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The End of Diversity As We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed

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The End of Diversity As We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed

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The idea for this book came to Martin Davidson during a disarmingly honest conversation with a CFO he worked with. “Look,” the executive said, clearly troubled. “I know we can get a diverse group of people around the table. But so what? What difference does it really make to getting bottom-line results?”

Answering the “so what?” led Davidson to explore the flaws in how companies typically manage diversity. They don’t integrate diversity into their overall business strategy. They focus on differences that have little impact on their business. And often their diversity efforts end up hindering the professional development of the very people they were designed to help.

Davidson explains how what he calls Leveraging Difference™ turns persistent diversity problems into solutions that drive business results. Difference becomes a powerful source of sustainable competitive advantage instead of a distracting mandate handed down from HR.

To begin with, leaders must identify the differences most important to achieving organizational goals, even if the differences aren’t the obvious ones. The second challenge is to help employees work together to understand the ways these differences matter to the business. Finally, leaders need to experiment with how to use these relevant differences to get things done. Davidson provides compelling examples of how organizations have tackled each of these challenges.

Ultimately this is a book about leadership. As with any other strategic imperative, leaders need to take an active role-drive rather than just delegate. Successfully leveraging difference can be what distinguishes an ordinary organization from an extraordinary one.

Martin N. Davidson is associate professor of leadership and organizational behavior at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, and served as associate dean and chief diversity officer. He has consulted with dozens of Fortune 500 firms, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, including Merrill Lynch Global Wealth & Investment Management, AT&T, Pitney Bowes, Harvard University, and the Nature Conservancy. He was elected chair of the Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division of the Academy of Management and has been featured in numerous media outlets including the New York Times, Businessweek, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and National Public Radio.

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