What is Inclusive Intelligence?

What is Inclusive Intelligence?: Changing the D&I Landscape

By Billy Vaughn, PhD CDP
(Special thanks to Carla Grantham, CDP and Bruce Stewart for their feedback on a draft of this article).

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] was once contacted by a large healthcare organization. The IT manager had a recurring problem with the technician team. The manager confided that he managed a “mini United Nations” with team members from Pakistan and Israel, as well as an African American, a couple of white Americans, and a Filipino American.

He said that they were the best team he has ever worked with–especially under emergency conditions. They can solve problems impeccably and get things running smoothly again in impressive time.

It was under the everyday, non-emergency conditions that intense collegiality problems occurred. News media coverage of an Israeli-Palestinian crisis or a police shooting in an African American community, such as, often lead to heated discussions that disturb the general peace in the workplace.

A couple of team members have threatened to quit more than once, and the manager has considered releasing one or two of them to contain the problems. His fear is that the loss of any member will lower team performance.



Cultural diversity is not easy to manage. This is the reason organizations are increasingly promoting inclusion. Mission-focused, collaboration-driven 21st century organizations rely on engaged and team-oriented members.

In a recent study, the Office of Personnel Management administered an 87-question government Employee Viewpoint Survey. The survey assesses the extent that employees feel engaged, supported, and motivated. In analyzing the results, Bruce Stewart and his team in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion found that 20 of the 87 items were highly correlated with participants’ perceptions of what makes their organization inclusive (The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (n.d.).


Stewart grouped the twenty inclusion items into what he refers to as The 5 Habits of Inclusion. The 5 Habits of Inclusion encompass behaviors that advance employee engagement and include being:

  • Fair
  • Open
  • Cooperative
  • Supportive
  • Empowering

The combined effects of the five inclusive habits comprise Inclusive Intelligence or The New IQ. The inclusion habits show promise for increasing teamwork, retention, innovation, and productivity in a diverse workplace.

What is Inclusive Intelligence?


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he New IQ is based on the idea that when inclusive behaviors are repeated and reinforced in an organization, the culture becomes increasingly inclusive and employees are engaged.

Inclusive behaviors become habits with practice, which are the building blocks for organizational and personal Inclusive Intelligence.


What is New About Inclusive Intelligence?


[dropcap]S[/dropcap]haring information and assisting team members effectively drive productivity. A major challenge is that cultural differences affect how information is shared and the ways in which team members support each other. In fact, if cultural diversity is not managed, the results can lead to poor engagement, legal jeopardy, and high turnover.

When people feel individually unique and also included in the workplace, they are more cooperative, collegial, civil, and satisfied with the organization. These are the key factors that drive employee engagement.

Developing the inclusive habits one needs to be fair, supportive, and cooperative with colleagues while being open and empowering is the key to collegiality and productive workplace relationships. Sharing knowledge in the modern economy requires organizations to evolve by cultivating Inclusive Intelligent workplace environments.



[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ecruiting, developing, and retaining the best talent is imperative in today’s fast moving, ever-changing climate that modern organizations must navigate to remain competitive. Inclusive organizations attract the best talent among the increasingly culturally diverse recruitment pool.

Recruiting the best and the brightest is a good start. It takes more than being bright, talented, and liberal-minded to work effectively in a diverse organization. If members cannot effectively and productively share knowledge in solving time-sensitive, critical problems such as disaster relief or economic downturns, the fallout can lead to long term, devastating consequences.

Therefore, ensuring that all team members develop Inclusive Intelligence is imperative for mission readiness. Purposeful training and continuous learning are the tools needed to achieve and maintain employee Inclusive Intelligence proficiency. Developing inclusive intelligence with training and continuous education is imperative for mission readiness.

How Does Inclusive IQ Help?

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen members of the organization are fair, open to each others’ differences, supportive and empowering, their collaboration increases. Their cultural differences enrich problem solving which leads to better solutions.


Inclusive Intelligence provides team members, leaders, and managers across sectors with the competence needed to meet challenges with resolve and confidence.

How are Inclusive Behaviors Developed?: Cultural Competence is the Key

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]nclusive behaviors can fortunately be learned, which over time and with practice develop into Inclusive Intelligence. The challenge is to create fair, open, cooperative, supportive, and empowering behaviors in culturally sensitive ways. In other words, individuals must become culturally competent in applying inclusive habits.

That is where cultural competence becomes an invaluable diversity education tool in developing Inclusive intelligence.


Cultural competence has four components:

  • Awareness
  • Attitude
  • Knowledge
  • Skill

In mission critical teamwork, such as preparing, shipping, and delivering emergency supplies after a natural disaster, demonstrating awareness of problem solving differences, valuing cultural differences in supporting colleagues, possessing knowledge of cultural differences, and leveraging cultural differences to skillfully collaborate with colleagues can lead to life saving results.

It follows that inclusive behaviors that become habits are the building blocks for Inclusive Intelligence. When most of the members consistently demonstrate culturally competent inclusive habits, the organization has Inclusive Intelligence. The result is a highly engaged, inclusive workforce and a mission ready, highly productive organization.

Whereas inclusive habits provide a foundation for Inclusive Intelligence, cultural competence serves as the building blocks. Inclusive Intelligence assessment that includes cultural competence gap analysis determines the specific components (i.e., awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills) that need targeting in designing training to increase inclusive habits.

Inclusive Intelligence Education



[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he idea that Inclusive Intelligence is learned over time and with effort puts to rest the assumption that treating people respectfully and with sensitivity is merely a matter of using common sense or following the Golden Rule. Research by Patricia Devine and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin (see for example, Devine, P. G., et. al, 1991) consistently demonstrate that Americans tend to suffer from a gap between their ideals about treating people respectfully and their ability in pulling it off.

In fact, the more effort many liberal-minded, tolerant people put into behaving inclusively, the more they tend to appear prejudice. If we want others to view us as open and tolerant, yet our best effort to model it falls short, the most promising way to close the gap is training.

This makes it imperative for organizations to implement high impact Inclusive Intelligence training driven by the cultural competence framework in order to harness diversity in the service of productive, collegial teamwork. The key to organizational success and an engaged workforce is targeted, well-planned training.

References & Resources

Devine, P. G., Monteith, M. J., Zuwerink, J. R., & Elliot, A. J. (1991), Prejudice with and without compunction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 817-830.

DTUI.com (2013). What is cultural competence and how is it measured? Diversity Officer Magazine.com (http://diversityofficermagazine.com/cultural-competence/what-is-cultural-competence-how-is-it-measured/)

DTUI.com (2014). The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Teamwork Sabotage. Diversity Officer Magazine.com (http://diversityofficermagazine.com/talent-management-2/the-top-ten-ways-to-avoid-teamwork-sabotage/)

Mercedes Martin, MA, & Vaughn, B.E. (2007). Cultural competence: The nuts & bolts of diversity & inclusion. In Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Management magazine (aka Diversity Officer Magazine), Billy Vaughn, PhD (Ed.), pp. 31-38, San Francisco: Diversity Training University International Publications Division. (http://diversityofficermagazine.com/cultural-competence/cultural-competence-the-nuts-bolts-of-diversity-inclusion-2/)

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (n.d.). The New IQ: Improving Teamwork, Retention, Innovation, and Productivity Through the Power of Inclusive Intelligence. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Washington, DC.

OPM (2014). The New IQ: Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Office of Diversity & Inclusion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXU2czYzfbI




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