Creativity and Diversity
What is the connection between creativity and diversity? What are the links between inclusive organizational cultures and innovation? How do businesses and organization that actively promote diversity perform in comparison with those that do not?
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of interviewing Kia Afcari, a culture, change, diversity, and inclusion expert.
Born in Tehran, Iran and raised in Covington, Louisiana during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, Kia has had firsthand experience what its like to be excluded and ostracized for skin color and nationality. He’s used his own experiences, however, to examine his own unconscious biases, to work to ensure that other need not go through the pain of what he’s experienced, and to become and agent of change in a big way.
Un-bungling a Bulging Bureaucracy
Over the last four years, Kia has served as the Senior Culture Consultant at the University of California, Berkeley. While UC Berkeley’s outer reputation as one of the top public universities in the world has prevailed for decades, the inner experience for students and staff has been far more challenging. With over 8000 staff spread across 50, mostly autonomous units, the “university” was in fact deeply challenged by its silo-ed separateness, bulging bureaucracy, and institutionalized inefficiencies.
This, however, is exactly the type of organizational and cultural conundrum that Kia thrives in. In Kia’s own words, here’s what he’s done to turn things around.
I began with senior leaders to align our culture efforts to strategy. Then, we piled into a golf-cart and delivered boxes of chocolate chip cookies to 50 campus units, asking staff to join us in a massive online crowdsourcing event to define our desired culture: one that embraces diversity, collaboration, innovation and a focus on service.
We received 42,071 hits to our site about our culture and landed on 5 principles. We then launched a campaign of “strategic appreciation”, producing videos and posters about staff that live our principles. We then embedded those principles into hiring, performance reviews, and recognition. Soon after we launched the Berkeley Catalysts leadership program, which won Chief Learning Officer Magazine’s Silver Award for Innovation. Thanks to many efforts, we are seeing a real shift in the culture.
You can see more of the the fruits of Kia’s amazing work by checking out his inspiring video, Berkeley Catalysts: Developing new leaders, transforming our culture.
You can learn more about Kia Afcari here.
About the Interviewer
Austin Hill Shaw is a creativity expert who works with individuals who want to unlock their full creative potential and organizations that want to build cultures of innovation. He is the founder of Creativity Matters, author of The Shoreline of Wonder: On Being Creative, and inventor of The Creativity Quiz.
What type of creator are you? Take the Creativity Quiz and find out!