Inclusion Takes More Than Diversity: An IterateOn Discussion

Posted by Maia Rocklin

Inclusive companies are 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes than non-inclusive companies. So how can an organization become more inclusive? What is inclusion?

IterateOn’s Inclusify event sought to answer these questions and discuss the importance of creating and nurturing an environment of belonging and uniqueness in the workplace. Following a presentation from the best-selling author of Inclusify, Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson, participants posed insightful and earnest questions which led to a discussion of ways to improve innovation and business outcomes by embracing the concept of inclusion. 

In this post, we will recap the highlights of the presentation and discussion. 

Thank you to the facilitators of this event for sharing your time and knowledge:

  • Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson, author of Inclusify and Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder
  • Gwen Morrison, former leader of WPP’s Global Retail Practice commerce initiatives
  • Jon Nordmark, co-founder, CEO of and founder, 10-yr-CEO of
  • Mike Frazzini, Chief of Data Science and the Evaluation Cloud at

What does it mean to be “inclusive?”

The world today wants to be inclusive, but some may be unsure of what that looks like. Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson breaks down the broad term inclusion, defining it as “the feeling that you can still be yourself and belong while being an essential and valued member of the team.” Dr. Johnson points out that belonging is just half the battle: uniqueness is also necessary, but more difficult to achieve in the workplace.

Belongingness is the idea that you are accepted within a team, while uniqueness is the idea of being valued for who you are specifically, making you central to the team. An organization can foster neither, just one, or optimally both of these human needs.

Belongingness is the idea that you are accepted within a team, while uniqueness is the idea of being valued for who you are specifically, making you central to the team. Inclusion is when team members feel both belonging and uniqueness.

Different levels of belonging and uniqueness can lead to distinct feelings for a specific person. Ironically, many others in the organization may have these same feelings. The chart above details four generalized outcomes, depending on how an organization treats belongingness and uniqueness. 


This can result from a lack of belonging and a lack of uniqueness. A team member in this position may feel unaccepted and alone. Dr. Johnson mentioned that many people may be experiencing this feeling during Covid-19, as people are potentially working from home and working alone, going long periods of time without seeing anyone. It is important to keep in mind that one human being is all that is needed to reach out to counter the feeling of invisibility.


The feeling of being incomplete results from enough belonging but a lack of uniqueness. In this case, a team member feels accepted within the team, but they may be faking parts of themselves. Understandably, this could be exhausting. 


In contrast to ‘incomplete,’ the feeling categorized as insular results from enough uniqueness but a lack of belonging. A team member may be recognized and valued by their differences, but struggles to feel like a part of the group as a result. This can cause a more transactional relationship with the business, as the team member does not feel like they belong there. 


This is where a team member will want to be. They feel like they belong in the team and they feel like they are uniquely valued. Organizations must strive for this, as team members will feel comfortable being themselves and sharing their ideas while having the desire to help the team as a whole. 

Following Dr. Johnson’s presentation, participants raised questions for the panel concerning a variety of topics surrounding inclusivity. Through these questions, the event opened into a vibrant and thought-provoking discussion. 

Highlights of Discussion

Generational Differences

Millennials and Generation Z have grown up in a time where diversity is becoming a necessity within the workplace and the expectations of having a voice are higher. Dr. Johnson has noticed distinct differences over the years between generations of students. Generation Z grew up in a majority-minority America. They expect inclusion and expect to have their voices heard. This results in the younger voices choosing to share their viewpoints, even when they are not the ones who hold the most power in the room. Whereas, past generations were told to not share any new ideas or thoughts until they held the appropriate leadership position. Gwen Morrison shared her idea of when team members are willing to share a new idea, they start with “This may be a bad idea but…” which underestimates the idea before it is even shared. 

Tailwinds and Headwinds

How can you use your own advantage to help others? According to Dr. Johnson, recognizing your own tailwinds and headwinds can help you to have greater empathy for others. Headwinds and tailwinds are, in this case, a metaphor for privilege. Headwinds slow you down and drag you back, whereas tailwinds speed you up and may give you some advantage. In being able to see your own headwinds and tailwinds, and admitting that they are there, you have an opportunity to recognize where others are coming from and understand them on an empathic level. Mike Frazzini touched on this as well, stating that the more you know, the more you don’t. Things can be so complex and dynamic that empathy is critical to understanding others and practicing inclusion.

How does inclusion relate to retail?

This question was posed to Gwen Morrison, who mentioned that in a retail setting, it is of utmost importance to keep the customers in mind. She called businesses to ask themselves, “Does your staff on the floor look like your customers?” Management teams need to walk the walk and get inspiring new hires that represent the diversity of their customer base in order to better relate to them and prepare according to their customers’ needs. 

Diversity and inclusion aren't just about optics. These teams make better decisions too.

Ways to Strengthen Inclusion

  • Dr. Johnson shares that the best place to start when wanting to increase inclusion is to look at your company’s data including engagement scores, turnover rates, etc. Then set goals of where you want to be compared to the current state of the company.
  • When putting a clear focus on inclusion, taking other successful frameworks can lead to truly effective inclusion methods that can make a difference within the organization. 
  • Create more participation with your employees and your audience. Gwen Morrison gives example campaigns of Mountain Dew with letting their audience choose future flavors and the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty including diverse concepts of beauty. 
  • Give credit to team members where credit is due. Everyone who contributes to a project or proposal can and should be listed on it. This is a simple way to express appreciation and help each member to feel valued. 
Inclusive teams greatly outperform their less-inclusive counterparts.

Closing Remarks

At, we strive to be inclusive and live up to our values in everything we do.  If you would like to know more, please contact us!

We would love to see you at our next IterateOn event. Each event is an opportunity to open up dialogue and learn from experts on a variety of contemporary and future-forward topics. Sign up by emailing [email protected], tracking us on Twitter @IterateAI, or check out our full calendar of upcoming events at

Check out what you missed out on at one of our previous webinar events: The Social Dilemma.


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