D&I and the Knowledge Pie - Blue Ocean Brain
Raspberry pie cut in thirds, illustrating the Knowledge Pie: What You Know, What You Know You Don't Know, and What You Don't Know You Don't Know
Raspberry pie cut in thirds, illustrating the Knowledge Pie: What You Know, What You Know You Don't Know, and What You Don't Know You Don't Know

D&I and the Knowledge Pie

News — 3 MIN

If you’re in the learning or talent development fields, you’re likely familiar with the Knowledge Pie. Essentially, it’s a pie chart that breaks down a person’s total knowledge into categories in an attempt to broaden our understanding of what we know, and more importantly what we don’t. In general, we know what we know: “I know how to bake a pie.” And we know we don’t know: “I don’t know how to speak Portuguese.” All that is simple enough. But there’s a dangerous slice that takes up most of that pie: what we don’t know we don’t know. This is the vast area of knowledge we don’t even know exists and therefore can’t decide if it’s something we should learn.

So how does this fit in with diversity and inclusion training?

The D&I training prescription for failure

Most D&I training programs assume their learners are aware of their own biases and deep-rooted behaviors. This is a prescription for failure, because in reality, diversity and inclusion issues tend to fall in the Knowledge Pie danger zone of What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know. Everyone has bias—it’s a natural human state. It’s so common that it makes sense that we don’t recognize it in ourselves. Often our biases are minuscule and don’t cause problems, but sometimes, and especially in the workplace, they can cause real damage. And we can’t even trace that damage back to our biased decision because we don’t know it exists.

Because of this, when companies make D&I training available to employees, most employees won’t engage with it because they don’t know they need it. Even when this training is mandatory, it can fail—most employees sitting in that auditorium are thinking, “Surely they’re not talking about me?”

Merely presenting information about topics like unconscious bias and hoping it gets consumed and retained is a prescription for failure. Learners simply don’t seek out or retain content about topics they don’t know they need.

Solving the D&I training problem

There are things we can do to mitigate this issue and develop impactful learning around diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The first step is to think beyond “training”. In order to pull your people from the wrong side of the Knowledge Pie, it’s important to design a diversity, equity and inclusion education program that proactively reaches out to those learners who are unaware of their biases. Engage them in a way that doesn’t feel mandatory or punitive with material that feels helpful, not forced.

Five important elements in a successful D&I education program:

  1. Not one-and-done. You must engage your learners regularly with interactive, consumable content that feels like an ongoing conversation. It’s only through this continuous experience that someone can begin to move concepts of inclusion, bias and belonging to the “Know what we don’t know” side of the pie. This may sound super labor intensive, but with a good content provider, you don’t need to do the heavy lifting in-house.
  2. Not one-size-fits-all. This is a big one. Your company and its people are unique. You’re even unique to competitors within your industry. Some organizations are just dipping their toe into D&I awareness and others are fluent, with active Employee Resource Groups and healthy minority representation among leadership roles. But D&I is a journey; there is no finish line. Your content must be relevant to where your company and learners are on the D&I journey.
  3. Is accessible. In order to be successful, all learning topics should have some component that is consumable within the flow of work. Today’s workers don’t have the time (or attention span) for a day-long session. And according to Josh Bersin, 49% of employees actually prefer to learn at the point of need. But this is even more important for D&I learning, because as learners move from unawareness to awareness to open-mindedness, you want to make it super easy for them to engage with learning when and where it works for them.
  4. Is everywhere. Make good use of your learning and communications ecosystems to pull learners in to this amazing, accessible content you’ve made available. Splash highly-visual links to timely micro-lessons on your social channels such as Slack, Yammer or Microsoft Teams. Dedicate above-the-fold space on your Sharepoint or other intranet for a dynamically changing tile that provides one-click access to quick D&I lessons. In short, make it easy for your people to regularly bump into your D&I learning.
  5. Is available to all. Perhaps the most important component, making this mission-critical learning available to all employees is the only way to create true cultural change. From recruits to middle managers to your C-suite, every single person has a role in making your organization a diverse, inclusive and equitable place where each person can be their authentic selves and bring their diversity of ideas and productivity to the table.

Following these five guidelines will help you bring your learners to the right side of the Knowledge Pie, no matter where your organization is on the D&I journey. The good news is that there is a learning method that can help you check all the boxes above: microlearning. It truly is one of the most effective ways to deliver engaging, relevant, and continuous learning that is accessible and scalable. Let us know if we can help!