Are all white people privileged?

28 de agosto de 2019

by David Livermore

You can’t have an honest conversation about cultural intelligence (CQ) without addressing white privilege, the idea that white people inherit certain privileges simply by the color of their skin.
But privilege is not an easy topic of conversation. People on all sides of the issue quickly become emotional and defensive. People of color are fatigued by having to prove the point to white colleagues while many white people feel anything but privileged and experience what Robin DiAngelo refers to as white fragility.
Are all white people privileged? It depends on how you define privilege. You knew you would get that kind of response from me, right? But hear me out.
Imagine you grew up in a very poor, white family. One reason J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Ellegy resonated with so many people was that he offered insight on what it means to grow up poor and white. His family struggled with poverty, domestic violence, moving from place to place, and navigating the welfare system. His ancestors were day laborers in the southern slave economy and eventually, coal miners, machinists, and mill workers. They’re referred to as hillbillies, rednecks, or white trash by the dominant culture. To be clear, that’s not the same as a history characterized by being forced to the U.S. as slaves, but it’s a perspective worth considering.
Even most middle class, white people don’t easily embrace the idea that they’re privileged. It’s not like someone knocked on their door and handed them their college degree, job, or home. And yet what are the invisible benefits they experience day-to-day that stem from a long history of privilege?
A 1,200-word article won’t do justice to such a complex and highly sensitive topic. But here are a few guiding principles for making the conversation about privilege more productive.
1. White privilege is real.
It’s impossible to deny that being born with white skin affords certain unearned privileges. White privilege is knowing I can walk into a restaurant, use the bathroom, and leave without buying anything, and it’s unlikely that anyone will say anything to me about it. It’s knowing I can go to the front door of my house and not have someone ask me if the homeowner is around. It’s the confidence that I can turn on the TV and see people who look like me. I not only experience the benefits of white privilege in the U.S., I encounter it almost everywhere in the world.
It’s not that you’re privileged if you’re white. It’s that being white is a privilege. A white kid growing up in a poor trailer park living next door to a black kid growing up in the same environment has fewer barriers to worry about than the black kid does. But I’m not suggesting that’s the approach to take with struggling white families. Read on.
2. Privilege exists on a spectrum.
Who is more privileged? A white single mom living on welfare or a black, married man with a professional job? It depends! Both have some privileges the other doesn’t have. Ethnicity and skin color are an essential part of the discussion about privilege, but our understanding of privilege must be broader to include other dimensions of identity. Kimberly Crenshaw’s notion of Intersectionality allows us to see that people can be privileged in some ways and not in others. Skin color is one of the most significant variables of privilege, but there are many others. “Privilege” is anything you are born into, not things you earned. Your privilege often has a direct impact on the opportunities you get.
Consider how you would score on the spectrum of privilege in light of these indicators. A person born with most of these identity traits has the most power in most contexts:
Citizenship: Born in a stable, developed country
Social Class: Born into a financially, stable family and zip code
Skin Color: Born white
Sexual Orientation: Born straight
Sex: Born male
Ability: Born able-bodied/minded
Gender: Born cis-gendered
This is by no means an exhaustive list. And I’m not suggesting we should start tallying privilege points. But our discussions about privilege desperately need a more nuanced approach that acknowledges numerous factors that influence privilege. It’s reductive and insulting to reduce any individual to a single story. Privilege exists on a wide spectrum.
3. Don’t dismiss someone’s struggle.
Last week my daughter Grace was in a serious cycling accident. It took an emergency rescue team five hours to get her to the hospital, followed by a lengthy surgery overseas. She’s now on a long road to recovery. All indicators suggest she will fully recover. The same day of her accident, another girl her age fell in the same forest, broke her back, and will probably never walk again. When my daughter was lying in agony, I didn’t say, “Well, at least you’re not like this other girl who will never walk.” Minimizing someone’s pain and struggle by telling them someone else has it worse is not only ineffective; it lacks compassion and empathy.
In a similar way, screaming that your privileged to someone who grew up in a trailer park with a single parent is tone deaf. Only in very specific circumstances would any reasonable person ask a white person in abject poverty to consider their white privilege. My daughter herself later reflected on how fortunate she is that her accident was not worse. But in an attempt to build awareness and foster perspective-taking, we should always avoid dismissing the reality of someone’s struggle and unique story.
4. Dialogue and reflection work better than debate.
It’s inarguable that white males have privileges others don’t have. But it’s the spectrum of privilege that is most helpful to consider. Debates about who has more privilege put people on the defensive. 30 percent of people feel like you’ve lost your mind when you tell them that their benefits are things that were handed to them. Rather than arguing with someone about whether they’re privileged, structure conversations to move toward reflection about the gradient of advantage they may have had as compared to if they had been born differently. For example,
How would your life be different if you had been born a different gender?
What about with a different skin color?
How would your reality change if you had been born in Sudan?
The point is not to say, “Hey—every aspect of your life is privileged.” That is not true for most people. But we want to get everyone to start thinking about it. The ask for white people is this: Consider the fact that because you are white, there are certain aspects of the world you don’t have to worry about.
5. CQ your messaging about privilege.
Finally, we need to apply cultural intelligence to how we talk about privilege. It’s ridiculous to suggest that white privilege is the same for all white people in the world. It’s equally ludicrous to deny that a white person has certain things they just don’t have to worry about.
Don’t say, “You’re privileged!”. Instead say, “You have access to privilege.”
We need to find the zone of productive disequilibrium where we allow enough discomfort to foster productive reflection and change but not so much that people shut down and feel defensive.
I didn’t choose to be a straight, white, able-bodied male. But I’m ignorant if I don’t acknowledge that I hit the lottery on the privilege spectrum. To be honest, I was leery of writing this article. Who am I to be pontificating about privilege? Our own team at the Cultural Intelligence Center has rigorous discussions about what we all need to consider about this personally as well as in light of our work. My privilege blinds me from certain aspects of this conversation. But the enormous privilege I have makes me all the more committed to engage in meaningful dialogue with others about these realities and to strive toward making the world a more inclusive, equitable place for everyone. I welcome your perspective on this complicated topic.

Emotional and Social Intelligence Competency

3 de noviembre de 2018

Compassion has become increasingly recognized as a foundational aspect of leadership. One study from 2012 found that compassionate leaders appear stronger and have more engaged followers. Other studies have found that organizations with more compassionate leaders have better collaboration, lower turnover, and employees who are more trusting, more connected to each other, and more committed to the company. When we surveyed more than 1,000 leaders from 800 organizations, 91% of them said compassion is very important for their leadership and 80% said they would like to enhance their compassion but do not know how.

What do we mean by compassion? It is the intent to contribute to the happiness and well-being of others. A compassionate leader has a genuine interest in seeing their people not just perform and increase profits but thrive. But this doesn’t mean “being soft” or trying to please people by giving them what they want; rather, it requires giving people what they need, such as tough feedback. Compassionate leadership requires having wisdom about how to lead for the greater good and for the long term.

The good news is that compassionate leadership can be learned. With simple practices we can become more compassionate and bring more wisdom to our leadership. This assessment will help you understand how wisely compassionate you are. Answer each question honestly. After you take the assessment, you will get a report outlining where you can improve, along with practical tips for becoming a more compassionate leader.

Reaching Across Cultures Without Losing Yourself

3 de noviembre de 2018

Andy Molinsky, author of “Global Dexterity,” explains why it’s important to customize your behavior in a new cultural setting.
Global Dexterity HBR

Moving Around Without Losing Your Roots

26 de octubre de 2012

by Gianpiero Petriglieri

Big questions always strike unexpectedly, when our guard is down. I was watching my toddlers splash in the pool last summer when a fellow dad plunged me into revisiting the meaning of home in a globalized world.
He didn’t mean to. He just asked where we were from.
“We live in Boston,” I started, “but we’re from Europe. How about you?”
I learned the name of his hometown, where he owned a business, and prepared myself to tack towards our common ground next — the children’s age, the local weather, the economic climate. Not quite yet.
“Where from in Europe?”
Fair enough, it’s a diverse continent.
“I am from Italy, my wife is British, and we live in France. We are in the US for a year, for work.” This explains why the children speak Italian with me, and a very British English with my wife, while sporting an American accent with their little friends — which is what usually sparks these conversations.
“Did you meet her in France?”
I felt the impulse to lie and get it over with. (Isn’t Paris the perfect setting for a blossoming romance?) I let it go.
“We met in Switzerland when I worked there.” And there it was, the subtle shift in look. My interlocutor had moved me, in his mental filing cabinet, from a folder labeled ‘foreigner’ to one marked ‘stranger.’
I didn’t just hail from a different place. I had a different kind of life.
Those conversations always make me pause. Especially when they involve someone from back home. A relative, a high school classmate who remained anchored there while I moved around. I don’t even need to meet them. A Facebook picture of an old friend’s kids on the same beaches where we grew up can be enough to spark that vague unease, the feeling that our bond is made of blood and history but no longer of shared habits, context or enterprise. It is in those encounters, where I am not even a foreigner, that I feel most like a stranger — a misfit by choice.
For many years now, I have spent my days in circles where careers and families like mine are the norm. The school where I work, my fourth employer to date, has campuses on three continents. My colleagues hail from 46 countries and have lived, worked and loved in many more — as have my students. Compared with most managers I teach, I have moved infrequently, and not that far.
“These are my people,” one told me recently, pointing to her classmates. “I feel more at home with them than I do where I was born.” I hear that sentiment often, in those oases and breeding grounds for nomadic professionals that business schools have become. It comes with the realization that for all their transience and diversity, people who find their way there have much in common.
They are as eager to broaden their personal horizons as they are to expand their professional prospects. They do not expect or desire to spend their career in the same organization or country. They enjoy mobility and view it as necessary to gather the experience, ability, connections and credibility that will turn them from nomadic professionals into global leaders.
I think of them as a peculiar tribe. A tribe for people unfit for tribalism.
Their unwillingness or inability to settle — to embrace and be defined by one place only — draws them to each other. It makes them restless and curious. It helps them develop the sensitivity to multiple perspectives and the ability to work across cultures that are indeed hallmarks of global leadership. It also comes with a price.
That price is struggling with the question of home and its troublesome acolytes: identity and belonging.
The struggle is neither an Odyssean longing for the comfortable mooring of a home left behind, nor the pathetic moaning of privileged neurotics who romanticize a simple life that doesn’t exist in the real world. It is not just those, at least.
“The trouble with moving around and falling in love with new places,” a colleague once shared, “is that you leave a piece of your heart in each of them.” That resonated with my experience. In Italy, professionals working abroad are described as “runaway brains.” My brain, however, never ran away. My heart just took it elsewhere.
This is why I worry when senior executives tell aspiring leaders that membership in global elites requires sacrificing an existence grounded in one place. Framing the struggle for home as a private reckoning with loss is simplistic and dangerous. It makes global elites more isolated and disconnected, less intelligible and trustworthy. It puts them in no position to lead.
No one wants to follow a stranger. Without some sense of home, nomadic professionals don’t become global leaders. They only turn into professional nomads. Leaders need homes to keep their vision, passion and courage alive — and to remain connected both to the people they are meant to serve, and to themselves.
To forego the possibility of feeling at home, or to make do with the surrogate of a dispersed cohort of fellow nomads is to give up the possibility of intimacy, of commitment, of trust. It is all that it takes to give up being human and become “human resources.” And once we do that to ourselves, it’s a short step to viewing everyone else as such.
Yet home need not always be a place. It can be a territory, a relationship, a craft, a way of expression. Home is an experience of belonging, a feeling of being whole and known, sometimes too close for comfort. It’s those attachments that liberate us more than they constrain. As the expression suggests, home is where we are from — the place where we begin to be.
Rather than learning to live away from home or do without one, global leaders must learn to live in and between two homes — a local and a global home. Become familiar with local and global communities, and use neither to escape the other.
This takes physical and emotional presence. It requires staying put long enough and traveling a fair amount. Spending time with those who live nearby and staying close to those who are far away — showing and being shown around. Leaving a piece of heart with people and places, and keeping them in your heart wherever you are.
Hard as it may be to reconcile local and global homes, it is a privilege to have a chance to inhabit both. A privilege that we must extend to others. That is, ultimately, the work of global leaders — connecting those homes within and around them.
We must embrace the struggle to make a home that feels our own. The unease that goes with it is a reminder of how important that work is, and what is at stake. Without a local home we lose our roots, without a global home we lose our reach.

The Economics of Happiness

8 de septiembre de 2011

Jeffrey D. Sachs

NEW YORK – We live in a time of high anxiety. Despite the world’s unprecedented total wealth, there is vast insecurity, unrest, and dissatisfaction. In the United States, a large majority of Americans believe that the country is “on the wrong track.” Pessimism has soared. The same is true in many other places.
Against this backdrop, the time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in our economic life. The relentless pursuit of higher income is leading to unprecedented inequality and anxiety, rather than to greater happiness and life satisfaction. Economic progress is important and can greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is pursued in line with other goals.
In this respect, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has been leading the way. Forty years ago, Bhutan’s fourth king, young and newly installed, made a remarkable choice: Bhutan should pursue “gross national happiness” rather than gross national product. Since then, the country has been experimenting with an alternative, holistic approach to development that emphasizes not only economic growth, but also culture, mental health, compassion, and community.
Dozens of experts recently gathered in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, to take stock of the country’s record. I was co-host with Bhutan’s prime minister, Jigme Thinley, a leader in sustainable development and a great champion of the concept of “GNH.” We assembled in the wake of a declaration in July by the United Nations General Assembly calling on countries to examine how national policies can promote happiness in their societies.
All who gathered in Thimphu agreed on the importance of pursuing happiness rather than pursuing national income. The question we examined is how to achieve happiness in a world that is characterized by rapid urbanization, mass media, global capitalism, and environmental degradation. How can our economic life be re-ordered to recreate a sense of community, trust, and environmental sustainability?
Here are some of the initial conclusions. First, we should not denigrate the value of economic progress. When people are hungry, deprived of basic needs such as clean water, health care, and education, and without meaningful employment, they suffer. Economic development that alleviates poverty is a vital step in boosting happiness.
Second, relentless pursuit of GNP to the exclusion of other goals is also no path to happiness. In the US, GNP has risen sharply in the past 40 years, but happiness has not. Instead, single-minded pursuit of GNP has led to great inequalities of wealth and power, fueled the growth of a vast underclass, trapped millions of children in poverty, and caused serious environmental degradation.
Third, happiness is achieved through a balanced approach to life by both individuals and societies. As individuals, we are unhappy if we are denied our basic material needs, but we are also unhappy if the pursuit of higher incomes replaces our focus on family, friends, community, compassion, and maintaining internal balance. As a society, it is one thing to organize economic policies to keep living standards on the rise, but quite another to subordinate all of society’s values to the pursuit of profit.
Yet politics in the US has increasingly allowed corporate profits to dominate all other aspirations: fairness, justice, trust, physical and mental health, and environmental sustainability. Corporate campaign contributions increasingly undermine the democratic process, with the blessing of the US Supreme Court.
Fourth, global capitalism presents many direct threats to happiness. It is destroying the natural environment through climate change and other kinds of pollution, while a relentless stream of oil-industry propaganda keeps many people ignorant of this. It is weakening social trust and mental stability, with the prevalence of clinical depression apparently on the rise. The mass media have become outlets for corporate “messaging,” much of it overtly anti-scientific, and Americans suffer from an increasing range of consumer addictions.
Consider how the fast-food industry uses oils, fats, sugar, and other addictive ingredients to create unhealthy dependency on foods that contribute to obesity. One-third of all Americans are now obese. The rest of the world will eventually follow unless countries restrict dangerous corporate practices, including advertising unhealthy and addictive foods to young children.
The problem is not just foods. Mass advertising is contributing to many other consumer addictions that imply large public-health costs, including excessive TV watching, gambling, drug use, cigarette smoking, and alcoholism.
Fifth, to promote happiness, we must identify the many factors other than GNP that can raise or lower society’s well-being. Most countries invest to measure GNP, but spend little to identify the sources of poor health (like fast foods and excessive TV watching), declining social trust, and environmental degradation. Once we understand these factors, we can act.
The mad pursuit of corporate profits is threatening us all. To be sure, we should support economic growth and development, but only in a broader context: one that promotes environmental sustainability and the values of compassion and honesty that are required for social trust. The search for happiness should not be confined to the beautiful mountain kingdom of Bhutan.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.

The Dutch decision-making process

29 de agosto de 2011

By Eleonore Breukel

The basis of the Dutch decision making process is;
–The opinion of the employee is valuable in forming the right decision.
–The input of the employee may change and or adjust the proposed
–To motivate the employee to implement the decision. Through this process, the employee feels involved and responsible for the success of the implementation of the decision.
This decision making process derived from the value of Consensus and is linked to the value of Egalitarianism. Therefore each employee should be heard and his/her opinion respected.
However… make no mistake. In reality we see in the Netherlands, that management provides the opportunity to the employee to voice his/her opinion however today decisions are made at the top. Management realizes though that in the case that 70% does not like (different from not agree) they will encounter a problem in the implementation and therefore usually will adjust the decision or Œformulate¹ the decision in a different way.
Having the opportunity to voice your opinion is very important to the Dutch as they feel respected as an employee. It also has an effect of ¬bonding with the organization- and is therefore extremely valuable.
Is this form of decision making effective? On one hand ¬Yes- as everyone feels involved, valued and committed. On the other hand ¬No– this process endlessly delays the decision making and implementation to the great irritation of professionals from other cultures as George Simmons mentioned earlier in this conversation. It creates the perception to those of another cultural background of ¬lack of interest and commitment, incompetence, inflexible, arrogant, slow/lazy, not pragmatic nor effective etc. Etc. In the Netherlands we see this decision making process only in Dutch organizations. Since we are a small country (17 million) many large organizations are multinationals. At the moment many organizations are being taken over by foreign organizations therefore decision making processes change which is complicated to accept by the Dutch employees.
As the decision making process is almost always a point of discussion in intercultural training therefore I can say that many Dutch as well as employees from other cultures feel that the decision making culture of a non-Dutch company in the Netherlands is based on the decision making culture of the parent company in e.g Germany, France, UK, USA Belgian, India? There may be a decision making style in organizations however the reality is that decisions are made in various ways depending on –the context–. Dutch organizations, at times, make decisions at the top without hearing the opinions of the employees. Foreign organizations may, at times, provide the possibility for the employee to voice his/her opinion. For the employee this is confusing and he/she often feels to be taken by surprise. Therefore research on a decision making process in organizations is complicated as it is linked to context as well as the corporate culture. I am looking forward to possible research done on this topic.

The Dalai Lama

16 de junio de 2011

Cultural Differences

20 de mayo de 2011


1 de abril de 2011

Israel & Innovation: Understanding the Cultural Roots

29 de septiembre de 2010

ISRAEL & INNOVATION:  For the same cultural reasons as Finland…

By Dean Foster

Last week, we explored the cultural roots of innovation, discovering a connection between strong egalitarianism, and collectivist or collaborative orientation, as the cultural prerequisites for an innovation ethos.  Alternately, a strong orientation to hierarchy typically produces a climate that resists innovation, while a strong orientation toward individualistic competitive and non-collaborative behaviors, while allowing the occasionally unique idea to surface, is usually not as productive in creating an abundance of innovative ideas as a collaborative, consultative, environment.  The global evidence for this phenomena is revealed in global studies on innovation, with Finland and Israel consistently ranking on top, while global economic giants like China and Japan don’t even make the list (and the US is near, though not at, the top).  While we know that these cultural pre-conditions are fundamental, the political and economic policies that typically develop in these countries usually, no surprise, reflect these cultural fundamentals, further enhancing the blossoming of innovation, while the economic and political policies that emerge in hierarchically oriented cultures usually stifle whatever small seeds of innovation might be stirring.

Israel mirrors these cultural requirements: like Finland, a small country, with a strong collaborative social ethos (i.e., the “kibbutz”), and an almost knee-jerk rejection of hierarchically-imposed authority, the cultural roots of innovation are in place.  And the economic policies that emerge from being a small, innovative, socially collaborative culture require an emphasis on export, and a typically social-welfare based system, along with high taxes to pay for it all, at home.  All countries, of course, bring their own unique aspects to these formulas, as we discovered when we compared Finland, China, the Japan and the US.  If we bring Israel into the mix, we need to also consider the unique Israeli cultural aspects, including the daily – if not hourly – requirement for continuous flexibility, with an accompanying sometimes manic effort to reduce risk and uncertainty.  The fundamental cultural orientations of extreme egalitarianism and collectivist collaboration (as long as you are inside the group), coupled with the pressure for intense flexibility and control of uncertain situations, yields the remarkably innovative climate of Israel.  For more measures of who’s got the greatest cultural distance to go when it comes to innovation, go to and click for a free demo of our CultureCompass cultural comparison tool.