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Giraffes and Elephants

August 14, 2018

The simplest endeavor toward diversity focus on hiring practices. Making sure that candidates are not systematically excluded and that diverse perspectives are represented in a company are minimum standards. In a conversation with Ben Horowtiz and Michel Feaster, Ken Coleman illustrates that simply bringing in diverse perspectives often isn’t enough (On Mentors and Mentees - start at 21:45).

Ken describes a fable of giraffes and elephants in which giraffe invites the elephant into his home. They’re friends and they expect they can work together. The giraffe tells the elephant to make himself at home. That’s when things start to go awry.

Despite inviting the elephant in, the giraffe’s environment is ill-suited for the elephant. But instead of looking at how he might adapt the environment to meet the needs of his new colleague, the giraffe sets his eyes on the elephant and tries to mold him to the new environment.

Michel puts a fine point on this:

“A lot of the press is about ‘What are we doing about hiring?’… but what are we doing about making people feel welcome and stay in cultures?”

We don’t just need more elephants. We need more welcoming environments.

For a primer on the fable (if you don’t want to listen to the interview) - see here: Building a House for Diversity For the full book: Building a House for Diversity: A Fable About a Giraffe & an Elephant Offers New Strategies for Today’s Workforce


Stephen Weiss

Written by Stephen Weiss who lives in Chicago with his wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Follow him on Twitter!