In essence, inclusive decision-making is a departure from the more autocratic or democratic approaches, valuing the diverse wisdom that arises from an engaged and participatory process. But now the essential question; what does that yield?
The benefits of inclusive decision making
In reading the principles stated above, one may think that inclusive decision-making is above all a lot of work and too much of a hassle. It may feel this way because it completely contrasts with our natural preferences as human beings for linear thinking focused on efficiency, minimizing deviations and thinking in right and wrong solutions (Kramer, 2019). In other words; why should we take the effort?
Let’s illustrate these benefits with an example of a project I once led. We learned a few painful lessons, which will demonstrate the need for a thorough, inclusive process.
In a health care organization, management had (behind closed doors) made the decision to close a location for daytime activities for clients. The business case of this location was no longer profitable. When they communicated this decision to the clients and their parents, it was like a bomb exploded. Parents were furious: their children had worked in this location for many years and they depended on this location for the well-being of their children.
So what happened? The parents stood up for their rights to be consulted and demanded an investigation into all the possible options to keep the location open. My colleague and I were asked to guide this process. We couldn’t help but empathize with the consequences of the autocratic decision-making style that had caused harm. So, we decided to shake things up a bit and bring a more inclusive approach to the table.
We installed an advisory group of parents, employees that worked at that location and of course the clients themselves. This enabled us to hear their emotions, understand their perspectives and interests better and to incorporate these in the scenarios we made for a possible solution. It took a very long time to level with employees and parents, because their level of trust had been seriously damaged. However, in the end we got to experience the fruits of our labor: building towards a decision in collaboration with all the stakeholders resulted in more commitment to come up with a good solution.
Clients and employees became slightly more at ease with the burdensome process they were in. And we were able to land on a substantially better solution. In addition, the clients and employees at this particular location grew closer during this process. They learned to express their concerns better and to talk about them in an open manner. The painfully insightful conclusion was that investing time to incorporate all the stakeholders in the decision-making process would have saved us so much time and misery. And eventually it led us to a better solution: a better business case by renovating the location. Meaning enlarging the restaurant and reducing the shop square meters.
As this example illustrates, there are many reasons to invest in inclusive decision-making. Research has shown as well that in many cases, it results in the development of more comprehensive solutions, improved outcomes, and the maximization of productivity, innovation, and creativity (Morley, T. 2018). Furthermore, employees who are involved in the decision-making process, experience a higher degree of job satisfaction and feeling of belonging (Ohana et al. 2013).
Overall, inclusive decision-making benefits are:
As you can see, inclusive decision-making isn’t just a method; it’s a transformative approach that empowers organizations to tap into their full potential. By valuing diversity, investing in collaboration and embracing differing perspectives, organizations set themselves on a path to excellence and a more cohesive and thriving workplace culture.
- Kincentric. (2023). “Demystifying Inclusion — Rewards and realities of fostering an inclusive culture”. Full report.
- Kahneman, Daniel. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York :Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
- Cialdini, R. B. (2008). Influence (5th ed.). Pearson.
- Morley, T. (2018). “Making the business case for diversity and inclusion: Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in HR”, Strategic HR Review, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 58-60. https://doi.org/10.1108/SHR-10-2017-0068
- Ohana, M., Meyer, M., & Swaton, S. (2013). Decision-making in social enterprises: Exploring the link between employee participation and organizational commitment. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42, 1092-1110.
- Kramer, J. (2019). Deep Democracy (7de editie). Thema.