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The Future of Workforce Diversity & Inclusion: Does your HR policy include genetic enhancement and body hacking guidelines?

When (former) Google employee James Damore was fired earlier this month after distributing a memo charging the company with intolerance towards ideological conservatives, it was made clear — if it wasn’t already–that that diversity and inclusion policies are based on collective narratives. Narratives are our justifying accounts for why we believe what we do, and they unfold in our speech, behavior and policies.

The way Damore tells it, the uneven gender and racial distribution in technology firms comes down to ‘natural’ or biological differences–and this is the most foundational justification there is. But scientific claims don’t typically end a discussion; rather, they are part of it.

Indeed, if there is any scientific story emerging about human characteristics, it is that  we are emergent, complex and singular creatures whose patterns of behavior are the specific result of our various forms of identification, nature, nurture and experiences.

In one sense, this presents a baffling conundrum for executive leaders, human resources managers and policy makers.

On the other, we are entering an era of extreme customization. If Amazon can anticipate my consumer desires on the basis of an algorithm, can we not fashion more complex algorithms that better take into account the specific contours of our identities?

As both an analogy and an actual technology, could we extend the concept of personalization of consumer choices to personalization of people?  This would be coming around to the original humanist proposition that we are each distinct and particular, but no matter, why don’t we hire the way we market? For each potential hire, employers could consider not only who we are on the basis of existing categories of gender and race, but the indivisible ways that each of us filters and articulates our own experience of who we are and what that means.

In the meantime, the technological and environmental changes that are proving so disruptive in other facets of our lives may also impact our understanding of diversity in the not-so-distant future.  Currently, sex, ethnicity, immigrant status, disability and perhaps cognitive type are the focus of most diversity and inclusion discourse.  Yet other changes are afoot that may alter or expand our understanding of what diversity means, and which human traits require protection or inclusion in the workplace.

I have detailed six potential developments that could drive change in workforce diversity in this recent blog. They include: further demographic changes (in the United States); genetic modification; automation; technology-driven transparency and artificial intelligence/ algorithm-based marketing. You can read the entire blog here.

If you’d like to improve your organization’s narrative alignment to prevent the damaging dissonance unfolding at Google, please give me a call at +1-202-594-9236 or contact me at  A narrative assessment, whose modality can be customized to your needs, can help uncover discordant views before they result in reputational damage.

Each month, the Catalyst provides a quick list of useful and provocative sources for thinking more deeply and building strong strategic narratives in our institutions, communities and nations. This month:

E-book: Polystate: A Thought Experiment in Distributed Government

Zach Weinersmith, who is in his day job a well-regarded webcomic cartoonist, explores the premise that it may one day be possible to be a citizen of a non-territorial state. To contrast to the “geo-states” that most of us, barring the stateless, inhabit today, Weinersmith posits the premise of “a virtual state whose laws apply only to individuals, not to geographic areas.”  “Polystate” is the name he gives to the full aggregation of all the world’s anthrostates, which share some overarching laws that govern all.

Weinersmith’s objective is not to promote the anthro-state as an improvement over the present. Indeed, he spends much of the short book exploring challenges, from more complex business and legal transactions, to the outcomes of violent conflict between a traditional geostate and an anthrostate. Rather, he argues that improved information technology and a global culture of customization are likely to lead to the desire for customized governance. Some critics find Polystate’s premise too implausible to be worth entertaining. Given present day advances in e-governance in countries such as Estonia and the UAE, and the continued softening of sovereign power, I found Weinersmith’s thought experiment a worthwhile provocation.

The book is available as a kindle e-book here.

  • Using Strategic Narrative to Improve Your Strategic Planning, An Association for Strategic Planning Webinar, September 12. All organizations today, regardless of size or purpose, face 3 novel environmental conditions: (1) Media transparency, making it difficult to control communications; (2) The potential for technologically-driven disruption; (3) Diverse, autonomous stakeholders whose behavior is driven by narrative commitments—the belief in one account of what is happening over another. Organizations succeed or fail depending on their ability to manage in these conditions.  The strategic narrative framework offers a way to leverage these conditions and concrete methods to incorporate them into existing planning cycles.

    If you are interested in learning more, I hope you’ll put September 12 at 1PM Eastern Time on your calendar. I’ll be offering a webinar through the Association of Strategic Planning that maps strategic narrative onto familiar planning activities, so you can incorporate them into yours. The registration site is here.

  • Cooler Lumpur Festival: Notes from the Future. If you are reading this newsletter in Southeast Asia, I hope you will come join me and an amazing roster of thinkers and doers from around the world at the Cooler Lumpur Festival later this week. Now in its fifth year, this festival of ideas has the future as this year’s theme. I’ll join journalists, creative artists, and analysts to discuss digital democracy, politics and populism and life as we may know it in 2037. All events are free and at Publika. More on the festival: here

  • Making sense of automation and employment statistics. Claims that automation could reduce employment by 50% or more have made it a hot topic in the news all year.  I was pleased to return to CGTN’s daily Global Business show in July to talk about how to make sense of these statistics. The five minute interview can be watched here.

  • The Future of Warfare. Peter Singer is one of the world’s most interesting and articulate analysts of the potential futures of violent conflict, so it was a privilege to be able to interview him at the New America Foundation headquarters earlier this summer on behalf of the Council for Emerging National Security Affairs. Our discussion about how artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and automation will affect violent combat and our ideas about war can be viewed here.

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