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The commonality between Kung-fu and cultivating inclusion – PRACTICE

The desired:

You select the topic of interest, put a tiny disk into a tiny slot and press upload. Knowledge floods into your head – every technique and trick and cool move all perfectly organized for total recall.

“I know kung-fu.”

With perfect mastery, you kick and tumble and flip through the air, dueling in such an exciting match, the spectators are at the edge of their seats. Your limbs blur, your opponent backs away struggling to block punch after punch. The duel ends with your fingers an inch from your opponent’s neck – you have won.

The spectators go wild. You nod slowly, put on your sunglasses and long leather coat while still inside, and walk away, like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, with insane awesomeness!

The reality:

After watching those amazing kung-fu moves, you clear a space, put on those super cool sunglasses (while inside) and jump to execute that flawless kick you just saw… landing flat on your back, snapping your glasses and bruising your tush.


Seeing that rainbow swirl cupcake tutorial you’re ready to go. The icing goes here, the pastry bag twists like that, the cupcake twirls and… you are left staring at something reminiscent of lopsided goopy rainbow poo.


With green paint on the palette, dry brush in hand, and a youtube video playing on your phone, you scoop up the paint, dab dab dab… and end up with a green glob that looks nothing like a tree!

And so we are faced with the unfortunate and inconvenient truth…

Skills take practice

Mastering skills requires dedication – learning, practicing perfecting, and practicing more. The more complex or intricate or multi-faceted the skill, the longer it generally takes to master. When learning a skill like kung-fu or decorating or painting, you start with the basics, practice over and over until perfecting the technique, then build with the next step.

I know what you’re thinking – of course that’s how it works!

So why, with something as complex, intricate, and multi-faceted as creating inclusive, engaging, equitable work environments across all dimensions of diversity, are so many using the equivalent of a how-to video as the primary strategy?

Awareness training is a start but not a complete solution to DEI

Those common hour-long DEI Awareness trainings such as unconscious bias, microaggressions, inclusive best practices, etc., are an excellent way to start an initiative, engage with employees, and build momentum. But they are not a DEI program.

Just because you’ve seen a video or heard a talk, it doesn’t mean you know kung fu.

To make a difference and build the skills required to cultivate and maintain a diverse, equitable, inclusive work environment, the training must be paired with learning, practicing, perfecting, and practicing more.

That means:

  • Include actions in the training – tasks that participants can perform.

  • Set expectations for the results – so participants know when they have done it right.

  • Make time and space for practice – give the participants opportunities to perform those tasks; lots of opportunity.

  • Provide feedback – evaluate what participants are doing, what’s working, what must be improved, and how to improve.

  • Build step by step – take on each technique one at a time, perfecting it before moving onto the next.

Bringing it all together

Whether learning kung-fu or how to write inclusive job descriptions, mastery comes over time with plenty of practice, learning moments and adjustments, and technique building. The initial ‘awareness training’ can generate excitement, motivation, and orient your organization to what is possible, but that is when the true effort begins.

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