Welcome to the Harrington style FinTech Diversity, Equity and Inclusion discussions. I want to showcase people across our industry who are advocates for change. I love to celebrate the wins. But we know there is so much more to be done to ensure that change actually happens to build a truly inclusive industry. In these Diversity, Equity and Inclusion discussions, I have a number of series, the humans of FinTech, the talent surgery, the maternity and paternity stories, and the longest running of all, the women of FinTech podcast series. I do lots of work to drive change campaigns across our industry to increase inclusion within the workplace. So please contact me to see how we can partner together. You can contact me through LinkedIn, or on my email Nadia dot Edwards, hyphen dashi at Harrington star.com. In the meantime, enjoy the show.
Welcome to the humans of FinTech Diversity, Equity and Inclusion podcast series. We are here today to celebrate the wins raise awareness of the challenges and walk the talk for change across the entire industry. Today we are joined by Tom Tonkin, PhD, CEO and founder of the conservatory group. In addition to his work as CEO of the conservatory group, Dr. tomkin is involved at an executive level in two organizations with DNI at the forefront. One is Sami offers micro learning modules of communication and leadership training available anytime, anywhere. And on any device. Another leader answer their diversity, equity inclusion provides a SAS driven solution that makes diversity, equity and inclusion, high tech and easy to understand for any organizational business. So today, he's here to share his journey. Welcome. It's lovely to have you on an episode.
Thank you so much. Now, I really appreciate the introduction. And I just look forward to a fun, friendly and thoughtful conversation.
Absolutely. I'm really, really happy to have you here today. And I think what would be a wonderful way to kick things off is to learn a bit more about your background. And I suppose why DNI has been such a prominent feature for you.
I think it's fair to say that most of us in my position when we were very little didn't ever fancy. Thinking about being DNI experts. It certainly wasn't me when I was, say 12 or 13 years old. I happened to stumble in this area about 15 years ago, when I was doing a lot of research around culture, and leadership and culture. And I'm talking about everything from countries to ethnicity, those kinds of things. And my first encounter was gender diversity. And it drove me more and more to looking at those challenges and seeing what solutions we can present to the world. It was 2012 that I found myself in a speaking engagement at the International leadership Association in front of 400 women talking about gender diversity. And I thought to myself, this is probably one of the more scariest moments of my life. Fast forward, I guess I did well enough 2013, I was invited to speak at the first annual women in leadership conference in California. And I guess I kept going and started posting articles continue to research and see the social and economic impacts of diversity, which then led me down to racial sexual orientation, and other topics, which I'm sure we'll get into as the program unfolds.
So having heard that, can you tell us a bit more about your role as CEO of the conservatory group and what that entails?
Yeah, so I think as I'm sitting here, thinking about this podcast and other podcasts that I have delivered, I think the first thing I want to clear up is the term conservatory here in the US, which I know is is different in in the UK and other places. The word conservatory is a place where you learn fine arts, music, and things along those lines. And what I have done is lifted those methods and methodologies of learning the fine arts and applied them to business. That's where that term comes from. And so what the conservatory group does is taking those models those ideas and apply them in multiple sectors, sales, leadership, and diversity inclusion are those sort of the top three areas that I practice. This is And you will find websites efforts cross each one of those and who knows where else this will this will come. But the idea that stem from the fact that if you take this methodology can be applied in multiple industries and disciplines. And so therefore, we we've created a place a hub, if you will call the conservatory group to house all of these assets and methods.
And it definitely sounds that there's so much that is entailed in that and that you look after. So be great to hear a bit more about what you do and your dei work exactly what that means.
So I think before we delve into the actual DNI work, there's probably some runway that I have to start with. And the idea here is that the conservatory model is a model that allows people to learn to be taught not only the problems, but also the solutions in those particular disciplines that I talked about earlier. And so what I've done is going back to the original answer I gave you about how I started with this, I felt like I needed to provide action solutions, ideas on how to actually solve some of these problems. And so what we do is we provide different kinds of assessments. So you kind of have to know where you are, I like to using the terminology, you have to know your current state before you can land on your desired state. And I use that term explicitly desired because I'm not talking about future state, because future may still not get you to the desired place, you really want to take a look at where you want to land in those desired areas. And that model provides a way for you to gauge what it is that your desire is, I think sometimes a lot of the learning models out there and solution models are things that other people have imposed. Here's what's right, here's what you should do. And sometimes it's not a good fit. So that was part of the design criteria. As to how far do I want to do that, specifically around the AI. I started, as I said earlier, around gender diversity and move forward. Now it's fair to say that in our current societal issues, there seems to be a lot of focus in this area. And there are a lot of people being very outspoken. And so what I wanted to do is sort of move on to the sort of the next things. And there are two areas that I'm looking at number one, sort of those technological initiatives that you first provided in the intro in the idea of the awareness, and also the solutions specifically in the workplace. I believe that the workplace in society has a tremendous amount of influence on society itself. Often we take a look at the large companies as an indicator of what it is that we need to do. And if we can use large organizations, workplace situations, scenarios, to provide a, an a, a model or an example of what we should do. Maybe that proliferates society. And the second area that I'm working on in dei is understanding neurodiversity. To me that sort of the nest next Bastion, if you will, of DNI because everything else that you seen in society, whether it be gender, race, religion, all stem for very outward and outspoken people. Not only that, you know, if you try to take a look at say race, I can get cues from your physical appearance. But when you start talking about neurodiversity, those that are in the autistic spectrum, there are no cues, it's very, very homogenous. And unfortunately, those in the spectrum and then neurodiversity do not do a good job of advocating for themselves. That's part of the issue. Thus, I've taken on a very critical view of society of the research and started to dive into neuro diversity issues and how we can best equip people to understand those in the workplace.
I think everything that you're saying is just so so central to what many companies are looking to improve on at the moment. And so it takes me quite nicely to my next question. I know that you think there's so much that can should be done around authentic inclusion to help businesses really strengthen their workplaces to, as you say, reflect society. And lots of people ask me, what's the starting point and I know that's the sort of magical question but what would you say is a good starting point for people?
90 this is one that we're going to have to rest on and, and, and, and unfold, unpack whatever the terminology is here. I liked the way you phrase. This, with the term authentic inclusion, because I will be bold and say that there's a lot of in authentic inclusion going on right now. And I think that's the new problem. People feel compelled to do something, it's good business, it's good marketing, all of those things. And I count all of that as inauthentic. Now, I will say that diversity does bring profitability to organizations, but done in the correct and authentic way. I think a lot of people are doing in authentic inclusion by adding people to positions and situations that are set to fail. For example, probably the most looked at is the idea of a chief inclusion officer or Diversity Officer, whatever the terminology is used, and people find somebody that is inclusive looking. Maybe it's a minority of race, or religion, or ethnic orientation. And that's great, and that's fine. But sometimes those people don't have the skill, the ability, the experience to actually fulfill the job. And it's not anybody's fault. It is the organization though, to be able to use them in the term, I like to use this, this idea of artifact, I have an artifact something that I can rally around and tell everybody that I'm inclusive. And yet, you've potentially have done a few damaging things. Putting somebody that doesn't have the associated skill makes it even worse than say somebody that potentially doesn't have the inclusive, maybe me as a regular white man, but I have those skills. I think that's an important part of that. And I think that inauthentic inclusion is the culprit here is the thing that is actually hurting the cause, and actually pushing it back. And so what we need to do is to understand, what is that authentic conclusion? What is that starting point? And I think the starting point, and I don't want to sound so mushy or philosophical here, but I think I've got to start with a pithy saying, I think the starting point is the person in the mirror, think the person is the person that's looking at you, that's yourself. And I think it starts with a reflection of who you are. And let me be very, very clear here, everyone, and I do mean, everyone is biased, at some level, to think that we are unbiased is just an immature thought. The idea that you're pointing to other people, it's somebody else's fault, whatever it is, really, really pushes back the cause. One of the things I talked to leaders and CEOs and companies about this, when I get a, say, a requirements document, say for change management of any kind, but in this case, let's talk about diversity inclusion. The idea here is that, Tom, I want to be more inclusive on what I mean more diverse. Literally, that is the kind of question I get, as if that's a problem in itself. And we know the problem behind that statement is more about this seems to be the fad, it seems to be the thing I need to address. And so help me do that. So right out of the gate, sort of my red flags go up, and I try to figure out, you know, we're really what's going on. But when we start talking about the problem statements, all of the problem statements are always pointed to others, whether it be society, whether it be other people, and leadership really rarely takes on, for lack of better term a problem position, maybe we're the problem. Now, here is a very counterintuitive statement that I will bring up. And this is something that I think a lot of your listeners should really focus in on. When you blame or place problematic situations or to something else, you actually do two things, potentially you have identify a problem, but you also and the term I like to use is smuggled away the solution. If I said, Nadia to you, it's all not his fault. Whatever that fault is, if I said it's all not his fault, well not he also has the power to fix it. And I've relinquished that power. It becomes very apparent when I sit down across the table as to well how are we going to create a solution if we don't have the power to change the problem? And so we have to be authentic with ourselves to say, could it be that the beginning of the problem is me, is my bias. And if I can really take an authentic view of who I am in society as it pertains to these problems, understand that this is not a character flaw. This is a behavior or a lack of understanding or or an ns It's really an unconscious situation. I mean, by definition, we don't know what and what we're unconscious of, because we're unconscious of it. And what we need to do is move it to the conscious, kind of went round about and kind of painted this picture for you and sort of different sectors of the canvas. But maybe there's a summary here somewhere where I think the first place to start is ourselves and come in with a mindset that we have bias and that Where's an opportunity for improvement. When we do that, we start moving from the inauthentic to the authentic.
And I really like the way that you've explained that you've sort of brought the responsibility inwards, rather than pointing the blame outwards. And when we bring it inwards, it means that we all have an element of control here, and we can start making the change happen. And I love the way that you've explained that. And I agree with you. I think one of the biggest barriers right now is this inauthentic inclusion because it takes us steps and steps backwards. I just wanted to pause on that thought for a moment. Because I know that there are a number of barriers as an industry that we need to overcome, should we authentically start to make change happen? I wanted just to delve into that a little bit deeper with you?
Well, I think we've we've explored a few of them. Right? I think the idea that we are looking at some external factors that the problem were most likely is an internal issue, if I have the thesis statement of the problem that says I've got an inclusion or a diversity problem, by definition, that's not an external factor, that's an internal factor. And if you're a leader listening to this, or if you're a leader, in a position to be able to address that, well, it starts with with starts with you. And I think that's an important part of it a barrier. And that's that's self. I think the other issue is misunderstanding of this idea of an unconscious bias or an unconscious state of mind, because it's unconscious, we cannot fix it in the unconscious state. And often when we think it's unconscious, by definition, we don't know what it is. So we have to make the assumption number one, that there is bias in us somewhere, and it's in the unconscious state. And then we have to do is we have to figure out a way to move it from the unconscious to the conscious, let me be very practical, the way you do that is by taking assessments of whatever that might be. Something that is a good instrument, is what we call here on assessment. That is a valid and reliable assessment. What I mean by that is, statistically speaking, there's a lot of assessments on the internet, most of them are not reliable, and they're not valid. Let me be very clear on what these two terms are. Reliability comes from knowing that you're measuring what it is that you want to measure. And you can do that in the statistical model. Second, validity means it's something that's worth measuring, and you have to be reliable before you can be valid. And it's in that state. assessments on the internet that are both reliable and valid, will basically state so such as the assessments that we run at the Conservatory group, you would think after that might little explanation that it would be. But once we understand ourselves through assessments, the assessment should tell you these are the areas that you are unconsciously bias, at which point, here's an opportunity, that mere movement from the unconscious to the conscious through an assessment, I'm looking at a report, it's now time to do something about it. Now, this is really hard part. Because you first of all, you have to come to a conclusion that Gee, I thought I was a good person or something. These assessments, they're not suggesting that you're a bad person, let's be very clear about that. So Matter of fact, the fact that you're taking the assessment means that you're trying to become a better person, but I think then you have the time to take action. And this is another area that I've spent a lot of time at the Conservatory group. And I think it's worth mentioning a little bit about it. So in your brain, and your brains composed actually of three parts, not just two, we all know about the cognitive the knowledge part. We also know about the affective or the emotional part. There's actually a third component, it's called a cognitive rain. And the kognitive brain is the part of the brain in layman's terms that moves you from knowledge to action. And there are four different behaviors that are in the cognitive brain, desire, persistence, initiative, and resourcefulness. And if you want to become better Taking what you know, and turning into action, you need to know how to move those four things. Desire, resourcefulness, initiative and persistence. And the good news is these are behaviors that can learn and improve on. Those are the things that keep you from moving from knowing something to doing something. And sure enough, there are assessments on the internet CLI my own, that allow you to say which one of those four, you know, you could start with to be able to improve, you know, your actions and your behaviors. And so yeah, I wanted to wrap up on that summary, because I want to make sure that we didn't get too theoretical and mushy, you know, that I wanted to give people some actions. And hopefully, those that are listening to the podcast, obviously can rewind, jot some of these terms down, these are all sort of, I like to give people Google a bowl, if that's a term terms, to be able to go back and do their own research. But I think that's what we need to do is move that unconscious to the conscious through assessments, and then be able to improve our ability to be self directed. That's kind of the the magic catch all term there to improve our cognitive behaviors, to actually act on the issues.
Again, I think this is really helpful. I'm writing notes as we're speaking, you know, I'm going to be doing my own research on the current brain, moving knowledge into action. Because, you know, when I introduce these podcasts, I always say we're here today to walk the talk for change. Like I don't want it just to be theory anymore. I love it when people can take action away and can think, right, well, what should I have a conversation with my boss about or my CEO or my colleague about tomorrow, to really drive that change forward. And, you know, as you're talking, you're giving us so many different ways in which we can do this. But also, you're speaking in a way where you're directing us to do it correctly. Like if we are going to start assessments, we've got to make sure we're using the right assessments, because there is this huge barrier of people that are jumping on the bandwagon of diversity, equity and inclusion, because they're trying to make money out of their assessments. Rather than doing it from a place of knowledge and care, you've given us loads of advice, and any other pieces of advice or, or actually calls to action that you'd like us all to be doing more of within the sector, to effect real inclusivity.
I'd like to bring the conclusion of this conversation up to the highest level and suggest the following things in my 15 plus years from now, on doing this. I've found that there are multiple components to diversity and equity and inclusion. There's a social component that says, this is the right thing to do. We're all equal, but we're not all the same. And I think that's an important part, I actually wrote a blog post years ago on this, or I suggest that in this case, I focused on men and women where men and women are equal, but not the same. That is such an important position to have. Because that's what makes the world go round. I mean, it sounds silly, but having a diverse organization, pick your poison, whatever that might be. makes it more profitable, makes it socially responsible, in whatever way definition you want to do that. And it comes from our differences, not from our sameness. And that is such an important part. What I see lots of people try to do is have a baseline of behavior. For example, we're going to take all of these diverse people, and we are going to treat them the same, we are going to expect the same things. I think there's a lot of leaders out there that will hide behind the meritocracy of the conversation. Doesn't matter who they are, as long as they can do the job. No actually does matter who they are. And it doesn't matter where they came from. I love talking to people that have different backgrounds than me because I am guaranteed that I will find something to learn from them. And so I think that's the big one. It's the all of the social responsibility, the financial responsibilities and accountabilities. And it really stems on we are all equal, but we're not all the same. And we should embrace that. And that heterogeneous perspective. And I think when we do that, we find ourselves in a better situation across the board in so many different areas.
Absolutely. And I think it's just been so fantastic to hear just how you've explained all that how all encompassing that you've really allowed us to be taken on a journey with you. There are so many actions that we can take from this so many key lands but I think my call to action is really for people, not just to write some notes and put this to One side, but let's turn it into action, the action that you are requesting all of us, let's genuinely look ourselves in the mirror. Let's try and educate ourselves so that we are turning that unconscious into conscious. Let's have a look at how we can start assessing our businesses. And let's be more demanding of ourselves and one another, because I think you said it wonderfully at the end there that it's about the strength of our businesses come from our differences, not our sameness. So let's learn about each other's differences. Let's not be awkward about it. Let's go and let's find out about each other. And I think that's just been so so brilliant to learn about what you do and your businesses. And I encourage everybody listening to please follow Dr. Tom Kane on LinkedIn, get in touch with him to follow up with conversations. But it's been an absolutely fantastic conversation today. And thank you so much for joining us on the humans of FinTech Diversity, Equity and Inclusion podcast series.
It's been a pleasure, look forward to potentially doing it again. Take care. Thank you.