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From Diversity to Inclusion to Equity: A Theory of Generative Interactions

Abstract

This paper develops a practice-based Theory of Generative Interactions across diversity that builds on empirical findings and conceptual frameworks from multiple fields of study. This transdisciplinary review (Montuori in World Futures 69:200–230, 2013) draws on the disciplines of sociology, social psychology, organization studies, and communications. The Theory of Generative Interactions suggests that in order to facilitate inclusion, multiple types of exclusionary dynamics (self-segregation, communication apprehension, and stereotyping and stigmatizing) must be overcome through adaptive cognitive processing and skill development, and engagement in positive interactions must occur in order to facilitate inclusion that is created and sustained by contextually relevant sets of organizational practices. The organizational practices provide the following conditions for generative interactions: pursuing an important, shared organizational purpose, mixing diverse members frequently over protracted periods of time, enabling differing groups to have equal standing and insider status in contributing to success, and providing collaborative interdependence, interpersonal comfort, and self-efficacy. These interactions are generative in that they help to challenge the guiding assumptions of the organizational culture, reconsider taken-for-granted aspects, and raise fundamental questions about organizations (Gergen in Person Soc Psychol 36:1344–1360, 1978). We assert that such interactions, properly structured, can help organizations more fully address all stakeholders in creating value ethically, and ultimately creating equity for individuals and groups in the organization.

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Bernstein, R.S., Bulger, M., Salipante, P. et al. From Diversity to Inclusion to Equity: A Theory of Generative Interactions. J Bus Ethics 167, 395–410 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04180-1

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Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Inclusion
  • Equity
  • Generative interaction