Reviews of Harris Sussman's How Diversity Works

by George Simons:

How Diversity Works is a book that can be roundly hated by the dull, the unimaginative and the politically correct. Sussman is a mensch, and his writing brings out the mensch in the rest of us. Diversity in the US is like a NY deli buffet in which the bami and the hummus compete with each other for our attention with their wildly different colors, temperatures and tastes. Sussman understands this and has assembled an anthology of his own writings to match this reality.

Why review a book that appeared in 1995 on the cusp of the Millennium? Other than the fact that it just came to our attention, reading this slim 92 page volume provides some of the juice that is needed to revive our diversity commitments in a time when they have become for many a pro-forma exercise in corporate citizenship.

Largely drawn from short punchy articles and the several years of emceeing the question-and-answer section of the Managing Diversity Newsletter, How Diversity Works answers the messy questions of doing diversity on a day-to-day basis without flinching. To a reader who complains, "We don't have a budget for doing diversity work," Sussman's on-target response is, "Don't call it diversity then. Call it something that has a budget." 'Nuff said!

While not a workbook per se, there are enough checklists, guides, short exercises and potential material for overhead slides to make How Diversity Works work for training professionals as well as interested readers. Unlike the unembellished sources in which many of his writings first appeared, the book is richly and cleverly laid out and illustrated. It is almost always fun, but not painless, and this is for many of us what is needed to learn and relearn our lessons about How Diversity Works.

Review by George Simons
April 1999

by David C. Wigglesworth, Ph.D.:

This is a practical book by one of the foremost diversity experts in the field. Harris Sussman has been a regular contributor to the monthly Managing Diversity Newsletter since its inception. Additionally, he is an advisor to senior management teams throughout the United States.

Sussman is a futurist, he believes that diversity is about you and me; that we are each persons of difference; and that diversity is: about identity; about social healing; about acceptance and self-acceptance; humility and a sense of perspective; curiosity and the capacity to be surprised; the norm; and that diversity is bandwith. To find out what he means by these definitions, you need to read the book.

His chapters look at Workforce 2000 as we get closer to it, training, meetings, diversity as HR's opportunity of a lifetime, women, work-family, and provides a consumer's guide to diversity. He offers a twenty-item "white males pre-test" which could be used as a catalyst in an open training program. He emphasizes that diversity work is not linear and he provides a diversity process rating scales worksheet.

This book is Harris Sussman. It is, as he is, sanely outrageous (if that is possible). It is, as he is, thought provoking, stirring, and, as he will, will get your juices flowing. This is an advanced idea primer dealing with basic values and complex issues that can not be ignored or swept under some broad training carpet that covers the surface and allows us to walk all over the essential concerns.

It is at times shocking, fun, but it is mostly practical while offering philosophic gems that can be beneficial to all of us. It is a great piece of work from one who has labored long in the fields of diversity.

Review by David C. Wigglesworth, Ph.D.,
Email, dcwigg@aol.com

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