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The Loudest Duck

Author: Laura Liswood

Publisher: Wiley

ISBN: LoudestDuck.j

Summary:A Chinese parable notes that the "the loudest duck gets shot." Different cultures can teach us a lot about how to improve our own culture.

Leader Values

ISBN 978 0 470 48584

To be honest I am a little jaded by books on diversity. I'm passionate about the issue of equality - but find so many of the writers on the subject rather narrow and sometimes even condescending. This book is different. It's entertaining, practical and engaging. Liswood shows how we find so many subtle ways to extend an uneven playing feel in our day-to-day work - sometimes even without us knowing it. She suggests many ways in which we can help ourselves and our companies with better approaches to the issue.

In so many ways, this is not about diversity, but it is about having the best team to get the job done.

So, where does the title come from? It comes from a Chinese children's parable about how "the loudest duck gets shot." That's a bit different to our prevailing view that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." Different cultures can teach us a lot about how to improve our own culture, and Liswood is attempting to do that with this easy-to-read volume.

I was very taken with the author's own blogs on the subject, so would like to offer an extract here (which is not something I normally do). But in this case it seems accurate.

"Multinational companies swear by diversity but behind the scenes swear at it. "Diversity is no longer a nice to have -- it is a need to have" say many annual reports which are filled with diverse people smiling out from the pages. In my new book, The Loudest Duck: Moving beyond Diversity I call that the Noah's Ark theory of diversity -- if we could just get two of each in the Ark, we will have accomplished our goal of diversity! Unfortunately, the results are not promising; diversity has not actually truly happened after all this time, after all the effort and money spent.

What makes it hard for diverse companies to become, well, diverse? I saw a slogan that read "We hire for difference and fire because they are not the same."

In the Loudest Duck I explain why diversity in reality is a lot harder to accomplish than many in management think and why the sea level on diversity has not risen by much. I have worked on leadership and diversity issues for many years -- studied it, spoken about it, researched it and ran organizations. Why is Noah's Ark so hard to really make work? Because the giraffe unconsciously looks at the zebra and thinks "He is funny looking with that stupid short neck and silly black and white stripes. I, the giraffe, am much more capable with my long neck and beautiful brown and white spots."

The argument is not that diversity and heterogeneity are not worthwhile and extremely valuable for competing and getting the best, most creative ideas. It is that to create a true meritocracy and a place where all diverse ideas are heard and diverse people promoted fairly requires much more consciousness of what we think about others and how we react to them, especially if they are different from us. Diversity requires leaders to have more tools in their toolbox than if they were managing a homogeneous workforce.

In The Loudest Duck I talk about how we all bring Grandma to work with us. Who is Grandma? She is the accumulation of everything we learn about ourselves and others. We learn from our parents, peers, teachers, the media, religion, experience, toys, history, myths and legends. We are all taught from Day 1 about the world and that "learning" seeps unconsciously into our brains and it determines how we see the world and others, particularly others who are different than we are.

Grandma teaches American men that it is okay to brag, to trumpet their successes at work. For them, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Grandma teaches women around the world that there is a social penalty for doing that. (She's too ambitious or pushy.) Grandma teaches the Chinese to be modest. They are taught from early on that "the Loudest Duck gets shot." In a diverse American company, the American male manager hears the wheel and not the duck. He hears other American men bragging but hears nothing from the woman or the Chinese man and unconsciously leans toward the American man for the promotion, the pay raise, the better assignments."

You can read the rest of Liswood's blog here. She co-founded the Council of Women World Leaders with President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir of Iceland. The Council is composed of women presidents and prime ministers. She is also a senior advisor to Goldman Sachs on diversity. So, the credentials are there ...

Click to see Laura's website here

in the meantime, check out the book!