A lot of professors contend that online education will never be as good as face-to-face learning, but Coursera’s inaugural “Innovation Instructor” merely chuckles at that notion. Dr. Barbara Oakley maintains that a lot of the resistance from these professors is due to the fact that their online courses simply stink. They are so used to trapping students inside a classroom that they don’t know how to engage students effectively in a setting where they have the choice to simply get away. In this conversation with Dr. Diane Hamilton, Dr. Barbara talks about her upcoming book, Learn Like a Pro, where she gives the most updated advice on learning taken from breakthroughs in neuroscience and psychology. Come and join in as she unfurls her mind on all things learning and shares some of the learning habits that she has for herself.
In response to the needs of a changing world, organizations around the globe are increasingly taking diversity & inclusion seriously. Pluribus works with individuals, teams and organizations worldwide in leveraging the power of D&I to succeed in their endeavors. Under the leadership of its Founder and CEO, Isabelle Pujol, the consultancy keeps true to their vision of “a world where everyone belongs.” Companies like L’Oréal, Sodexo, Heineken, Hilti, Beulah, Microsoft, Chanel, and NATO are but few of the countless global organizations that have benefited from this D&I powerhouse. Listen in as Isabelle discusses the trends and challenges in this thriving space with Dr. Diane Hamilton.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Barbara Oakley and Isabelle Pujol. Barbara is a Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She’s also Coursera’s inaugural “Innovation Instructor.” Isabelle is the Founder and CEO of Pluribus. She’s also the co-author of Inclusion Around the Clock. We are going to have some fascinating conversations.
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Teaching Online Learners How To Learn Like A Pro With Dr. Barbara Oakley
I am here with Dr. Barbara Oakley, who is a Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She’s a Michigan’s distinguished professor of the year and Coursera’s inaugural “Innovation Instructor.” It’s nice to have you here.
It’s such a pleasure to be here, Diane.
I was looking forward to this. I should also note that you are a New York Times bestselling author, which is amazing. I want to get a little background on you for those who have not followed you and would like to know more. Can you give me your background of how you got to this level?
I was terrible at Math and Science growing up. I flunked my way through. I enlisted in the Army. I learned Russian and then I found to my great surprise that following your passion is not necessarily the best of advice, especially when you pick a passion that doesn’t have a lot of need for people working in that position. I had put myself in a box by only following my passion and learning what I wanted to learn. When I got out of the military at age 26, I decided to broaden my passion, which is what I should have done before. It means not only following your own passion, but also using some common-sense and insight about what’s going on in the greater world, and adding some of those skills to your arsenal of what you know and what you can do. I started studying Math and Science at age 26. Remedial High School Algebra is what I started with. It was very scary at first, but I used some of the same language study approaches that I’ve learned at the Defense Language Institute. It worked and that’s why I’m a professor of Engineering now.
I loved Algebra. I had this great teacher in 7th and 8th grade that would scream at the chalkboard, climb up on his desk and do these crazy things. He got me into it. If it was x + 2 = y, he’d yelled at the 2, “You get off there” and he’d scream. I’m like, “How do I get rid of the 2?” You think what you had to do. I love it when people give you this passion for learning and you wrote a book how to learn. You’ve written a lot of books, A Mind for Numbers. I’m looking at your list. It’s staggering. How many books have you written?
I’ve got two in production so it’ll be eleven, but I go to related but different topics. I often have a new perspective on things. One thing that you said is fascinating and right in line with what I’ve discovered about learning from neuroscience. That is the first thing you have to do to teach is to get their attention. They have to be paying attention to what you’re saying if they’re going to get anything out of what you’re saying.
Your teacher was very perceptive. One of the things you can do to grab people’s attention is to use unexpected motion. What that does is it gives these little dopamine bursts. When you have an unexpected good thing that happens, that releases what’s called phasic dopamine in your brain. All the neurons around that time, that half an hour or so that you’re getting these little boosts of dopamine, that helps make connections between the neurons that are being used at that time. That greatly enhances your learning. That’s part of why you were successful. This teacher had a sneaky and unconscious understanding of how to help people learn.
It’s funny he was a real introvert otherwise. I dedicated my book on curiosity to him. He was a real influencer in my life. When I studied curiosity, I also found out a release of dopamine with that. That was interesting to me because I’ve worked as a pharmaceutical rep for fifteen years and all the background on that. I’d love to tie in the biology, the psychology, and a lot of the factors of my business courses incorporate a lot of these things.Following your passion is not necessarily the best of advice, unless you broaden that passion to fit in with what is happening in the world. Click To Tweet
You mentioned how perceptive he was. I write about curiosity and perception maybe because of this guy. He would put the trash can on his head. He’d get in the closet and yell like, “I might as well be teaching from the closet.” Everybody would be laughing. It’s funny to see this guy acting crazy, but it helped us learn. You help people learn as we talked about. I’m curious about how you’ve got into some of these different learning environments like Coursera, and what you’ve learned from getting involved in some of these platforms.
First, I’ll talk about what I’ve learned and then I’ll talk about how I got into it. What I’ve learned is that we often think on too small of a scale when it comes to trying to help others. I’ve been flabbergasted at how much outreach Terrence Sejnowski and my Learning How to Learn Course has. We’ve reached over three million learners who’ve registered for the course in over 200 countries, and all sorts of different languages. It makes me laugh now when I see grant proposals saying, “We’re going to reach hundreds of students.” You need to do a lot more because if you look at how the world’s population or even the United States population is growing, it’s not only a drop in the bucket to reach hundreds. You’re not even keeping up with the number of people who are out there. There are increasing numbers of people.
It’s very important to think more broad scale. A typical non-fiction book sells on the order of around 3,000 copies. It’s important to try to reach much more broadly. We have the ability to do that now. It was a fluke how I got on Coursera. It was all thanks to my co-instructor, Terrence Sejnowski. I had given a talk on pathologies of altruism to the National Academy of Sciences. It was a bit controversial because it’s like, how can altruism, which is doing good for others, be bad sometimes? It doesn’t compute for a lot of people. It turns out that when you want to do good for other people, you have to step back and say, “Is it doing good for other people or is it just making me feel good?”
Anyway, that’s what I spoke about. Sure enough, the audience was like, “Wow.” One time, my moderator interrupted mean questions and said, “No. I want to ask my questions.” He kept throwing these nice questions that helped me bring out. It turned out my moderator was Terrence Sejnowski. He’s the Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute. He’s one of the only twelve living human beings who are simultaneously a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Medicine and Engineering.
We were talking afterwards and he liked the talk. He was like, “Barb, that was a great talk, but there’s another important area in this country that relates to learning in Math and Science in education in that regard.” I said, “I’m working on a book about that.” He was like, “Can I write the foreword?” I was like, “Can I go to heaven?” MOOCs were coming out and I said, “Terry, let’s do a MOOC.” He opened all the doors. We were able to do a MOOC on it together, which is a Massive Open Online Course. The rest is history. It’s long been one of the very most popular MOOCs.
All three of Terry’s and my MOOCs are in the Top 10 MOOCs of All Time. It’s been a great way of reaching out. Part of the popularity is that usually a lot of education material, like how you learn effectively, comes from people who don’t have a background in neuroscience, yet there’s so much from neuroscience that’s informative. People love what we’re teaching about because it’s practically useful. At the same time, it’s also something that is very well-grounded on good science.
I love anything that deals with the mind and the science behind things. When I had Albert Bandura on the show, it was one of those pinch-me moments. You get these famous people. You’re like, “This is such a cool person to speak with about this.” I have some MOOCs and different things. I’ve taught more than a thousand online classes throughout my time. A lot more than that probably now. It’s interesting as you were talking about how many people are in these courses.
I have done one with FutureLearn where the very first day there were a couple of thousand in class. It’s a different setup than the classes that you teach like in universities. When I’ve worked at universities and I still do work for multiple universities, where you get 25 people in a class or something like that. I’d like the asynchronous teaching because I like to do it at 5:00 or 4:00 in the morning. Nobody’s crazy enough to get up that early to take my classes. What do you like about teaching in that way in a MOOC or asynchronous course?
Many things that I feel a spoiled little kid now after having taught for decades at the university. The course is self-sustaining and people answer questions, “Could it be a little more perfect if I spent all day, every day, only on one course?” Probably, but it’s about as good a balance as you can get. With 10,000 people on average signing up every week, it’s a set trade-off that people still find worthwhile. I’m going to have to go look up your course on your FutureLearn because I liked the FutureLearn platform. It’s a highly respected platform. Coursera is very highly respected. They are wonderful to work with, but I do have to say there is something seamless and intuitive about that FutureLearn platform. You must have enjoyed putting your course on there.
It was a great experience. They did a good job interacting. I use LearnPress as a plugin on my WordPress site, which I can create free little courses and different things on there to give it a little bit of my different books about curiosity or perception. They contacted me and I go, “I have this that I give away for free.” They go, “We could start with that and add a bunch.” It’s been great. We get great reviews. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a different way of getting information out there. I’ve always liked MOOCs ever since they came out.
I was an editor-in-chief of an online education website. The first book I ever wrote was about online education. It’s been a long time. I’ve taught online since 2006. I love it. It’s always been a passion for me. I started to worry it was going to go away to some extent. Now because of COVID, it’s going to come back in full force because people see you need these options. Are you seeing more people taking your classes now in this climate?
It’s so exploded. A lot of weeks, it’s been five times the normal so we’re approaching 50,000 a week signing up. Here’s the funny thing. You’ll hear from professors who study this area that online teaching is never as good as face to face. When you go look at the professors who are writing this and you look at their online courses, they stink. Not only did they not know how to do it, they’re so used to trapping students in the classrooms. When they don’t have students trapped anymore like online, they don’t like that. Their research is almost geared to underpin their thoughts that, “This isn’t as good because students can get away from me.” Sometimes I look at research that says, “Online isn’t as good.” It’s laughable. It’s like, “We put some links to PDFs online. That’s the online version of the course. We compared that with face-to-face and it wasn’t as good.” They wouldn’t even bother to do a video, not even a quality video. It does make me laugh.
I’ve graduated from Arizona State University, but I’ve also gone to online universities. I’ve taken them. I’ve taught them. I’ve done it both ways. I learned by far more in online courses. ASU has online courses that are great, but I happened to take their regular courses back in the day they didn’t have any other. It’s a question of how it’s delivered. I’m not a big fan of sitting through lectures. I’m too hyperactive. I can’t sit in a classroom all day long. I do feel like I’m held captive.
It’s a good thing for a lot of people. For my kids, I wanted them to have that experience of going to campus and having the college experience. I like the undergrad thing in person for the experience just so you have a comparison. In general, learning should be lifelong and could be everywhere. There’s no reason why everything can’t be available online. I’m a huge advocate of online education. I’m curious how much your military background influenced your style of how you do things. I was looking at what you’ve done. You were a communication expert, South Pole Station in Antarctica. I had somebody else on my show who was stationed there. She was there for six months. How long were you there?
It’s about the same. That’s where I met my husband. I always say I had to go to the end of the earth to meet that man. We fell in love. He whisked me off to New Zealand where we got married. It’s been happily ever after for many years now. It was a lucky thing. All of those experience, working out on Soviet Trawlers up in the Bering Sea as a military officer in West Germany, and even learning Russian. When I’m teaching, I’m aware that there’s a broader world than being a professor or whatever. A lot of professors that’s all they do. They go through this one little pipeline and then they end up a professor. They think that’s the world. They’re like, “They should love this material. They should want to learn it for the desire of learning. They shouldn’t be caring about what their scores on the test are.” It matters what your grade is.
Especially if you’re going to go on to medical school or something, but in general, not too many people are looking at your grades. It’s more important to me that they learn not what their grade is.
It is. That is important, but I understand where people are coming from when they say it’s the grade that’s important. For example, I took a class once and I studied so hard. I did every single extra problem and that was dozens and dozens of problems. In the textbook, I read the textbook. I watched all the lectures. I knew everything inside and out and I flunked the test. I missed all ten questions. The reason was he had put this one little assumption that you have a 0.7-volt drop across the diode. Unless you knew this assumption, you couldn’t do anything, anywhere on the test. Most people did fine. Why? They had old tests and I didn’t. I was learning what you were supposed to be learning.You don't need to be some genius to learn things. You just need to be good enough and persistent. Click To Tweet
He didn’t realize it. He wasn’t trying to trick us. He taught the course so many times that he wasn’t aware that this one time he hadn’t told them this assumption we were supposed to be making. He didn’t do it on purpose. Often, there are things that professors do either on purpose or not on purpose that are in essence a form of trickery from a student perspective. A lot of times professors believe you should learn it for the sake of learning, but they are putting across some trickery. You need to be test-wise as well as knowing the material if you want to get the grades that are going to keep you motivated. I talk about this. My upcoming book is Learn Like a Pro with my wonderful co-author, Olav Schewe. That’s coming up from St. Martins and we talk about some of the tricks that can help you to be test-wise as well as being knowledgeable about the material itself.
It ties into my research in curiosity. When you’re talking about some of the classes you did well. The classes I did the worst in were history-based. It was strictly memorization and I’m terrible at that. It’s horrible because it was all dates. It was not my thing. It’s interesting when I started to study what kept people from being curious, and it’s thousands of people I researched across years of studying this. It turned out that there are four things. It’s fear, assumptions, the things you tell yourself, technology like over and underutilization of it, and the environment. That teacher had a strong impact on me. It made me curious about Algebra. With a lot of my History teachers, it’s a monotone thing. It set me to not like I. As I got older, I’m starting to be able to handle History a little bit more. Do you deal with those kinds of issues with people, what the impact of their level of curiosity, their experiences, their fears and things like that?
A lot of my work is directed towards helping people dig out of inadvertent assumptions they’ve made that lead them to think that they can’t learn something new and different. There’s a mixture of things. I don’t want to go all Pollyanna and say, “You can learn everything. If you’re wanting Physics as your bag and you want to be equal to Albert Einstein, you can do it,” because that’s not true. On the other side of things, people can be highly successful even at things that they believe they’ve never had a talent for. A lot of it is creating those neuropathways by using practice and intelligent ways of approaching their learning.
It can make a tremendous difference in people’s success. They don’t have to be a natural at something. It’s like learning to drive a car. If you set yourself up to compare with Mario Andretti, you’re never going to get there. If you set yourself up to say, “I can learn to drive a car and I can get to the store by driving the car.” It doesn’t matter if you’re Mario Andretti or not. You can still be successful at being able to drive to the store. That’s the same way it is with learning coding, Math, a new language, whatever you’re learning. You don’t need to be some genius. You just need to be good enough and persistent. You would be amazed at what you can do.
That’s an important point. I was thinking, as you were saying that when I was doing my research, I would hire psychometric statisticians at the beginning because I hated statistics when I used to take it. I’d love Math anyday, but once you got into statistics, you started to lose me. Calculus wasn’t my favorite. I had to take it three times because you had to take it for your Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate. I had the basics. As I was working with them, I started to remember some of what I had learned. They didn’t have my vision for what I wanted to do. I went back and I taught myself some of the factor analysis and things. I knew statistics as it was. When I saw a real purpose for it, what a difference. When you finally go, “You’re going to need this.” I’m thinking Peggy Sue got married where she goes in class when she’s old and she goes back in time. She’s taking the Algebra class and she says to the professor, “I know from personal experience, I’ll never use this in my life.” Sometimes if you don’t use it, you feel it’s that way.
I remember I got called into the Dean of Students when I was in high school because I refused to do anything, but read my book of fiction during Algebra classes. I remember telling her, “I would never use this in my life and I am not going to pay attention.” She never bothered me again. Whatever I said to her worked. I laughed because I was wrong.
I finished watching The Queen’s Gambit. Did you watch that by chance?
That’s on our list of things to do because I’ve heard from so many that it’s fantastic.
I related to her in this because she would see the chess pieces in bed at night. She would look up at the ceiling and she could picture what the chessboard looked like and foresee her next move. That teacher of that Algebra, I got so interested in Algebra at that age that I would look at the clock and I would reduce it to lowest form. If it was 9:27, it became one third or whatever it was. It gets into you in this way that if you become passionate about something, who would have ever thought that you would care enough to do that? I would like to take coding because I would like the logic behind it. I did a little bit of coding in college, but I’m old enough that back then they weren’t doing that much. My daughter speaks all these languages. It would be fun. What would you like to learn that you haven’t learned?
I’m working on Spanish. I’m quite slow. I do my Duolingo every day. I wish that it was like my days of learning Russian, where I could focus intently all day, be speaking it all day and get drunk. It’s the Russians’ style. The big thing I do try to do is I read a book a week. I try to do on all sorts of different things. I’m reading a book on Causality by Judea Pearl. It’s a wonderful book, which I never got this insight into probability and statistics when I was taking his courses. This goes beyond and shows what probability and statistics cannot do, and how it went off track because of Pearson, remember that Pearson coefficient. It’s a wonderful book. I just finished not too long ago on The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull. It’s a great book. I’m reading one also on the emotions by a researcher in that area. That’s fantastic. There’s a great one. It’s called The Last Assassin. It’s about all Caesar’s killers and how they were tracked down and killed. The start to that book is like the best start to a book I’ve read. It’s the last guy and he’s waiting. He knows what’s pending and the void. Talk about a great hook.
The last book that I loved and read was Range. I like things like that. I have a very difficult time getting through an entire book. I find I jump around. I’ll have 3 or 4 of them going, but I cannot read novels. I only read fiction. I like to learn things. You’re learning, but I’d loved the movies though. Maybe I lack imagination and maybe that’s part of it. I don’t know.
Don’t say that. That sets in your mind that you’re lacking. I know you’re not. You have a lot of accomplishments.
For certain things, but when you’re reading a book, I get focused on the adjectives. I start criticizing the writing styles and things as I’m reading in that way. It’s like, “His black flowing eyes were like bats.” I get distracted. I’m like, “Why don’t you just say his eyes are dark?” I get on with my topic on that. That’s why I don’t read a lot. You’ve done so many books. I was so impressed with all the stuff that you’ve worked on. I thought that we were going to have so much fun talking about this because I love that you have a mind for numbers and that you teach people how to learn and all the things that you do. Many people could benefit from taking your courses and reading your books. How can they find you?
Barbara, this was fun. I’m glad we were able to connect. Thank you for being on the show.
It’s been my pleasure and thank you again.
Taking Diversity & Inclusion To The Next Level With Isabelle PujolInclusion is the foundation for diversity to flourish. Click To Tweet
I am here with Isabelle Pujol, who is the Founder and CEO of Pluribus, a global consultancy committed to develop individuals, teams and organizations to succeed through diversity and inclusion. Their motto is, “At Pluribus, we believe in a world where everyone belongs.” It’s so nice to have you here, Isabelle.
Thank you. I’m very delighted.
I was looking forward to this because I get into a lot of inclusion and diversity discussions. I’m in Arizona, which is not far from California here in the US. I know California had a law change where they wanted to have a certain number of women on the board of directors. That brings up a lot of discussions. There are a lot of discussions about women in general on this show because I get a lot of experts. I want to get into your background of what led to your interest in this area, and a little bit about Pluribus. If you could give us a little backstory on you.
First of all, I want to say I’m French. I feel European. I would say even I feel as a true global citizen. I haven’t lived in France for many years now. I was fortunate enough to work for a global organization where I started to work on the topic of diversity and inclusion many years ago. I’ve seen how the topic and the agenda was evolving throughout the years. Initially in that company, which was in the oil industry, I was one of the first women working in the leadership team.
My first interaction with the diversity and inclusion topic was on the woman issue, and step-by-step it was very obvious that it was important to go beyond woman, to go beyond gender, and to address inclusion and diversity from a bigger standpoint. I have personally a passion for inclusion. By inclusion, I mean how you can create the right environment for people to feel that they belong, they can contribute, their voices are heard. Inclusion is the foundation for any diversity aspects to flourish. While I was working in this global organization, and I took up the role of one of the first diversity and inclusion managers at that time, I was able to look at it from various angles.
I was working on defining the strategy. I was working in engaging the top management. I was working into implementing it in a way that it was meaningful for the different operations, business units and countries. From that experiences, when I set up Pluribus several years ago, my intention was to focus on how to create environments in various organizations regardless of the industries. How do you create that inclusive environment where every individual can feel happy no more than that?
That’s so important. I’ve worked in so many industries. The fact that you mentioned regardless of industry is interesting to me. I’ve worked in agricultural chemicals, software, lending, pharmaceuticals, education, hospitality, the different industries. I see a big difference of how women are treated in the different areas. When I was in pharmaceuticals, I felt like it was completely equal, the men and the women. I didn’t have a sense of any difference. When I got into education, I saw a huge difference of how the women were treated versus the men. Also in agricultural chemicals, a big difference. There was no woman in that industry when I was in it in the ‘80s, it’s been a while. What are you seeing as the differences by industry?
If I’m thinking about my experience dealing with a lot of organizations, we are fortunate with Pluribus to work and partner with a lot of global organizations. We might not be able to name all of them, but companies like L’Oréal, Sodexo, Heineken, Hilti, Beulah, Microsoft, Chanel, NATO, different organizations and industries. I would say that the goal in terms of creating inclusion, what do we mean by inclusion in this organization? How we could create inclusive HR management processes, for example. There are some commonalities.
Looking at women in particular, from the recruitment standpoint, when I’m talking to younger women, especially, in the last few years, there is this tendency for women to believe that there is a very strong equality when they’re being recruited by organization. They are joining new teams. When we talk about the gender topic, especially with these younger women, regardless of the industry, it’s more or less similar. The tipping point, the big turn turning point is when they realize that they might encounter some glass ceiling. It depends on the industry and this is where there is a difference. For example, in some industries, some women feel that they don’t have access to managerial roles. If I want to be honest, I don’t see a major difference by the industry of the woman topic.
My next book is on perception and I was looking on your site. I know you had a piece on unconscious bias, which ties into a lot of what I research. I liked the quote that you had from Carl Jung about what we fail to bring to our awareness appears in our lives as fate. It’s such a huge topic to talk about perception. We’re seeing a lot of that now with our political system here. People watch the same things that confirmation bias of what you think that you want to hear. You keep reading and seeing more of the same thing. Are you dealing with these companies? I thought it was interesting that you did a piece on your side about that.
Everything is around inclusion. The biggest obstacle to inclusion is mental models and all these assumptions and all the unconscious biases that we might have, most often influenced by many stereotypes in our societies in generals. That’s why we would address the topic of unconscious bias at a very important level. What is important is for all of us to recognize that we are all biased because of all these influences through the media, the different external factors. We’re hearing many things. If we’re not careful, if we are not consciously aware of this impact, you might fall into that trap, exclusive or sometimes having a discriminatory behavior without noticing it. We need to stop, pause, think, reflect and then act.
That’s important because I created a way to determine the factors that impact perception. The things that you’re talking about are what I found in my research. It’s a combination of IQ, EQ, CQ, our Cultural Quotient, but also our CQ, Curiosity Quotient, that questioning of things. In my research in curiosity, you use the word assumptions and that’s one of the things that keeps us from being curious. We need to be curious to have this inclusion because you have to develop a sense of empathy, which is such a big part of emotional intelligence. To do that, you have to ask questions. How are you dealing with developing curiosity in people so that they can get this inclusion?
This is spot-on, everything is about curiosity. Everything is about asking the right question in a very respectful way. The way we are dealing with it in Pluribus is by creating an inclusive environment for people to speak up, to take the time to reflect on experiences, to hear other people’s experiences because empathy is also a way of connecting with a lot of experiences. If we go back to the topic of men and women, when women are talking about their own experiences to men, men are opening up their ear saying, “I had no clue. I didn’t know about that.” Our role as facilitators in the diversity and inclusion field is to create a safe space for people, from any organizations, managers, employees, leaders to speak about their own emotions and how they can be authentic and be themselves to thrive. In a respectful way, curiosity is the key to open the door and have conversations. It’s about asking questions, but in an inquiry way, positive ways to grow together and to learn from each other.
It was so fascinating to create my research in curiosity because my whole goal was to find out what keeps people from being curious. You can measure curiosity of high or low, but what good does that do if you’re on the low level. I wanted to figure out what stopped people. What I found was the things that keep people from being curious are fear, assumptions, technology, either over or under-utilization of it, and environment, all the impact of people around you. You were talking about how men versus women, they don’t know what to ask, and they didn’t know what they didn’t know. You don’t know what you don’t know. Going back to your quote of Carl Jung, when I used to train teams in the day when Myers-Briggs was more popular, we would put people on opposite sides of the room based on their type of personality, their dichotomy.
You’d learn about the person who had the opposite of your personality, and people would be stunned. They’d go, “Why would you like that? I wouldn’t like that.” You’d learn all these things about the other people. I think that’s what we need to do more of because you know what you are. Until you ask questions and find out about other people, you’ll never get that sense of empathy to improve your perception to be more inclusive. We’re not going to have to agree with everybody else’s perspective, but at least you’d understand why they feel the way they do. That would avoid a lot of miscommunication and conflict. You wrote the book Inclusion Around the Clock to help with global diversity and inclusion. Are these types of subjects that you write about? What’s in your book? I want to hear more about that.
We’ll talk about the book. Just one point, because indeed we don’t know what we don’t know. We are making many assumptions also based on what we see. There are many other elements of what makes us unique that needs to be more visible if we are allowed to talk about it in a respectful way, and if we couldn’t be fully authentic. To summarize the fact that at the end of the day, every one of us, why we’re working, why we are in this working environment, it’s to feel that we belong to an organization, to a team. We want to have a uniqueness, to be fully valued and be ourselves. To make the link with the book, initially, we wanted to celebrate the fact that a few years ago we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Pluribus.Pluribus is by definition a laboratory for inclusion. Click To Tweet
We were looking at some potential ideas on how to celebrate. We realized because we are a global organization, we like talking about Pluribus as a glocal organization because we have 50 Pluribus associates from all over the world, talking different languages, having some deep knowledge about the different cultures. There are many skills. I’m fascinated by these amazing people who are working with us at Pluribus. We said, “How could we leverage that?” What we did is we wrote Inclusion Around the Clock with thirteen different chapters.
Each chapter is written by one of our Pluribus colleagues from a different region, looking at what diversity and inclusion means for them as an individual, but also in their regions. You have various chapters, whether it’s about the approach of the head, the heart and the hands to have learning intervention that are mobilizing the whole staff, the fullness of participants. Whether it’s about focusing on gender balance. One is on curiosity, a chapter on cultures as well, on generations. We have the whole topic about working as an expatriate in different countries. We wanted to celebrate the different aspects of diversity and inclusion from the different dimensions, but also from the different cultures. This is a book full of ideas and testimonies.
The fact that Pluribus is by definition a laboratory for inclusion. The way we are driving our business, the way we’re working with clients and partners, we want to walk the talk. D&I for us is a value. We want to be totally embedding the D&I values the way we are dealing with our different teams, with managers, and the book is a reflection of that. I’m happy because we had the new edition of the book. We have started another printing. Who knows we might have a follow-up of that book?
Did you have any of the twelve authors from the US?
I have one from Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, Malibu, France, UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Argentina, Israel, Spain. In fact, the one person who is from the US is the ex-senior VP for D&I for Sodexo, Rohini Anand, who is one of the leading experts on D&I. She gave us a gift by writing the foreword of our book.
There are many people on my show, we get into the #MeToo movement, and all the things that are happening here. Is it different in the US than it is there in different countries? Are you seeing it that different from country to country?
There are some differences from country to country because of the historical context, different sometimes legal framework, the sophistication of the topic, the maturity of the topic. When we are working with different countries, for example, in the US, we have a team of five people, who are based in various parts of the US including in Tucson, Arizona. A few months ago, we did a lot of work around how to have courageous conversations about the race topic. We have a lot of clients, partners with whom we are hosting a number of virtual workshops, where people can have this conversation about what is their role in fighting racism. How do we become an ally? How could we act as change agents? For example, this piece of work that is present at the moment with our clients in the US, we started to do some work also on the race topic in Europe with another client. The aim, the goal is the same. The way we will address it, we would frame would be different from one country to another. We need to respect the different journey.
As you were getting in all these twelve authors and their insights, was there anything that surprised you or what was the most interesting thing that you learned from getting other people’s perspectives?
I was more amazed and surprised by the commonalities than by the differences. The commonalities of a common passion to play a positive impact in the world. Regardless of how you’re coming to the topic, whether it’s on gender generation, LGBTQ, race, disability, and all the different diversity dimensions, there is a very strong commonality which is about, what do we do to ensure that people can fulfill their potential? How could we do it for people to be authentic? For me, the insight was more about the commonalities.
In a lot of the talks I gave, I always say that we have more in common and more like than we realize. We need to focus on that. That’s important because it’s a challenging time here in the US. I don’t know if it’s as challenging in other parts as what we’ve had experienced. I’m curious if you’re seeing a big difference by generation?
I’m working on a generation project for one global organization with European roots. We did some surveys with the various generations. It’s creating space for people to speak up and have a conversation. There are lots of different stereotypes or assumptions from one group to another. One of the key findings was the imbalance between the transfer of knowledge coming from the older generations to give me enough space, so I can create and innovate from the younger generation. As soon as the generation are speaking up about these barriers, obstacles, suddenly they realize that there are too many bridges. By building the bridges, then you could come up with a situation where it’s a win-win for everyone.
I like the thought of having the bridge. What you’re working on is important. I was excited to have you on the show. A lot of people are going to want to know how to follow you, how to get your book and to learn more. Is there some link or something you’d like to share?
We do have a LinkedIn, Facebook or you could follow us on all our social networks. We have links if you want to buy the book, if you want to have more information about what we do and how we do it, I’m happy to send links.
Your Pluribus site was very interesting. I was able to get your book on Amazon. It looks like you are pretty easy to find. What you’re working on is important. This conversation is going to be something that continues on, but I love that you got all these twelve different insights and thirteen chapters from all these different people. A lot of people could learn a lot from what you’re doing. It was nice to have you on the show, Isabelle. Thank you for sharing all of that.
Thank you, Diane for the opportunity that I could share my passion for inclusion.
I’d like to thank both Barbara and Isabelle for being my guests. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them at DrDianeHamilton.com. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode.
- Barbara Oakley
- Inclusion Around the Clock
- A Mind for Numbers
- Terrence Sejnowski
- Learning How to Learn Course
- Albert Bandura – Past episode
- Learn Like a Pro
- The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull
- The Last Assassin
- Cracking the Curiosity Code
- LinkedIn – Pluribus
- Facebook – Pluribus
About Dr. Barbara Oakley
Barbara Oakley, PhD, PE is a Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan; Michigan’s Distinguished Professor of the Year; and Coursera’s inaugural “Innovation Instructor.” Her work focuses on the complex relationship between neuroscience and social behavior. Dr. Oakley’s research has been described as “revolutionary” in the Wall Street Journal. She is a New York Times best-selling author who has published in outlets as varied as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. She has won numerous teaching awards, including the American Society of Engineering Education’s Chester F. Carlson Award for technical innovation in engineering education. Together with Terrence Sejnowski, the Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute, she co-teaches Coursera – UC San Diego’s “Learning How to Learn,” one of the world’s most popular massive open online courses with nearly over three million registered students, along with a number of other leading MOOCs.