The Wisdom You Need to Succeed in a Diverse and Divisive World


Author: Dick Martin
Pub Date: June 2012
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814417522
Page Count: 288
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814417539

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Why Stereotyping Is Every Business Leader’s Business

And How to Work to Overcome It

It’s rarely as dramatic or tragic as the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Still, it happens all the time. In neighborhoods, shopping malls, and workplaces across America, people rush to judge other people by the color of their skin—or by their accent, culture, religion, politics, gender, or sexual orientation. Thanks to the digital revolution and rapidly changing demography, the world is both smaller and much wider in its mix of races, ethnicities, beliefs, and lifestyles. In the twenty-first century, making categorical assumptions about others is detrimental to not only the dignity and worth of all kinds of people, but also to the success of nearly every company.

“Today, relating to people unlike ourselves may be the most critical life and business skill we can develop,” declares Dick Martin, communications expert and prolific writer on issues of concern to business and civic leaders. In his new book, OtherWise: The Wisdom You Need to Succeed in a Diverse and Divisive World (AMACOM 2012), Martin aims to provide a deeper understanding of the issue and its implications for everyone whose job depends on dealing with “different” people—whether as their strategic partners, their employees, their supervisor, or their customers.

Who are these “Others”? As Martin explains, his use of “Other,” with a capital O, is intended to encompass the myriad outside the American mainstream—including the disabled, the LGBTs, militant atheists, Muslims, and Native Americans, to name a few. “ Usually, when we speak of ‘others’ having a disagreement, we withhold judgment about which party is right. At least initially, we keep an open mind and give both parties moral parity. Well, when I refer to people as ‘Other,’ I am making a judgment – I am saying that they are being excluded through no fault of their own, not because of anything they did, but simply because of who they are. Others are, in typically human ways, just like us.”

Facing the realities of doing business in not only a global marketplace, but also the minority-majority, multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational United States, OtherWise isn’t about touchy-feely stuff. It’s about the crucial capabilities required to manage and motivate, to communicate and collaborate with, to market and sell to, and to truly connect with Others. Martin doesn’t attempt to distill his complicated subject into a twelve-step guide to getting along. Instead, he shares a wealth of information and insights to inspire his readers to challenge their categorical attitudes, expand their perspectives, and, ultimately, change how they interact with and feel about the significant Others in their life, at work and beyond.

Jam-packed with revelations from the realms of science—cognitive, social, and ethnographic—as well as intimate accounts from activists and victims, OtherWise explores the business and personal toll of “otherizing.” Organized in three parts, chapters confront:

* The strangers among us, delving into why so many proud Americans bitterly resent immigrants (legal or not), how many Muslims in America experience toxic religious and cultural prejudice, and the red-hot-button gender bias against men and women who have adopted a gender identity seemingly inconsistent with their sexual organs.

* Strangers abroad, focusing on the outrage and fear provoked by our dependence on foreigners—for their resources, consumer goods, cheap labor, and trade alliances—and how that aggravates the challenges of management across borders.

* Our strange times, surveying our increasingly fragmented, polarized world, driven by technology with the power to bind and divide us into small-minded, self-righteous tribes...with particular attention to how religion, sex, and politics—the trinity unfit for polite discussion—has cast new fissures across the social media landscape.

Throughout, Martin offers guidance on finding commonalities among different people without ignoring their differences. As he emphasizes, people who are wise about others respect them as individuals —not as exemplars of an entire race, ethnicity, or culture—and validate their personal experience. What’s more, he suggests specific actions for developing “OtherWise” prowess and comfort, including:

* Increase your cultural literacy of Others. “Puerto Ricans and Columbians may both speak Spanish, but their cultural experiences and heritages are very different,” Martin observes. Start by asking people about their cultural traditions and values.

* Get in touch with and express your emotions, appropriately, and sharpen your sense of empathy. Work to feel what others are feeling. By identifying with the fears, anxieties, and yearnings of Others, you’ll gradually come to see yourself in their shoes.

* Engage with people outside your immediate circle in meaningful ways. Start by inviting an Other coworker to lunch. Ask questions, without prying, and genuinely listen. Take an active interest in learning about cultures, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints different from your own.

Beyond business leaders, managers, and marketers, beyond frontline customer service providers, OtherWise is a book of critical interest to everyone with a stake in making the most of the gifts and opportunities that a whole world of different people have to offer.


DICK MARTIN is a writer on business, political, and social issues; a topical blogger (at www.DickMartinBlogs.com); and a frequent speaker at corporations and universities. His articles have appeared in such noted publications as Harvard Business Review and his previous books include Tough Calls: AT&T and Hard Lessons Learned in the Telecom Wars (AMACOM 2004) and Rebuilding Brand America (AMACOM 2007). In 2002, he retired from AT&T as executive vice president of public relations, employee communications, and brand management, capping a 32-year career with the company. He lives in Summit, New Jersey.

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