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102 / Driving Innovation Through Inclusion, with Bernadette Smith

Hosted by Sean Flaherty & Paul Gebel




Bernadette Smith

Equality Institute

For over 10 years, Bernadette Smith has spoken to thousands of enthusiastic business leaders and her expertise has been sought after by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Fast Company. She’s appeared on the Today Show, the BBC, National Public Radio, CNN and more. Bernadette’s best-selling 4th book, Inclusive 360: Proven Solutions for an Equitable Organization, was released In 2021. Bernadette is CEO of Equality Institute, a boutique diversity, equity, and inclusion firm.

Inclusion is for everyone, says guest Bernadette Smith, CEO of Equality Institute. And, she adds, it’s good for business. Companies that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion are more profitable than those that don’t. But the key piece of DEI best practices, she concludes, is inclusion. “In order to realize the financial benefits, we have to unleash psychological safety; we have to unleash inclusion.”

In this episode, Bernadette joins Sean and Paul and shares her best practices for bringing an inclusive mindset to your organization, many of which are captured in her best-seller, Inclusive 360: Proven Solutions for an Equitable Organization. She “keeps it real” in this discussion and is not afraid to admit that she’s still learning, too.

“We’re all on our own learning journey, whatever it happens to be or look like,” she says. “And when leaders model that, and share a sense of their own vulnerability, it gives other folks permission to do the same.”

Bernadette presents the A-R-C Method, a framework for getting to connection before content – a mantra that drives better conversations among teams. With practice, this simple method can help you create a more inclusive environment where there is genuine learning among individuals from diverse backgrounds.

  • Ask. Be curious. Learn more about another person’s perspective. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
  • Respect. Be present and attentive. Listen…actively. Trust will follow.
  • Connect. We’re all on our own learning journey.

Using the A-R-C method is one way to foster the inclusion that drives innovation.

Catch the whole pod with Bernadette Smith, and bring a true DEI mindset to your organization.

Save the date! The ITX Product + Design Conference is back. June 22-23, Rochester, NY. Learn more.

Paul [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to Product Momentum, where we hope to entertain, educate, and celebrate the amazing product people who are helping to shape our community’s way ahead. My name is Paul Gebel and I’m the Director of Product Innovation at ITX. Along with my co-host Sean Flaherty, and our amazing production team and occasional guest host, we record and release a conversation with a product thought leader, writer, speaker, or maker who has something to share with the community every two weeks.

Sean [00:00:43] Super excited to have Bernadette Smith on our podcast today talking about inclusion and diversity; how it plays a huge role in creating innovation on your teams. I’m so excited about this conversation, Paul, it went so well.

Paul [00:00:56] Oh, it was a blast. Absolutely illuminating. I think the takeaways for our listeners and their teams that they’re working with day to day as well as the users that they’re building products for, there’s something for everyone here.

Paul [00:01:07] Before we get too far into the episode, I do have to pause and just say a big thank you to everyone who participated in our 100th episode book giveaway. We had an overwhelming response. And again, just want to take a moment of gratitude and say thank you. We’re floored by the feedback and the response. So thank you, thank you, thank you. Have to say congratulations, we have ten winners and this morning our team tells me that our autographed copies of none other than Jesse James Garrett’s book are in our hands. They’ll be sent out shortly. Hang in there just a little bit longer and we’ll get your books out to you. Anyway, it was a lot of fun, a great way to engage with you all and celebrate 100 episodes together.

Sean [00:01:47] You know, we are eating our own dog food here and we’ve really used this as an opportunity to collect some feedback and some ideas from the audience and it’s really been, like Paul said, overwhelming. Thank you so much for being a part of this community.

Paul [00:02:01] Well hello and welcome to the pod. Today, we are really pleased to be joined by Bernadette Smith. For over ten years, Bernadette has spoken to thousands of enthusiastic business leaders and her expertise has been sought after by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fast Company. She’s appeared on the Today Show, the BBC, NPR, CNN, and much, much more. Her bestselling fourth book, Inclusive 360: Proven Solutions for an Equitable Organization, was released in 2021. Bernadette is the CEO of Equality Institute, a boutique diversity, equity, and inclusion firm. And Bernadette, we’re really excited to have you here today. Welcome to the show.

Bernadette [00:02:37] Thank you. I’m really thrilled to be here. It’s great. I’m so psyched that you invited me.

Paul [00:02:42] Oh, it’s our honor for sure. As I’ve been sort of getting immersed into your work, in your writing, your book, which has had a really profound impact on how I think about our team and our work, I’m sort of at a moment of reflection. Looking out over the past two decades in the product space, I can see a lot of progress has been made where a lot of awareness of people that come from different backgrounds than myself are more present, more represented. But I think even more specifically as a conference organizer, we’re seeing the conference code of conduct as sort of a best practice. It’s now no longer weird if I could be so bold. But despite all this good progress, it’s always good to come down to the level of one person talking to one other person and talking about how that interaction goes. And that’s really what I view a lot of your book is being about. Can you get us started and just lay some foundation for our conversation, what is the spirit of the book and what is the thing that you’re trying to get across in Inclusive 360?

Bernadette [00:03:37] What I’m trying to get across are a couple of main things. One is that inclusion is for everyone and we all have a role to play and it’s much less difficult than we think it is. So, you know, it’s just like you said, it’s about our common humanity, essentially, and connecting with folks on a 1-to-1 level as part of what everyone has a role to play. And the other thing that I really want to get across in the book is that a lot of times we need to focus on the systems, and the policies and the processes, the way things are done, like codes of conduct, the way we hire, the way we promote. All of those things are really important to standardize so that we do reduce bias from the process.

Bernadette [00:04:16] The point is that we can be a lot more streamlined with how we advance diversity, equity, and inclusion when we change the systems. But on the team level, there’s a lot that has to be done as well, and that’s where those one-on-one conversations come in. And it’s much simpler than we realize. What I have found is that there are a lot of, I mean, well-meaning folks, you all are well-meaning folks. I have my best intentions, right? But when it comes down to it, so many of us are afraid of saying the wrong thing. We are afraid of accidentally offending someone.

Bernadette [00:04:48] And I know what this is like personally because for years I thought I was an ally of people of color and people with disabilities, right? I thought I was. But when it came down to it, I stayed in my lane, my little gay lane, right? And so any time I was invited to something like a Black Lives Matter rally prior to 2020 or a fundraiser for an inner city school or something, I’d be like, “you know, I have my thing; I do the gay thing; that’s my thing.” And I wasn’t really curious and proactive about connecting with folks who are different from me. And so that’s been my journey. And I think that a lot of folks are on the same journey in which we tend to stick with what we know instead of really looking to reach out and connect with folks who are different from us. But we know that that’s where the heart is and that’s where the innovation comes from. And there’s so much to be gained from just simple conversations across differences.

Paul [00:05:43] Yeah, you know, you mentioned Black Lives Matter, and just to pull that thread specifically because it did catalyze a really interesting conversation, it opened up some, if I could be honest, some awkward conversations. You know, “I want to help, but I don’t know how; how do we create space for this conversation to happen?” And I think some of those moments stand out in my memory now, a few years later, as very brief. You know, they’re not long-form, TED-talk style deep. And one of the things that was an accidental discovery that you codified in your book for me was when you’re speaking to someone who is in an underrepresented space in the workplace, it’s not their job to be the ambassador for everybody in that space. So if you can Google a question, don’t put a person on the spot as a way to connect. That was one example that stood out. Are there any others that come to mind. How do you get into these conversations, you know, being unafraid but also not being an accidental, you know, belligerent, if I could use that word?

Bernadette [00:06:43] Sure. I mean, I think it needs to start simple and just start with, you know, talking about the game or talking about the TV show or whatever, talking about the project that you’re working on, and then sort of say, “you know what, I saw what happened in the news with Tyre Nichols, and I can’t even imagine what that must be like.” And to actually own, “I don’t know what that’s like, but if it’s really hard for you, I’m here for you if there’s anything you want to talk about.”

Bernadette [00:07:09] Again, these conversations, they don’t need to be long, they don’t need to be awkward, they don’t need to be drawn out. But they also shouldn’t be happening every time something’s going wrong. They should be happening just because you genuinely care, Just because you genuinely want to connect with someone who is different from you. It shouldn’t just be something that you’re like, “Okay, well there’s another incident and I need to address the incident.” Just sort of care in general, right? And so that’s part of it. That’s part of what it means to be an ally. Part of what it means to be a good leader is to always be curious about what’s going on with the folks on your team, not just when there is sort of an incident that needs to be addressed.

Bernadette [00:07:48] And I think that what’s really important in all conversations is a genuine sense of curiosity, not confrontation. And for leaders, one way to approach from a place of curiosity is to be a little bit vulnerable first. So whether that means that you’re admitting what you don’t know or admitting that you made a mistake or admitting that you’re on your own learning journey or whatever it happens to be, when leaders model that, it gives other folks permission to do the same.

Sean [00:08:20] I love it. It reminds me of a mantra that I picked up from you that I’ve been using over and over again, and it’s the mantra of connection before content. Those three words are so simple: connection before content. And this is kind of going along with what you’re saying about creating a genuine sense of curiosity. It can be a forcing function for creating a general sense of curiosity, like, “let’s connect before we actually get into the work; let’s just take a minute or two before every meeting, before every conversation, let’s make sure that we’re connecting before we get into the content.” I love that mantra.

Bernadette [00:08:53] Yeah, absolutely. You know, and that’s something I learned from one of my clients, right? And so I’m on this learning journey, too. And I think it’s really important to acknowledge that we are all learning. I mean, I write a weekly newsletter called “Five Things: Bringing Good Vibes to DEI,” and I wrote a story this week about how certain fonts, like Serif fonts, are harder for screen readers to read for folks who are blind and visually impaired. So the State Department is changing their font. Okay, interesting story, that’s pretty cool. But I didn’t know this has been a thing for 20 years, right? And so I’m still learning. Even though I do DEI work for a living, I am still learning as well. And so being curious about all things, you know, but especially about the folks on our team is really important. And being willing to admit what you don’t know, I think goes a long way.

Bernadette [00:09:40] And connection before content, it means a lot. It shows your team that you actually care. And if you start a meeting where you’re going around and everyone has the opportunity to share, let’s just say something that’s going really well and something that’s kind of crappy that week, it then gives you conversation starters for later. So let’s just say that someone’s having a hard time because who knows? But let’s just say they have a hard week and maybe it’s because their pet is having health issues. Well, that’s something that you can follow up with later in a one-on-one. You know, “I’m so sorry to hear about your pet, that must be a pretty big distraction, I know that, 12 years old.” You know, whatever it happens to be, I’m just using that as a silly example.

Bernadette [00:10:20] But we all have stuff going on, right? The data from Deloitte tells us that 61% of us are covering something at work. And by covering that means that we’re downplaying some part of who we are or what our struggles are. And that can be as simple as, you know, not talking about your sick pet or your sick kid. Or maybe it means that you’re not talking about your recent medical diagnosis or family issues of some kind. Or it could be because you’re in the closet about your sexual orientation or you downplay your religion or whatever it happens to be. 61% of us are covering, we’re hiding some part of who we are in the workplace. And that means we’re more distracted, we’re more checked out, we’re not doing our best. And of course, that’s going to affect the outcomes and that’s going to affect the team.

Bernadette [00:11:10] But when we start with connection before content, it sort of formalizes the ability to unpack a little of these distractions, a little bit of this personal stuff that can get in the way, or maybe it’s not personal stuff, maybe the thing that’s going crappy this week has to do with the product that’s being built and that’s okay too, right, air it all out. One thing I think is important is a little bit of boundaries around this. It doesn’t mean that we’re unpacking all of our stuff, right?

Sean [00:11:37] Yeah.

Bernadette [00:11:37] That can get messy, but sometimes it’s just, you know, 15 or 30 seconds of explaining what’s going on, and it just makes us remember that we’re all human.

Sean [00:11:48] Something that I picked up from what you said is it’s important to not just be optimistic and positive all the time. We have to be real with each other and create a sense of vulnerability in order to really connect. And I think that’s an important distinction because, you know, I had this conversation with Michelle “Mace” Curran in Heroic Public Speaking, in the class that Bernadette and I took together where we met about this concept of the highest performing teams are those that are authentically vulnerable with each other. And, you know, that mirrors my experiences in life, like all of the great teams I’ve been on, are those that have authentic vulnerability amongst themselves. Like, it’s not just about positivity and the reason that we’re here working together, it’s also about this interpersonal connection and making the work not only meaningful for the people we’re serving through the work, but for each other in the context of the work we’re doing. And I think that the highest-performing teams do that.

Bernadette [00:12:38] Absolutely. Thank you, Sean, for saying that, because we know that a key driver of performance on the team level is psychological safety. And psychological safety is when everyone on the team feels like they can speak up about the good stuff and the bad stuff. It means that they feel safe enough to speak up about their perspectives without fear of shame or ridicule. And it’s amazing how easy it is to have un-psychologically safe teams. And psychological safety is a little bit elusive for some teams. And one of the ways we create psychological safety is through vulnerability, is through sharing what works. Because what we know is that if folks don’t feel safe enough to share their ideas, whether they’re the big ideas that they have that could lead to more innovation or lead to more efficiency or whatever it happens to be, or the ideas that could be catching mistakes. When we don’t have that on the team, then everyone’s performance is going to suffer, right?

Bernadette [00:13:43] So I think it actually, this sort of leads to an example from Pixar. So Pixar is a company that has a really high degree of psychological safety and it shows because every single Pixar film has been profitable and all but one Pixar film has been critically praised. It’s Cars 2. And they do this by having a brain trust for each project. It’s a process by which they give and receive feedback and it’s a highly structured process and each team member is empowered to give and receive feedback for each project. And because of this, they’re able to really get to that level of high performance again and again and again. And it’s repeatable.

Paul [00:14:27] I love this. I think we’re pulling up to a higher level, a consistent theme throughout the book, and that’s the ARC model and we’ve kind of implied it in the past couple pieces of our conversation today, you know, asking questions is the A and being honest and vulnerable leads to connection. I think psychological safety is a big piece of the respect part of the model. But what else is in that respect part of the mindset that you’d want to focus on that might expand on this concept of psychological safety?

Bernadette [00:14:55] Sure. So let me just give an overview of the ARC method real quick. So ARC method stands for Ask Respect Connect. We use it in a few different contexts. In this context, we’re talking about connecting with folks who are different from you, and we’re always looking to ask from a place of curiosity, not confrontation. We’re always looking to ask open-ended questions. And like I said before, you might want to share a little bit first yourself before asking. The respect is really about, that’s the R, the respect is really about not interrupting, not dismissing, not minimizing, and understanding that everyone has a perspective. And it means that when you’re in the middle of a Zoom call, you’re not checking your email, which is very hard for me, by the way, sometimes. I’ll admit that that can be a challenge at times. It means that you are fully present.

Bernadette [00:15:44] And after you’ve asked the question, even if someone is giving you an answer that you don’t want to hear, it means that you are just simply witnessing and being present and not dismissing, not interrupting. It means that you don’t have your arms like this, you’re not really defensive. And when you as a team member or you as a leader show genuine respect to the folks on your team in this conversation, then you start to establish trust because they don’t feel like you are interrupting or dismissing or whatever it happens to be. And of course, trust is a foundation for psychological safety.

Bernadette [00:16:17] And then the C is about connecting. And connecting is about validating or paraphrasing or sort of summing up the conversation, maybe making a commitment of something that you’re going to start doing or stop doing or something like that. And maybe it just means that you’re wrapping up an empathy statement, like, “Wow, I had no idea; that sounds really hard; I’m so sorry to hear that.” That’s a simple way to connect at the end of the ARC method. So Ask Respect Connect can go a long way towards establishing psychological safety.

Paul [00:16:45] Yeah. One of the things that I don’t remember if it’s a quote directly from the book, but it’s something that I put together as I was reading it is, I am tempted conversationally to make empathy statements that are something along the lines of, somebody had a minor surgery of some sort, and if I can say, “Oh, I had that too,” or if somebody had a pet that is ill, I can say, “Oh, mine is suffering too.” And I think I’m being helpful or empathetic. But really, I’m, in a backhanded way, turning the conversation back to myself. I can’t remember if you said that explicitly, but in thinking through how I show up in 1-to-1s, I am trying to make connections, but can sometimes stumble a bit with the best of intentions. But you know, it can shut down that connection.

Paul [00:17:28] So I’ve found myself thinking differently about how to make these avenues of connection more meaningful and more human and not just about, your turn and then my turn in this talking game that we’re having. And I feel like I’ve had different conversations recently because of the way that I’ve been trying to think through these things. So I’ve really appreciated the mindset and the model. Anything else that you’d care to elaborate on? I think there was a piece that Sean started to dig into about the statistics of high-performing teams and the inclusiveness on those teams, the diversity on those teams. Anything else that you care to unpack in that sort of team model?

Bernadette [00:18:03] Well, I actually want to go back first to something that you just talked about, about how you’ve had this tendency to sort of listen to respond or turn it around to something that you can relate to. You know, I have done the same thing. And in fact, I caught myself doing that this week with my partner. And so I think it’s a natural human tendency, but it requires awareness to start to change how we approach that. And one of the things that I’ve been practicing is saying something along the lines of, “Wow, that really stinks,” and just keeping it as simple as that, right? You know, and then sort of elaborating. But it takes practice and that’s sort of the line that I’m practicing. And when I think about it, I can make variations of the line, of course, but that’s sort of been my sort of shift. So, you know, again, like we’re all on this journey.

Bernadette [00:18:51] So some data about high-performing teams. I mean, here’s the thing. We hear lots of data about the benefits of diversity. There’s data from places like McKinsey that tells us that companies with diverse boards are 35% more profitable, which just seems incredible, like almost impossible to believe, like, “35%, really?” Except there are a lot of similar statistics from other studies that basically say that diversity equals profitability. But I think that the missing link that we often forget about because a lot of DEI initiatives just focus on diversity and don’t focus so much on inclusion, is that in order to really get to those types of rewards and see the benefits of diversity, especially the financial benefits that a lot of folks are motivated by, in order to really do that, we have to unleash psychological safety. We have to unleash inclusion.

Bernadette [00:19:49] In fact, last year, Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard University, who’s an expert on psychological safety, co-authored a study. And I’m sorry, I forget the other name of the researcher, but she co-authored a study on teams with and without diversity and psychological safety. And what Professor Edmondson found is that teams with diversity but without psychological safety underperform. But teams with diversity and also with psychological safety, those teams outperform non-diverse teams. So in order to really unleash the benefits of diversity, we really need that culture of psychological safety on the team level. And psychological safety is a key driver of inclusion.

Bernadette [00:20:39] And so I think that’s the message here, is that diversity isn’t enough. You know, in the past few years, lots of companies have been trying to hire more black people and promote more black people. And that’s fine. It’s great, actually. But if they’re not creating spaces where folks feel like they can really thrive, then there’s going to be turnover and you’re missing out, right? And so it has to go hand in hand. And in some cases, you know, we’re thinking about inclusion first, creating an inclusive environment, creating a psychologically safe environment, and then looking to increase the diversity. So I think that it’s really important to make sure that distinction is clear for folks, because a lot of folks are like, “yes, okay, I can start recruiting at historically black colleges and universities, done.” And, you know, they sort of make a really quick and dirty plan to recruit more people of color or people from other underrepresented groups. And that’s not enough. So in really order to see those benefits that we hear about, those seemingly impossible numbers, we have to do more than just change how we hire.

Paul [00:21:35] I think that that’s really profound and it’s reflecting a lot of the kind of conversations that I’m observing in the product space specifically. So for firms who are in product development, the users that teams are building products for are sort of abstracting a lot of this empathy and building it into features, addressing pain points, developing aspirational goals. And just one last sort of practical product thought here is all of these concepts about the workplace, team building, communications; all of this applies 1-to-1 to how we think about and empathize with the users of the products that we’re building as product managers and product leaders on teams.

Paul [00:22:13] So I think that as we’re thinking about interacting with each other in the teams that we’re on, we have to apply this outward to, there are people in the world who use screen readers, to go back to your example; there are people in the world who are going to have associations with different words differently just because of how they’re used institutionally, historically. You know, I think we’ve covered all of these same concepts, but just kind of bringing it back to the product space specifically, product leaders can absolutely take this to writing user stories in a backlog or putting features on a roadmap, and having this mindset and conversational approach is, I think, directly applicable to those kinds of activities in our day-to-day.

Bernadette [00:22:51] Absolutely. I completely agree. And I think that, you know, speaking of the end user, the consumer here, the client, the client base is increasingly diverse. And when we have diversity on our team, then we’re better able to see all of the possibilities of what, or many of the possibilities of what that diverse client base might need. Now, last year I was called out on LinkedIn because my company was posting social media content that did not have alt text or an image description in the body for some of the images. Which meant that someone who is blind or visually impaired and uses a screen reader couldn’t tell what the images represented. And so someone like completely called me out.

Bernadette [00:23:36] You know, and my reaction, of course, you know, going into fight or flight, you know, getting a little defensive, but then sort of taking the time and saying, “you know what? Breathe, and there are opportunities to learn.” And I am always learning and I don’t have any folks who are blind or visually impaired on my team, which means that I don’t know all of the things and I don’t know all of the things anyway, right? And so I think sort of taking that example and bringing it into a product team, you know, thinking about, who are the folks on your team and how can they help you better understand what you’re creating and how to make it even better for the diversity of your potential clients or the diversity of your client and what their needs are? And I think exploring that is really important and giving folks a chance to share those perspectives, which is where psychological safety comes in. Because if they know stuff but they’re not telling you, well then, there’s a problem, right?

Paul [00:24:26] Right.

Sean [00:24:27] Absolutely.

Paul [00:24:28] Thank you for sharing that moment of vulnerability. It’s just powerful hearing you share that out loud. So thank you.

Bernadette [00:24:33] Yeah, absolutely. You know, here’s the thing. I’m always going to share it because I know that there are a lot of other folks who are so afraid of getting it wrong. And if we just talk about it, if we just talk about the mistakes we make, it gives folks permission to do the same.

Sean [00:24:49] All right. I’m going to summarize for us, and I’ve got a list of things that I’ve kind of taken away for myself, and hopefully, the audience gets some value out of my summary here. The first thing I’ve learned from you in this conversation is to be proactive. Don’t stay in your lane. It’s hard work because we’re so afraid of offending others, but we need to take some chances. We have to make the space for authentic connection. Number two, along the same lines, have a genuine sense of curiosity around it, model it. Especially the vulnerability part, which you just did a great job of exemplifying for us. So thank you. Third, connection before content. Start small, it matters. It shows your team that you actually care. You want to reflect on those three before I do the next three?

Bernadette [00:25:28] Yeah, you know, I would just sort of add to the connection before content piece, because if you’re not connecting on an ongoing basis, then when there is some sort of incident, then it feels performative. Right. And so…

Sean [00:25:41] Absolutely.

Bernadette [00:25:42] There needs to be that genuineness to it. Is genuineness a word?

Sean [00:25:46] It is. And it’s, I think it’s an important thing to call out because when we’re not genuine, it’s obvious. And you can become more genuine with more practice, that’s the reality, right? You have to actually do it. All right. So number four, not just the optimistic positivity stuff like, you know, we got to be real. That’s sometimes the hard part and that’s where the vulnerability comes in. Number five, psychological safety leads to more ideas and innovation. And number six, empowering and formalizing constructive feedback. I pulled that nugget out, like, the Pixar story I thought was really powerful. That empowers high-performing teams. So we need to pay more attention to our sort of ceremonies, rituals, traditions around constructive feedback.

Bernadette [00:26:26] Yeah, you know what? I just think that the more we standardize and formalize processes, the less room there is for, you know, let’s just call it error or exclusion or whatever it happens to be. So, yeah, Pixar does have a really formal process. And having a process around connection before content at the beginning of every meeting is another example. So the more we actually build in that structure, then it becomes normalized.

Sean [00:26:48] Awesome. All right, so number seven, respect. I love the way you talk about respect and the genuine passion that you have around that word. So I took some time to kind of describe it in your words. Respect is not about interrupting. It’s not about minimizing it or trivializing, like, you have to pay close attention to how you’re speaking in order to be truly respectful. It’s about being fully present, listening with the intent to understand versus the intent to respond. And unfortunately, it doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so we have to practice it. So respect.

Sean [00:27:21] Number eight, I love your ARC model. So again, we’ll tell people to go read the book Inclusive 360, it’s just a powerful, tactical tool that people can apply tomorrow. It’s easy to learn, it’s easy to communicate. It’s just a simple framework for like taking space to actually communicate powerfully and inclusively. And it’s something anybody can deploy at any point in their life. And then number nine, to summarize, diversity and psychological safety, that’s a powerful combination and the two of those things together are what really authentically produce innovative teams. So I’ll let you reflect on those three.

Bernadette [00:27:57] Yeah, I think you nailed it, Sean. You know, sort of the one thing that I really want to emphasize here is that we are all still learning. So it’s okay if you make mistakes and it’s okay if you get it wrong sometimes, all of it. And so I just think that owning that and taking responsibility for the mistakes is, of course, important. But just knowing that we’re all on this learning journey. I’m still learning. I have a weekly habit around learning in this newsletter that I write because I think that there are just a million ways to be inclusive. So yeah, thank you for summarizing so well, Sean. Appreciate it.

Paul [00:28:37] Well, before we let you go, we have two closing questions that we ask all of our guests. So I’m going to go with the first one and ask, besides the obvious, what books do you recommend for product leaders or leaders of teams in general? What’s been inspiring you lately? It doesn’t necessarily even have to be a book if it’s a TED Talk or a blog post that you’ve seen recently.

Bernadette [00:28:55] Well, I have a friend called LaTonya Wilkins, and you can find her on LinkedIn pretty easily, and she wrote a book called Leading Below the Surface. And the subtitle is How to Build Real and Psychologically Safe Teams with People Who Are Different from You. And it’s a fantastic book. It’s very practical. It’s a really quick read, and I think it’s something that every leader should take a look at. So I highly recommend that book. And LaTonya is also a great speaker and coach.

Sean [00:29:24] All right. And the last question, how do you personally define innovation?

Bernadette [00:29:28] Wow, that is a great question. You know, I define innovation as finding the white space, finding the blue ocean, and looking to solve problems in a way that is not being addressed right now. And I think that I’ve done that in different ways throughout my career. Usually, then I have to wait for the market to catch up. And so then I’ve, like, spent a whole lot of money building something that I’m waiting on. But, you know, for me, it’s about identifying what the white space is, and what is my unique lens and perspective on it that I think no one else is really talking about or doing.

Sean [00:30:05] I love it. Well, this has been an absolute joy and pleasure. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to spend time with our audience sharing your knowledge in the product space. So thank you for joining us, Bernadette.

Bernadette [00:30:17] My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me, Sean, Great to chat with you. Great to connect with you again, Paul. You all have a great show. So thank you so much for having me.

Paul [00:30:25] Cheers.

Paul [00:30:28] Well, that’s it for today. In line with our goals of transparency and listening, we really want to hear from you. Sean and I are committed to reading every piece of feedback that we get, so please leave a comment or a rating wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Not only does it help us continue to improve, but it also helps the show climb up the rankings so that we can help other listeners move, touch, and inspire the world just like you’re doing. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next episode.

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