Are Your DEI Wheels Spinning?

Originally published as a LinkedIn article on July 6, 2021, this updated version is reprinted here with the permission of the author.  Links to relevant sources are added.

Lately, many LinkedIn posts bemoan the state of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. The seeming slow take up of great ideas.

Some argue that DEI initiatives are no more than window dressing or organizational efforts to stave-off litigation. To others, they have the appearance of one more management initiative that if waited out will simply go away like so many others before.

Fundamentally, DEI initiatives require change. A change of (B)ehaviors in the face of seemingly new situations or influencing (C)onditions (Circumstances, Capabilities, Cultures, Environments). When these two variables evolve, so do exiting (R)elationships. The RBC model is well established in social science and was first used to model Cross-Cultural (international business) Negotiations.

It is multi-dimensional including a temporal schema capable of addressing numerous aspects of human behavior. Furthermore, it encompasses cultural as well as other situational aspects such as individual backgrounds.

We tested this model using Japanese and American executives. This culturally diverse group needed to develop a level of trust if negotiation outcomes were to be successful.

Likewise, successful DEI initiatives require that culturally diverse groups develop a high level of trust among those working together and/or members of teams.

“Tell Me and I Forget. Teach Me and I Remember. Involve Me and I Learn”

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, this quote tells us all we need to know. The so-called Death by PowerPoint lecture long in vogue are often forgettable. Instruction, along with the homework prerequisite and tests are traditional methods. Finally, engaging individuals, teams, departments and even entire organizations can create long standing sustainable knowledge that is the basis for behavioral transformation.

Paper based serious games or “games whose purpose is other than entertainment” originated in the late 1960-70s. In a nutshell, this is an interactive training solution. Subsequently, online serious games can incorporate actual scenarios designed to immerse players solving real world challenges.

Rather than a video game whereby players engage with electronic decision trees, human-to-human serious games train players/teams to deal with diverse yet real colleagues. Collaborative scenarios direct participants to collectively solve problems while learning how their culturally dissimilar counterparts address the same challenge.

Scenarios can drive engagement by all players including those who may not be typically involved in decision making processes. This is also a safe, no-harm no-foul environment with little to no individual decision-making risk.


Any successful ‘change’ initiative must answer the What’s in It for Me? question. Humans may resist change if they do not see personal value from such actions. Moreover, while senior executive leadership is required, heavy handed top down My Way or The Highway may result in direct resistance, and/or a more crowed freeway to the exit ramp.

For example, the current version of the smart phone was first available circa 2007. According to Statista, approximately 1.38 billion smartphones were sold in 2020. Likewise, over 46 percent of the global population own these devices.

What does this have to do with DEI? In 2006 cellphones were great and becoming ubiquitous. No one knew they needed a smartphone. Our collective Behavioral transformation was caused because the What’s in it for Me question was answered.

One component of the Conditions criteria, Capability changed as this technology enabled individuals to drive new behaviors based on Apps that emerged. The resulting transformation in our Relationships is well documented, i.e., the use of text as opposed to voice.

Sustained transformation requires continued energy. The term ‘initiative’ implies a short-term event and one that will pass.

Trust must be established and maintained. Over time, sustained energy will result in critical mass, or the (statistically significant) number of individuals engaged and trusting each other. This self-sustaining energy is transformation.

Reframing DEI Initiatives into the RBC Framework can enable dramatic and rapid transformation. Take advantage of these types of cross-cultural models.

For More Information

Please note, RRI does not endorse or advocate the links to any third-party materials.  They are provided for education and entertainment only.

For more information on Cross Cultural Engagement, check out our Cross Cultural Serious Game

We presented, Should Cross Cultural Serious Games Be Included in Your Diversity Program: Best Practices and Lessons Learned at the Online Conference, New Diversity Summit 2020 the week of September 14, 2020.  Check Out this timely event and contact the organizer for access to the presentations!!

You can contact this author as well.

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