Page 22 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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MAY 2013
International Studies, and
in universities.
In none of these posi-
tions did my portfolio
explicitly include respon-
sibility for promoting
diversity. Yet the challenge
of managing and making
the best of diverse per-
spectives regularly arose.
Sometimes the challenge was balancing the diferent perspec-
tives of, say, State and Defense, or private and public experts,
or people of diferent nationalities and backgrounds.
One experience that stands out as especially relevant was
the 18-month “listening tour” I undertook as dean of the Uni-
versity of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Commu-
nication and Journalism. During it, I met with chief executive,
operating and com-
munications ofcers at
both top Fortune 100
companies and entre-
preneurial startups. I
asked each to describe
their top-priority talent
needs for the coming
The Talent
I learned three
big things from these
varied conversations.
First, senior execu-
tives see recruitment
and retention as
perhaps their single
most pressing challenge. Second, they are desperately seeking
diverse talent, broadly defned. Tird, such talented individuals
can only be efectively deployed inside an organization whose
culture views them as essential and empowers them to operate
against the organizational grain where necessary. In Silicon
Valley frms especially, successful leaders told me they deliber-
ately sought talent that could be disruptive.
Tese leaders talked about getting and keeping high-quality
talent with an intensity and urgency that surprised me. “I go to
bed each night really worried that IBM won’t be able to fnd the
talent it needs to develop
new markets for the ser-
vices and goods it sells,”
John Iwata, IBM’s brilliant
chief marketing ofcer
and chief communications
ofcer, told me.
He is not alone. Accord-
ing to an article in the
Harvard Business Review
only 15 percent of senior executives in North America and
Asia believe they have adequate talent pipelines. A Pricewater-
houseCoopers study found that talent shortages have already
damaged many companies’ capacity to develop products and
Forward-looking senior executives are not seeking yester-
day’s talent. “Don’t send me your usual graduates,” said the
CEO of a large stra-
tegic public relations
company. He wanted
people with extraor-
dinary experiences,
unusual perspectives
on tough problems
and culturally var-
ied backgrounds. He
wanted people whose
experiences let them
connect the dots in
new ways, who can
think “360 degrees,”
outside of the prover-
bial box. “We either
innovate or we die”
was the mantra I heard
Here, though, is the catch. If the State Department wants to
recruit individuals possessing innovative talent and a diversity
of perspectives and experiences and help them succeed, it
must embed them in an innovative, generative organizational
culture. In the end, culture trumps everything else. If the insti-
tutional culture does not welcome new talent, then strategies of
diversity, innovation and inclusion will fail.
Understanding Double Diversity
“Double diversity” is a concept I developed to capture the
In May 2006, the U.S. Post Ofce issued the “Distinguished American Diplomats”
stamps commemorating six accomplished diplomats, including Francis E. Willis,
the frst female FSO to become an ambassador and Clifton R. Wharton Sr., the
frst African-American FSO in the State Department.
If the institutional culture
does not welcome new talent,
then strategies of diversity,
innovation and inclusion
will fail.