of teams to build either technology or new services or new products or new ways of working or new methodologies.

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:12:19] You know what you just said? Reminds me of a story. I recently heard about the founder of a product. That required an incredible amount of problem solving, but from different perspectives and how he did it, I’m sure there’s, you know, there’s so many examples of this, but when I think about this, it also brings in another area of diversity that you and I have learned a lot about in the last year.

And that’s disability inclusion. Because that’s an element of DEI that people often forget. It’s almost an afterthought people with varying disabilities or abilities, but it was, uh, the founder of a company called  watches or [00:13:00] timepieces. He one time pieces and they are the most beautiful. Well, they’re more than they don’t like to call them watches, but they’re the most beautiful time pieces you could imagine.

And it was a, he was a student at MIT and he happened to have a classmate who was blind. And he said, so how can my classmate tell time other than using a smartphone or the clunkiness of an iWatch, it just didn’t, it didn’t work. And so they innovated. By you by and using problem solving to create the most beautiful product that is.

And here’s the interesting statistic. 95% of their customers are cited and only 5% have a visual disability, but it’s because it’s the most beautiful product that was designed from the beginning to be inclusive of all and taking that analogy and putting that into place in how we’re hiring teams. [00:14:00] In how we are, you know, when we bring in people from all diverse backgrounds, how can we all learn from each other?

And that leads to my next question. Kurt, when you go in and you’re helping companies build teams, you’re a builder. I mean, you’re, it’s in your DNA as an engineer, but also you’re a team builder and you, you, you bring people together and find where their sweet spots are and how they align with what role fits best for them.

How do you bring that now with the DEI lens? Very deliberately. 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:14:35] The, the thing to, uh, that we would do, uh, when we’re thinking about teams and how to construct those teams is to really have a strong emphasis on what problem that team is trying to solve. And that’s, that’s something that seems, um, Logical, but most people don’t actually start with the problem they’re trying to solve when they’re creating a [00:15:00] team.

Sometimes they start with, well, other people were doing it like this, so let’s copy what they did or let’s kind of almost cut and paste what they did or search and find. And when you’re thinking about the problem that you’re trying to solve differently, and then that unlocks new ways to do team assembly.

Uh, and so for example, um, Uh, I was doing some reading recently about the gap. They have a, uh, organization that they call, uh, color proud, which is a product inclusion council. And one of the things that they looked at was creating a sense of belonging for customers who were coming into their locations.

And, uh, they recognized that there was an opportunity to do something different around, uh, shades of nude. So. New do you usually has a certain connotation, the same things. You’re seeing this with, uh, bandages now to where bandages used to come in one shade or nude came in one shade. And so [00:16:00] their team looked at different shades that represented their entire customer base.

And so they needed to have team members who were consistent with the customers they were trying to reach. So they understood their problems in a unique way. And that’s, that’s one of the things that’s important. When, uh, especially in the technology space, around solving different kinds of problems. And so there’s stories of, uh, for example, um, bias in technology, uh, when, uh, when the apple products first came out, uh, around the credit card.

Uh, that they launched. It turns out that, uh, women weren’t given the same credit score. I believe that, uh, that been more, uh, there, there were some issues around gender in terms of that somehow, or there’s facial recognition, um, software that doesn’t. Pick up, uh, darker faces, uh, it only picks up lighter faces.

And so when you don’t have the [00:17:00] right people designing algorithms or thinking about credit score algorithms and in that case, um, then, um, or the, or the terms weren’t the same. I think that that was the issue. Uh, but when you have that had happened, then the reason for that is the team. Makeup isn’t the right team makeup because it’s too homogeneous.

And so when you think about the problem I’m trying to solve, I’m trying to create a universal algorithm to recognize faces. Well, I need more people who look different to solve that problem differently. Um, just like you were mentioning before around universal design. So that that watch works well, no matter who you are, it looks beautiful.

And it works for folks who are visually impaired. And so that what we’re trying to find is opportunities to focus on one segment that provides opportunities for everybody because of the right, the right approaches and thinking around, around building that product or that solution. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:17:59] And [00:18:00] that same line of thinking can be brought into every industry.

Every sector. I think about healthcare, for example, clinical trials, I don’t know the exact percentages, but for many years, the majority of medicines have only ever been tested on it. Right. And for that matter, white men, that’s right. You have these results that you’re trying to. Use for the entire population that looks way different than the one test subject.

And as someone who’s actually done a clinical trial and, and gone through it, you know, it’s a rigorous thing, but there needs to be more diversity in thought in it. All aspects of how you’re going to recruit people when thinking about different products that are solving all types of really important problems that have to be solved in our world.

We’ve got complex issues that require, uh, a really [00:19:00] diverse voices and, and chorus of thought rather than just a solo. Right, right. 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:19:07] That’s right. That’s that’s a really important point around no healthcare and what we’re dealing with now around healthcare disparities. And part of that comes from not having factual information about how to serve a specific population because the teams don’t have.

Members of that population among them. So in order to create empathy, it’s necessary to have a diverse team. So that, that team, if you looked at the collective of empathy or the collective IQ, that team increases. When you have different kinds of people, uh, who are making decisions. And so that’s, you know, that’s what we’re on the hunt for is finding ways to help teams unlock all those opportunities.

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:19:53] Now you’re working with organizations of all sizes, uh, and. Organizations that are [00:20:00] many different places on the spectrum. As we learned in our course of the continuum of where they are in their diversity journey or their DEI journey, what, what are some of the ways that you are innovating right now with the diversity movement?

Kurt Merriweather: [00:20:18] I’ve I can go on, obviously for hours about that question, starting with the way that we work with clients in our initial. Um, engagements. And so what we want to be able to do is provide our resources, tools, and methodologies to fundamentally change the culture of the organization so that they, uh, create business impact.

So when we, when we think about who we are as an organization, we’re really business strategists to think through things with an equity lens. And that’s how we start is to understand what the business problem is that that organization is trying to solve for, uh, by having different kinds of talent in that organization to [00:21:00] fulfill the mission of the organization and to do what that organization needs to do.

So there are three phases that we, when we work with an organization, there’s the assessment phase, liberal learning phase, and then there’s the engagement phase. And so when we’re creating products, And services. What we want to be able to do is streamline those processes. Uh, so that in the assessment, we can create a set of benchmarks that we can look and see how progress is being made over time.

And so we’ll look at both assess, uh, with quantitative data as well as qualitative data, meaning that we’ll look at survey results or we’ll have conversations within the organization to understand the temperature starting with the leadership, because if the leadership is not bought in. It’s not going to be very successful endeavor based on our experience.

Once we have a good sense of what’s happening in the organization, then we roll out learning, uh, tools. And so starting with the course that we were able to develop, uh, Beginning with, uh, the birthday beyond the checkbox that has five modules. We start with that course, and that [00:22:00] allows us to scale our impact so that we’re not just reliant on being based a face with an organization, but the, the folks who take that course.

Can spend time, fast-forward rewind focused on the areas that, uh, are, uh, going to help them along their journeys and do that in their, the safety of their homes. Because a lot of times we find that people need psychological safety yeah. Progress in learning concepts. That might be. Uh, difficult to, to grasp.

And when we want to make sure that folks start feeling embarrassed as they’re going through some of that content, 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:22:33] Kurt, I’d love to expand on that just a little bit for people who don’t, who are fairly new to all of this and how that can be so important because they’re. I think that so many people are afraid to approach meaningful discussions like this at work, because they’re afraid to say the wrong thing.

They don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. They don’t that they’re afraid that they’ll be looked at as, as the outlier who has a different set of thinking than [00:23:00] everyone else. And so what do they do? Nothing. Right. And so that’s what I love about the online course. And it’s interesting. We hadn’t done way before the pet, not way before, but we hadn’t done published before the pandemic.

And so what it really does is it allows a, uh, People by themselves or with a small group to go through the course and not feel like you’re being judged, if you, if you don’t have all the right answers or the right things to say. And I think that’s really important to emphasize that psychological safety aspect of that 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:23:34] that’s right.

And that was something that we thought of early and had no idea what was going to happen, uh, when we were in development. And so it’s one of the things that helped, uh, Really propel, where we are, uh, is thinking about how to scale learning so that it’s not dependent on face to face interaction and what we’re hope to see that it reinforces [00:24:00] face-to-face interaction.

Uh, so when, whenever, whenever we see, uh, content that’s delivered that, uh, creates opportunities to have a discussion. And when you have more discussion and it has the opportunity to say, well, let me go back and learn more. And so we have the cycle we’re starting to see. And 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:24:16] now that, that have you seen some really impactful evolutions within the companies you’re working over the last 12 months or so?

Kurt Merriweather: [00:24:24] We have, uh, you know, one of our, uh, there are a couple of clients that we’ve been working with, uh, there’s bay, outta who’s in the home healthcare space that has made significant progress and has been able to build infrastructure, uh, in ways that, uh, they were surprised by. And, uh, we’ve had new leaders join that organization and say, you know, we can’t.

Believe how much progress B out has been able to make in a short time period since we launched the work of about a year ago. And so we’ve been able to see that organization really become much more engaged [00:25:00] in terms of connecting DEI to the business and making sure that they’re thinking about how to shift, you know, whether it’s the leadership team, making sure that they roll out their, uh, employee resource councils and to do the work so that.

Uh, it does become a core part of them delivering better services to the diverse population they have when healthcare 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:25:23] yeah. They’re going into people’s homes, 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:25:26] people’s homes. And so they’re dealing with the challenges that come with doing that. And I think they’ve done very well and being able to adopt a lot of the approaches and education and tools that we’ve provided.

Uh, to them as they’ve, as they move forward, another client, I would point to is Abrigo, who’s taken the same sort of approaches they’ve built their, uh, their solutions to around implementing the AI in the organization. And we’ve been able to employ some of the tools and the technology and that organization beyond the [00:26:00] e-learning course.

So we’re excited about what they’re doing there. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:26:03] What I love also is that, and, and I think this is really pointing to what you’ve been able to do. You’re constantly thinking of what’s next, what’s new. What can we continue to do to keep people engaged? So let’s talk a little bit about TDM connect and the, almost like the gamification, uh, of, of how to get people talking about these important things.

Kurt Merriweather: [00:26:26] Yeah, thanks for asking about that. Uh, Sharon, so TDM connect or the diversity movement connect is an app that we developed so that we can reinforce learning. So it’s one thing to understand something intellectually. It’s another thing to understand something practically with hands-on reinforcement. And so we know that learning or better learning happens that way when you’ve got that kind of reinforcement.

So the app has 30 custom actions, uh, whether it’s, uh, watching a video, reading a book, learning a new recipe, [00:27:00] having a conversation that could be challenging, uh, or attending an event focused on DEI. You’re able to earn points and compete with other people inside your organization. And so the competition of course is friendly and it’s engaging and it’s fun.

And we see teams competing against one another with the winners of teams being able to, uh, not only have the joy of getting to know each other, but also being able to do things like donating. Uh, uh, uh, some, uh, proceeds to a organization in their local community that is, uh, consistent with what they believe from a DEI perspective or, uh, being able to have lunch with the CEO, uh, as another example and having some more, uh, team building kinds of rewards.

And so what we’re seeing is that we’re taking these real-world actions and that’s change turning into behavior change. And, uh, one of our clients was talking about the fact that when, uh, they, uh, had one of their team members go through, [00:28:00] uh, the connect app, they were able to learn because there was no prescribed path.

And so something that we know about learning is that when there’s not a prescribed way, that you should do something that learning happens faster. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:28:14] Oh, choose your own adventure. 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:28:16] Right. So when you have a choose your own adventure, here’s I want to do this action. I want to do this action. Then it, uh, lowers the barriers to learning.

It gets got control over what’s happening. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:28:31] Nice. Well, those are all the learnings that we’re getting from people using the product. That’s very cool. Now we also have a TDM, the diversity movement community online that people are from outside your organization, lots of people, including members of our own team that you can interact with.

Talk about that a 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:28:49] little, the idea behind TDM community is to provide a professional networking space for DEI leaders and champions and advocates. And what we were seeing is that. [00:29:00] Last year in particular, there were many people in the organizations that were thrust into positions that they didn’t have a network or a support system to, uh, execute whatever was in front of them, whether it was launching an employee resource group or thinking about how to build a business case around DEI or coming up with.

Uh, an annual report talking about how that organization was making progress and then grappling with things that we’ve not seen before, uh, whether it was the insurrection of capital or, uh, violence in the Asian American Pacific Islander community. And so we wanted to provide ways for organizations to get access to our team.

At scale and the leaders of those organizations to get access to our team and to be part of events and conversations and get access to resources to help them do the work that they’ve done. And so we’re excited about what we’re seeing so far in terms of the growth in the community, and we expect that to continue.

And so providing that kind of a network where you [00:30:00] can instantly get plugged in to here’s what I need to do started in my organization. That was the emphasis about 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:30:07] community. It’s almost like an association that, that we’ve created, that people can go in and get support for educational resources and bouncing ideas off of other leaders and, and advocates in the space.

Now what about TDM analytics? What is that? 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:30:25] So TDM analytics comes from the work that we’ve done in the assessment phase with our clients. And one of the things that we see when we’re working with clients in that phase is that the value that we get is understanding sentiment. If you look at the entire organization and you compare that sentiment around DEI to what leaders think about what’s happening in that organization.

And so being able to get. Specific data so that the organization can say, here’s what I think is happening, but here’s, what’s actually happening and being able to provide data and [00:31:00] to visualize that data makes that more powerful. And so what we’re doing is to extend what a lot of organizations start with, which is demographic driven data.

We want to expand that, to include the data around inclusion. And how, uh, members of the organization feel around how they’re being included. Uh, we want to look at things around equity or pay equity, uh, as an example, or the assignments that folks from different different, uh, groups get access to, uh, we want to look at policies and practices and procedures.

Around recruitment and how supplier diversity is incorporated into how our organization is functioning. And then we want to look at things like succession planning and how the employee resource groups are being, uh, incorporated into the overall business strategy. And then look at how leaders or how learners in that organization are making progress.

And we want to look at that data across the entire company. So we don’t want the data to just be relegated to [00:32:00] HR. Because that data often is passive and you can’t tell what’s happening. You want to be able to give leaders in the organization, whether they’re in finance or sales and marketing access to data, to see how they can move the needle in their respective parts of the organization to make progress, especially as it relates to hiring talent and seeing that talent progress and grow in the organization.

And so. We are starting the process of building a set of benchmarks so that we can look at how one organization compares to another organization so that they can get a score to see where they are on this continuum of, uh, just getting started or initial competence to an organization that’s more competent and is at the point where they’re ready to kind of optimize and do some higher level things in terms of the impact on the business, that they’re will be able to 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:32:50] show.

I would have to imagine Kurt, that data really helps also to demonstrate the business effectiveness of this kind of work. [00:33:00] And nobody, you know, any member of the C-suite is concerned with bottom line. And so how we can prove and show that greater emphasis on DEI work within any organization really does impact the bottom line.

And so many ways positively. That’s right. So 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:33:20] that is you, you summed it up perfectly. We provide leaders with access to real time data. They can see how it’s impacting the business. And so that’s, that’s exactly right 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:33:31] now. One thing that I, that I don’t know about, and I’m really curious to learn is TDM labs.

Kurt Merriweather: [00:33:39] Right. So, uh, the diversity movement labs or TDM labs, um, is a place where we can look at lots of different concepts based on what we’re learning as we work with clients. And so the thing that I love about our model is that we’re able to use our client learnings, to figure out how to build things, to be even more helpful, uh, to our [00:34:00] clients at scale.

And so, uh, that was the impetus behind, uh, TDM labs and beginning to create an incubator of ideas and concepts within the business. The first thing that we’re starting with is, uh, a conversational, uh, artificial intelligence assistant to help people in conversations. And so one of the things that we’re seeing.

Is that to your point before, there are many people who want to dig in and make progress on DEI, but they don’t know who to talk to and often are silent because they don’t feel equipped to have conversations. Uh, and so what we want to provide is. An access to a virtual assistant to have dialogues or ask questions about.

So what is, what is code switching mean? Uh, what is trans, what is it? What does transgender mean as, as an example? Uh, what is it, uh, is it. Possible for someone who’s white to have privilege. So those are [00:35:00] some of the questions that we often hear, or what’s the difference between equity and equality. And we want to provide a place where people can have those, those conversations, but do that in the context of having a conversation with, uh, a virtual expert.

And so we’re, that’s one example of something that we’re beginning to look at, or, uh, another concept we’re examining is. Getting to know people on a different basis as you’re interacting and doing team building. So wouldn’t it be cool if I, if you and I were on this call and then something popped up, it says, Sharon is, uh, An extrovert and she likes, uh, public speaking and she, uh, likes fitness and is deep, is very much into health.

And so these are the things you should talk about and you shouldn’t talk about these other things because she doesn’t respond well to them. Um, and so if you knew that information about people as you were interacting, You’d have better conversations and you have [00:36:00] better interactions. And so we’re, we’re looking at building something to help facilitate more, uh, effective team building.

Another concept we’re looking at is, you know, what, if you were, um, putting out, uh, messages, uh, from your customer service team and you wanted to make sure that those messages were inclusive. Uh, and we’re an offensive. And so looking at technology to help facilitate that, uh, automatically, 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:36:24] well, I, you know, I think about AI and all of these chat boxes that who is building the language for the chat boxes, what did the teams look like?

Right. Do they have diverse teams and, and, and it’s just going to get more and more and more that, you know, think about robo calls. And I mean, there’s so much is becoming automated that, you know, how can, how can we add to that conversation to make sure that people are using inclusive, um, coding, programming, all of it within that chatbox piece.

And, and like you [00:37:00] said, having this, um, virtual assistant that you could ask things to that’s, that’s really cool stuff. Kurt. 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:37:07] So those are, those are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the things that we’re beginning to explore. And our goal is, as we think about the technologies, a lot of times folks, uh, think about technology first without the problem that we’re trying to solve.

And so that’s, that’s how we’re starting is we have a problem. What do we, how do we more effectively, uh, make sure that. We’re engaging organizations, uh, as they’re doing work, uh, so that not only are they getting the assessment and the learning, but they have a set of tools that are helping them change behavior, uh, to make that organization more effective, uh, in, uh, making the employee experience amazing.

And that drives the business results that they’re looking for. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:37:52] I love it. So many things happening and, uh, just, you know, I think about the acceleration [00:38:00] of, of TDS I am and, and where we were just, you know, 12, 18 months ago and to where we are now, and I’m really excited for the future and what’s to come and, and thank you for your leadership on, on doing all of this and putting this all out there and allowing us to experiment and try all sorts of new things in this really incredibly important 

Kurt Merriweather: [00:38:20] space.

Well, thank you, Sharon. It’s been a pleasure doing this, uh, with you and, uh, who would have imagined in January of 2020, that we’d be where we are now. So it’s been an amazing ride and, uh, thank you for your help and partnership and doing that. 

Sharon Delaney McCloud: [00:38:42] Thank you. I’m really honored to be, to be a part of this. So thanks very much, Kurt.

Kurt Merriweather: [00:38:49] Thanks so much, Sharon. That was awesome. Yeah. Good.

Full Episode Transcript

Winning with Diversity is brought to you by The Diversity Movement, hosted by VP of Products and Innovation Kurt Merriweather, and is a production of Earfluence.

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