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The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work [Hardcover]

Laura A. Liswood

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Book Description

11 Dec 2009
Written in an accessible style, The Loudest Duck is a business fable that offers an alternate view of a multicultural workplace through the use of practical stories and cultural anecdotes. For instance, the Chinese teach their children, "The loudest duck gets shot," a viewpoint that gets carried into adulthood, while many Americans are taught, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." As a result, you find two distinct ways of doing business, neither one being necessarily the right or better way. By understanding others′ viewpoint, you can understand how better to work with them.

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"Laura Liswood has both great theoretical and practical understanding of diversity—why it is important in organizations and why attempts to create it often fail to deliver. The Loudest Duck is essential reading for anyone who wants to maximize the effectiveness of organizations or just wants to understand why things are the way they are." — Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell , Canada′s 19th and first female Prime Minister "Diversity is a popular buzzword, but too many organizations treat it as window dressing. Laura Liswood explains how successful leaders learn to value diversity for the advantages it brings. This book is clearly written, savvy, and wise." — Joseph S. Nye Jr. , University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University; Author of The Powers to Lead " The Loudest Duck is a must read for managers and leaders of multinational corporations and international organizations. It provides an insightful look and fresh approach to cultural and gender differences that must be better understood for a more effective workplace." — Ann M. Veneman , Executive Director, UNICEF "Laura Liswood brilliantly shows us how to get to Diversity 2.0 and beyond. A workplace of people from different backgrounds can lead to tensions, but this book shows, with great insights and examples, how it can lead to real creativity instead. It’s an indispensable guide for managers and leaders—and also for anyone who wants to succeed in any aspect of life." — Walter Isaacson , President and Chief Executive Officer, The Aspen Institute "Laura′s timing is perfect and her message is spot on. Embracing diversity creates competitive advantage. Her book should be mandatory reading for everyone in business today. In the most engaging, fun, and real way, Laura gets to the heart of the opportunity—enabling Noah′s diverse floating Ark to fly to the moon and beyond." — Beth Brooke , Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement, Ernst & Young "Globalized businesses are increasingly aware that diversity belongs in the boardroom, not the public relations department, so The Loudest Duck is beautifully timed. Liswood is thoughtful and thought–provoking. Best of all, she′s practical, helping ambitious employees from nondominant groups to prove their worth, and advising leaders how to transform diversity from rhetoric into an engine for innovation and growth." — Kevin Kelley , Chief Executive Officer, Heidrick & Struggles "Iconoclastic and savvy, Laura Liswood′s The Loudest Duck reminds us that not all diversities in the Ark are equal: Some in the Ark are louder and they get heard most. Combining an impressive breadth of research with colorful stories from corporate life, this book is essential reading for anyone who is serious about reaping the promise of diversity at work." — Herminia Ibarra , Professor of Organizational Behavior; The Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning Director, INSEAD Leadership Initiative "Brilliant! Liswood offers unique insight and fresh tools for a Diversity 2.0 world. Drawing on thinkers from Thucydides to Malcolm Gladwell, and on more than three decades of executive experience, she offers leaders ideas for building a meritocracy that will ensure corporate success." — Robin Gerber , Author of Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way and Barbie and Ruth " The Loudest Duck is one of the clearest and most profoundly informative analyses of why, despite decades of effort and investment, most diversity initiatives fail to produce the promised benefits to organizations or their employees. This book goes beyond analysis and provides a new language of metaphor that captures the unexamined dynamics of dominance, unearned privilege, and unconscious bias that undermine our attempts to create truly diverse and inclusive workplaces. In her introduction Laura Liswood makes clear her goal to move us beyond Diversity 1.0. She is successful. The Loudest Duck has the potential to usher in Diversity 2.0, a new conversation and approach to changing our organizations and ourselves. It is a must reading for leaders who are serious about diversity and inclusion in their organizations." — David A. Thomas , H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; Author of Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America

From the Inside Flap

Diversity in the workplace is a wonderful thing—but it also challenges many of today′s business leaders. For managers and team–members alike, it can be difficult to navigate in a truly diverse workplace made up of people of different cultures, races, creeds, body types, hobbies, genders, religions, styles, and sexual orientations. But understanding our cultural and social differences is a major key to a high–performing, merit–based work environment. The Loudest Duck is a business guide that explores workplace diversity and presents new ideas for getting the most business and organizational benefit from it. In the Chinese children′s parable, the loudest duck is the one that gets shot. In America, we like to say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Comparing the two, it′s easy to see that our different cultures teach us different sets of values, and those values often translate into different ways of doing business that may subtly advantage one culture at work and disadvantage another. In the global marketplace, it′s more important than ever that we understand and are conscious of our differences to work together effectively. It is not enough to create Noah′s Ark, bringing in two of each kind. We all bring our unconscious beliefs and personal narratives about who we are and who others are with us to work and, with diversity in place, we can no longer ignore them. Truly effective leaders can′t pretend that we′re all the same or that our preferences and preconceptions don′t exist. The Loudest Duck offers a way to move beyond traditional diversity efforts that ignore our differences and toward modern diversity practices that embrace those differences—and profit from them. Diverse organizations require more sophisticated leadership, conscious awareness of diversity issues, new behavioral patterns, and effective tools for reaping the benefits of true diversity. This book will help you develop the skills you need and the tools you can use to go beyond what Grandma taught you to make diversity work in your business. More than just an enlightening tale about diversity, The Loudest Duck is a powerful resource for any manager, business owner, team leader, or employee who wants to meet the challenges of the modern heterogeneous workplace. It′s not simply about accepting others—it′s about ensuring a level playing field for everyone and building an organization that gets the best from all its people.

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of insight, not much help 1 May 2010
By Walter H. Bock - Published on
The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work," by Laura Liswood, takes its title from the Chinese saying that "The loudest duck is the one that gets killed." She contrasts that saying with the American one that "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" to make two points.

Many of our ideas about effective behavior and other people come from what we learned growing up. They affect how we react to diversity in the workplace and elsewhere, but we're rarely aware of them because they work on a subconscious level.

When you hear the word "diversity" in American business it can have many meanings. It might mean, the mix of perspectives that you want on a project team to increase odds of innovative outcomes.

"Diversity" may be a description of the workforce. Today, there are people from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds at all levels. And, increasingly, there are women in the rarefied air of the C-suite that was once reserved for White men.

Some see "diversity" as a problem. It's just one more thing that poor, harried managers have to put up with.

On the very first page of her Introduction, Laura Liswood says:

"Diversity isn't the problem. The problem is that we bring our unconscious beliefs about ourselves and who others are into the workplace. The more diverse the workplace, the more likely it is that we won't have a fair and level playing field, not because of the diversity, but because of how we treat those who are different from ourselves."

So the primary goal of the book is to create a more level playing field by identifying unconscious beliefs about ourselves and others who are different from us. That's a worthy goal.

The strength of the book is that Liswood does a good job with the first part of that goal. She says things that need to be said, often in ways that make it easy to remember them.

The first chapter deals with corporate diversity programs. Liswood describes many of them as "Noah's Ark" programs because they concentrate on getting "enough" of different groups on the boat. It's a great phrase that makes it easy for you to capture her basic meaning.

She titled chapter 3, "Tell Your Grandma to Go Home." Your Grandma becomes the surrogate for the values and beliefs you absorbed growing up. Again, it's a concept in a nutshell.

Other chapters are similar. They're filled with insights and provocative questions that will help you explore your own attitudes and beliefs. If that's what you want to do, this is an excellent book.

But there are problems with the book that make it a poor choice if you want to make your organization more effective. That's true whether the organization is a small project team or a giant corporation.

Diversity is presented as such a large and complex issue that it's hard to get your brain around it. Here are the groups Liswood mentions in the chapter on Noah's Ark: national origin; age; culture; religion; gender; sexual orientation; socioeconomic or class; marital status; family; language; place within the organization; hobbies; and physical appearance. She notes that this "is not an exhaustive list."

Liswood also never helps you get across the yawning chasm between understanding and performance. Instead, there is the unsubstantiated and unstated assumption that if you become more aware of your unconscious beliefs, your behavior will automatically change.

There's another assumption, too. This one is about corporate performance. Discussing "Objections to Diversity," Liswood says:

"Many are skeptical that diversity is a tool for success, because they haven't read the business cases that outline the empirical evidence to support these claims."

This is a golden opportunity to make the business case for increased diversity or for a more level playing field at work. Instead of seizing the opportunity, she invites skepticism, by blowing off the reader's experience or other studies that don't make her point.

There's also a problem with language. Consider the term "diversity," itself and the many ways it's used. Sometimes it's a simple description. Sometimes "diversity" is the goal. And sometimes we're asked to "move beyond diversity" or to achieve "true diversity."

If you want to identify and examine some of your unconscious beliefs about other people and how they act, The Loudest Duck is an excellent choice. If you're reading to gain insight so you can help your own team become more of a meritocracy, The Loudest Duck will be helpful, but you'll need other resources.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Loudest Duck by Laura Liswood 24 Jan 2012
By Cornelis van den Muyzenberg - Published on
The Loudest Duck is a must read for those who want to be inspiring leaders in a more and more diverse work place. "The more diverse the workplace, the more likely we won't have a fair and level playing field, not because of the diversity, but because of how we treat others differently from ourselves". This easy read provides great insight in how subtle inequalities can be created due to cultural differences and background on a daily basis and how a more inclusive leadership style can be developed. I have spent over 10 years in Asia as an international manager (being a minority) and besides this book I recommend new international leaders to read the 'Culture shock' series for every key country they work in or have team members from. Don't forget that the minority does!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theory Meets Accessibility 18 Jan 2010
By Patricia H. Deyton - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Laura Liswood's new book, The Loudest Duck, provides a needed connection between the growing fields of academic and management theory on diversity and thus provides access to understanding the meaning of sound research through clear writing and specific examples that bring the theory to life. The advancement of women and people of color in organizations is still a challenge and progress is too slow. This book helps us understand many of the subtle, yet powerful dynamics that are holding back that advancement. The Loudest Duck will be a valuable contribution to people at all levels of organizations who care about diversity and care about organizational effectiveness.
Patricia Deyton, Director, the Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons School of Management, Boston, MA and Instructor in Gender, Leadership and Managment at the Harvard University Extension School.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and entertaining! 27 Nov 2009
By Robin Gerber - Published on
Laura Liswood has taken her powerful background in leadership, diversity and corporate relations to write the engaging and brilliant "Loudest Duck." Read it not only to reshape your understanding of diversity in a fast-changing world, but also for the fun of having light bulbs go off in your head as she offers an original take on an issue in desperate need of new thinking.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to make your business even better! 17 Dec 2009
By Kathleen Mcquiggan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Loudest Duck should be one of the essentials for every manager's professional toolkit. In an extremely user friendly and entertaining way, this book explains how unlevel playing fields and subtle inequities are created daily in many firms and goes the extra mile in providing guidance and solutons for both managers and employees on how they can change behaviors and actions to create more inclusive environments. It isn't just about diversity it's about having the best team representing your organization and finding business opportunites in a challenging economic environment. A GREAT READ!
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