I think many of us who are focused on introducing inclusivity are missing a huge piece—we forget to listen to those around us because we’re so focused on driving large-scale change. When I started Lora DiCarlo, I knew I wanted to create a company culture that fostered inclusive listening. I wanted to create safe spaces for individuals who hadn’t previously been invited to the table, as well as an environment of mutual respect and individual empowerment.
I know from personal experience the significant, positive impact that encouraging someone to speak up can make. It can change the trajectory of their life. I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors along the way that have observed my passion and believed in my capability even before I did. They kept encouraging me, especially when I was scared of failing.
Facing the fear of failure head-on is part of inclusivity. As leaders, we need to have the humility to recognize that we’re not always perfect. By embracing small failures, inevitably we’re going to succeed. In welcoming failure, we foster opportunities for growth, which in turn creates a more inclusive environment. It becomes easier for people to step forward and share their ideas. I’ve heard brilliant ideas come from people who don’t have a traditional education, who are not experts; this is some of the most fertile ground for innovation to spring from.
For millennia we’ve seen products created by one kind of person, resulting in people feeling like there’s something wrong with them if a product doesn’t work for them. We need to create products that span the gamut; products that represent the needs and experiences of many.
It’s imperative that we create safe and welcoming spaces for new voices, and listen to what they have to say, but moreover, encourage them to take risks that bring them out of their comfort zones and provide them a safe space in which to do so. They need to know that they will fail, and that someone will be there to support them when they do; there is much more growth to attain from risk and failure than from safe and stifled success.
Inclusivity, at its core, is about removing our own perspectives and desires and allowing others to be heard and championed. It’s about giving others the space to speak when they have something to say. When we create a more inclusive environment, that’s when innovation really begins to take place.
It is my hope that business leaders will begin to prioritize safe, inclusive cultures because there are very real benefits to be gained from putting this into practice. Implementing inclusivity doesn’t stop at the business level. We’re in need of a cultural shift, and this won’t come solely from a top-down or a grassroots approach. Creating a welcoming space for those in our day to day lives is just as important. When we cultivate inclusivity from all sides, that’s when we’ll start making a real difference.