Can quantum finally solve diversity and inclusion?

“”Changing behaviours at work. The quantum revolution is bringing more than scientific and technological progress. It’s changing behaviours and putting the focus on People too. 

In this article I’m shining the spotlight on Diversity and Inclusion, and how we can change things for the better in the quantum era.

Many decades of rich scientific progress has enabled the Quantum 2.0 revolution, but it is very much a 21st century phenomenon. That means we can shape its future, do things differently, and expand beyond current thinking, beliefs and practices.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
~ L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953).

The quantum world is progressing across scientific, technological and business domains. However, it’s vital to address the people domain too – especially against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic and the ‘Great Resignation’. We’re seeing the huge cost of being unhappy at work as people set limits to what they are prepared to endure.

For my part, I want to see a future where people are valued for their values and character, treated fairly, where meritocracy is real, and a person’s background or status is irrelevant.

This is easy to state but surprisingly hard to achieve. It can feel we’re still in the grip of 19th century mindsets!

Create value, change behaviours

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
~ John F. Kennedy

My focus has always been creating value for organisations. I liken the “DNA” of ‘value’ to the DNA of an apple tree. If the DNA of the tree is damaged, it won’t reach its potential – e.g. in fruit production, or the quality of its fruit. In fact, fruit-pickers could even avoid the tree in favour of others with better fruit!

Similarly in an organisation, any erosion, corrosion or breaks in the links from leadership to ‘delighting the customer’ destroys value. It’s easily done if:

  • organisational values are not lived everyday (by everyone)
  • people are not treated well (by leadership or colleagues)
  • skills – such as listening with empathy – are absent
  • promises are broken
  • leadership don’t want to hear about problems
  • there is a culture that bullies, or is afraid to speak up.

I could go on but in short, behaviours matter – not just of leadership – but everyone! Behaviours dictate the overall culture of organisations and their success potential. If you don’t pay attention to the small signs, you *always* end up with larger problems.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) matters

Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.
~ Mahatma Gandhi

D&I is a phrase that captures a wide range of topics. Hot topics are gender and race, but it’s not limited to these. Others include physical and mental challenges, care-giving, work-life balance, bullying and harassment, socio-economic factors, age, language, culture, personality types, diversity of thought and more.

D&I is a complex issue – one that can quickly become politicised, resulting in entrenched positions, hostility and inevitable stagnancy. Thus it can take decades for change to happen.

Positive D&I yields growth and innovation. This isn’t new – it’s been known for decades. For instance, organisations with above average diversity in their leadership teams show 19% more innovation.

So why is it so hard? Here are a variety of arguments/observations and oftentimes absurd reasons that I’ve seen over the years. D&I is hard because:

  • It’s not understood and the appetite to understand varies considerably.
  • It’s not taken seriously within organisations.
  • It requires people to change, and change inevitably means resistance.
  • The ‘blame game’ is often played, meaning entrenched positions emerge, stalling progress.
  • It’s handled poorly. D&I discussions will trigger strong emotions and so the topics have to be carefully and considerately managed with therapeutic support on-hand.
  • The quality of training varies and fails to ‘stick’.
  • A ‘People’ person is appointed to show that the organisation is taking D&I seriously, but then fails to listen to that person and act. Was hiring them just for show?
  • It’s “just about hiring more women” so they’ll stop complaining. Seriously!? How immature is this!
  • It’s is a “non-issue” blown out of proportion by ‘trouble makers’ (the label thrust on people who have the courage to speak out against unfairness).
  • We’re all in the ‘same boat’ argument (except we aren’t).
  • “Working hard will bring success” is presented as a universal truth, which conveniently ignores the barriers people face on a daily basis (e.g. access to education, housing, healthcare, job, salary, promotion etc).
  • “We don’t want that sort” is a phrase meaning an ‘undesirable person’. In D&I it means anyone who is different from “us” (could be race, gender, status). It’s a cruel expression and speaks of the character of the person uttering it.

It’s easy to walk away from D&I but there is a big cost to pay, not just for organisations but for society. There are ways of addressing D&I in more mature and sensible ways, but it isn’t smooth sailing. Are you willing to try?

Quantum is cross-cutting

You must understand the whole of life, not just one part of it.
~ Krishnamurti

I’m writing this section with my physicist hat on. I know full well that quantum physics describes how the universe operates and by implication all of life. Quantum processes are happening in each cell in my body and yours – despite our differences. Quantum doesn’t discriminate, or behave in the arbitrary and petty ways that humans can.

To understand the universe and life itself, we need beautiful minds and courageous hearts – who want to make a positive difference with their lives, each bringing their unique genius and qualities – irrespective of who they are and the challenges they are going through.

The Power of Community

Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.
~ Helen Keller

The quantum community is different, and many people have remarked upon this.

They’ve found the community more open and welcoming than the ones they’re used to – and that does take a period of adjustment.

Imagine if you’re used to being ‘ignored’ but now your voice is being listened to. How will you react?

Instead of being left out, you’re now invited to collaborate. Your skills matter and you are celebrated. How will you react?

You have the chance to shape the future rather than drift without purpose through life. How will you react?

There is a recognition within quantum that the growing quantum industry can be different, treating people from all walks of life as human beings, rather than ascribing labels. It’s extraordinary what a huge difference this makes in terms of collaboration, innovation and creating value – rather than wasting time and energy on negative behaviours and losing productivity.

We can just as easily stay in the past and perpetuate practices that discriminate, create inequalities and divisions, damaging lives and ruining our planet. That’s quite a legacy!

Quantum is different and making a difference – for the 21st century and beyond!

Do you want to be part of that change? I can help your organisation learn from and adopt “quantum values”. Get in touch with me to start today!

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