Johnson, Stefanie. (2020).  Inclusify.  New York:  HarperCollins.

Inclusify has strategies on how to include people and their ideas to make better decisions for your organization. These strategies can be used for individuals, groups, or the whole company.  Johnson takes inclusion to a practical level, beyond talk, to embrace all ideas leading to the best thinking and decision-making.

Stefanie uses the term Inclusify. Unlike “diversifying” or “including,” Inclusifying implies a continuous, sustained effort toward helping diverse teams feel engaged, empowered, accepted, and valued.

She found two skills leaders demonstrate to show Inclusifying. First, leaders embrace different perspectives and backgrounds. Second, leaders fit all the unique pieces together to create a cohesive, interdependent team with a shared purpose.

I like the words embrace and celebrate unique and dissenting perspectives while creating a collaborative and openminded environment where everyone feels they truly belong. A sense of belonging is essential for people to bring their best self to work and the world.

Johnson identifies several studies showing the benefits of inclusivity and honoring diverse perspectives. Leaders who Inclusify will have better relationships with their teams, elicit greater productivity from all of their workers, and create a more positive environment for everyone. Engagement is paramount to a successful business. It is a key driver of performance, with the most highly engaged workers outperforming others by 10 percent in customer ratings, 21 percent in productivity, and 22 percent in profitability.

There has been a myth of only the strong survive.  This myth has been attributed to Charles Darwin.  In reality, it is the most adaptable that survive.  Think of hiring  under the normal circumstances.  People hire people most like themselves.  OK, how does that increase adaptability?  I heard a story of GM CEO, Alfred Sloan, who asked his senior vice-presidents what they thought of an idea he had.  Everyone nodded and gave approval.  His response was if everyone agreed, there must be something wrong.  If everyone thinks alike, he didn’t need everyone at the conference table.  Good move for him, bad move for those sheep at the table.

The following is a summary of some of the more popular beliefs in organizations. Myths and mistakes that were common for white men to believe differed slightly from those that impeded women and people of color and led two of the archetypes to manifest differently.

  • Meritocracy Managers: wants to hire the “best people for the job but does little to appreciate the unique qualities of his employees or help them feel that they belong to the same team.
  • Culture Crusader: Focuses on creating a team of like-minded people and ends up forgoing the benefits of incorporating different thoughts, perspectives, and backgrounds.
  • Team Player: A subset of Culture Crusaders (mostly women (WOC), people of color (POC), and LGBTQ) who work so hard to assimilate with the group that they lose touch with the value their own and others diverse perspectives add to the team dynamic.
  • White Knight: Takes a paternalistic approach to women, POC, WOC, and LGBTQ and tries to “save” them. The resulting lack of emphasis on shared goals diminishes team cohesion because people cannot see how they fit together.
  • Shepherd: A subset of White Knights, Shepherds are women, POC, WOC, and LGBTQ who offer in-group support but in doing so cause people to question their motives, resulting in a less cohesive team.
  • Optimist: Sees value in uniqueness and belonging but is not committed to actively creating change and so maintains the status quo through inertia.

A graphic in the book is organized around the sense of belonging on the ‘y’ axis and a sense of uniqueness on the ‘x’ axis.


High Belonging, Low Uniqueness:                 High Belonging, High Uniqueness:

Cultural Crusaders & Team Players               INCLUSIFIER


Low Belonging, Low Uniqueness:                 Low Belonging, High Uniqueness:

Meritocracy Manager                                     White Knight & Shepherd



A couple of definitions might help here.


  • Incomplete: You feel like you can fit in, but not at your true self
  • Included: You feel valued and accepted for who you are


  • Invisible: You do not feel like you fit in and you feel no one knows you
  • Insular: You do not feel like you fit win but people know they real you.

When Belonging and Uniqueness exist, Inclusion is encouraged and honored.

White men also make up only 31 percent of the population. Aggressive female leaders are so quickly denigrated in society, I have created the ABCs of Breaking Bias: Admit it, Block it, Count it.

The easiest way to achieve this is likely by anonymizing assessments (removing the names from applications) so you cannot be biased. The consulting company named Gap Jumpers showed that when traditional screening was used for hiring, 80 percent of the people who made it to the first-round interview were white, male, able bodied individuals from elite institutions. In anonymized selection, that number dropped to 40 percent.

I found it interesting that we might want to hire people who have faced challenges rather than only those with high test scores. Kids who have to pay their own way through college might take longer to finish school, but that says nothing about their intelligence or performance. It means they have navigated through multiple challenges and barriers.  Which person do you  want to hire? Persistence and creativity have a lot of influence on success.

Johnson uses an airplane metaphor to describe those who face barriers.  It takes longer for a flight if there are headwinds.  It takes less time for air travel when having the advantage of tailwinds.  Are we hiring people who have had the advantage of many headwinds in life or hiring some of those people who have had headwinds and still arrived safely. I think this is worth considerable thought when hiring a person for your organization. I know when I was hiring math teachers, I was hesitant to hire someone who only had a 4.0.  I wanted to know they had been a bagger at a grocery store, a waitress, or something that said they worked with people in addition to having content knowledge.

Numerous studies show that crowds, as long as the individuals in them are diverse, can outperform experts when making decisions, a phenomenon called the wisdom of the crowd.

A Team Is More than the Sum of Its Parts. You can’t build a football team with all quarterbacks. I call this the myth of multiplicity—the idea that there is one best type of person and the best team is created when you have a bunch of those people. I imagine a team of all 220-pound quarterbacks when the opposition has 320-pound line.

Johnson suggests the following:

I believe in meritocracy. I want someone with a 3.5 GPA.
I am going to hire the best person for the job. The person needs to have ten years of experience.
I don’t want to lower the bar. The person needs to have international experience.


I gave the benefits of gender diversity on corporate boards to a room full of executives. This is the data I gave them:

  • Having more women on the board correlates with higher returns and growth.
  • Having more women in the C-suite correlates with greater profitability.
  • Having more women in top management correlates with greater profitability,
  • Having more women in the organization correlates with greater profitability and higher stock returns.
  • Women and people of color must have more management experience than their white male counterparts to earn their first spot on a corporate board.

When you choose to Assess (people) Before Criteria are Defined (A-B-C-D) your mind will usually fill in the blanks for you so that you end up choosing the person who best fits your prototype.

A better alternative is if you define the criteria for the right hire before evaluating candidates (Define Criteria Before Assessing, or D-C-B-A), you are better able to judge all applicants against the same set of criteria and choose the best candidate for the job.

Ask the question, who has tailwinds?  Who has headwinds?  How did they do give their circumstances. “Certain people have privilege [tailwinds], When the proposals were anonymized, women outperformed men by almost 1 percent” 

One way to help eliminate bias is to:

  • Anonymizing assessments for selection and promotion
  • Remove names from applications before evaluating them.
  • Create a list of the best-qualified candidates versus the nominated candidates for promotion.
  • Compare the lists and look for diversity disparities.

Diversity will help creativity and the bottom line. A third study showed that companies with more diversity programs—from disability to gender to race to LGBTQ status—created two more products a year than did companies that did not have diversity programs.

GO FOR ROGUES (this can increase learning) – The kind of people I call rogues will help generate new discussions and improve innovation and decision-making.

So when a white guy with a Mohawk and tie-dyed shirt came into her office for an interview, she thought, maybe he is the person we need to help us understand our customers and business in a new way. Rather than writing him off or pretending he did not have a Mohawk, she slowed down for a minute and asked him what he could bring to the table.          

An example in schools was, having someone “different” join their group caused the students to feel as though they were less effective and actually made them feel as though they made worse decisions—but they were wrong. Adding an outsider as opposed to an insider actually doubled their chance of identifying the murderer, from 29 percent to 60 percent.  The lesson is: go for rogues, and then learn from them.

Here was something new I learned. The Just-Because SHAM (She/He’s A Minority) – Do white men ever say, “Man, I’m worried that they hired me just because of my race [or gender] .

I had never heard this quote before.  Heed the learning. Napoleon Bonaparte’s statement: “The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.

There are more lessons on bystanders, sexual harassment behaviors, discrimination, and bullying.  She shares the DARE model.

  • Distract the perpetrator by interrupting the situation.
  • Address the behavior of the perpetrator.
  • Recruit others to help.
  • Engage the target in conversation.

Some of us have had the ‘White Knight Syndrome.’  Be aware that the unspoken or unconscious message you may be sending is that this person is not a colleague, needs to be saved, and is less than competent.  Not a good message to improve diversity and get better thinking.  Equality and Equity should not signal negative stereotypes.

The following can provide some insights for moving from a predominately white male culture to an inclusive and more productive culture.

Here is a summary of some of the INCLUSIFYING ACTIONS that are distributed throughout the book:

  • Delete the word meritocracy.
  • Follow the D-C-B-A principle.
  • Adopt a growth mind-set.
  • Ban bullying and try giving.
  • Lift people up, don’t carry them.
  • Try reciprocal mentoring.
  • Think right and left-not right and wrong.
  • Prepare for perception.
  • Choose equity over equality
  • Aim for inclusion.