DEI ThinkTank

Most of us have heard the concept of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) being a journey. But what does that really mean?

Have you considered the implications of your personal journey on your business strategies and approaches? On your marketing? Your communications? Your product development? Have you thought about where your company is on its journey?

Inspired by frameworks from cognitive developmental psychology, we sought to determine a fluid, yet quantifiable approach to capturing where people are in their DEI journey – understanding that how you approach DEI is ever-changing and influenced by not only yourself but also your environment. The result: C Space’s DEI Mindset Map, a dynamic segmentation that captures three primary mindsets of who is responsible for advancing race and social justice issues.

Mindset Map: DEI Segmentation Assignment

I avoid discussing race or diversity because I'm not racist and so it is not my problem


Issues of race and diversity must be talked about


I never talk about the topic of racial injustice


I only talk about race and diversity with people I know share my opinions


I only talk about race and diversity with open minded people


To best understand these mindsets, let’s begin by imagining you’re at a bus stop.

Are you watching the bus pass by?

  • You’re not paying attention and don’t even notice the bus go by. Maybe you’re not even at the bus stop but sitting nearby for another purpose.
  • Perhaps you see the bus, but you think: “That’s not my bus, so I don’t need to be concerned with it.”

As a bystander, you’re in a Rejecting Mindset: “This is not my problem and I am not taking responsibility.” You may be aware of DEI, but you don’t connect to it as a problem that is relevant to your personal life and therefore see no reason to take action.

Are you riding the bus?

  • You realize it’s your bus, you get on to ride it, but you sit in the back of the bus. You’re at the mercy of whichever route the driver takes. If the driver is going the wrong way, you’re not in a position to fully see or easily communicate. You might be hesitant to shout out that the bus is going the wrong way in a bus full of people.
  • Maybe you’re sitting in the front row. You might even make small talk with the driver, but ultimately the driver is still the one in control. You have a clear view of the route, however, and can easily speak up or get off the bus if you want to go in a different direction.

As a rider, you’re in a Reacting Mindset: “I acknowledge the issue, but I am following someone else’s lead.” You are aware of DEI as an issue, but perhaps you don’t know exactly where to start, what to do or the right language to use. With so many doubts, it’s simply easier to follow others’ cues. This means you may react in completely different ways depending on your surroundings.

Because you aren’t sure of what steps to take related to DEI, you might have started self-educating yourself… maybe even getting comfortable enough to have a chat with the driver. In fact, as a bit of a backseat driver, you may find yourself sharing your knowledge with others and suggesting different routes. But you may still find yourself shifting between holding your tongue in uncomfortable situations and speaking up when you feel there is some injustice.

Are you driving the bus?

  • This is your bus. You’re responsible for the direction it goes, and you set the route for everyone riding on the bus.

As a driver, you’re in a Reforming Mindset: “This is my problem, and I am taking responsibility.” You recognize there is no start and finish line in DEI; it’s an ongoing journey where you will make mistakes, but you can still learn and grow. You also recognize that addressing race and social justice issues is a collective commitment rather than solely an individual one. You see systemic inequities and you lead yourself and others on a path to addressing them.

What does it mean?

Ask yourself how are you showing up? How is your company showing up? What mindset are your customers in?

If you are a leader charged with bringing DEI more broadly to your business, but feel you’re in a Reacting Mindset – well, it’s hard to create change if you’re not in the driver’s seat. Perhaps you’re in a Reforming Mindset but most of your colleagues are in Rejecting or Reacting Mindsets. It doesn’t mean you can’t continue to Reform, you just need to alter how you communicate and be aware that they may be at a different point in the journey.

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