Growing the Elephant – Increasing Earned Advantage for All

Growing the Elephant – Increasing Earned Advantage for All

Author: Chris Altizer and Gloria Johnson-Cusack
Review by: Monique Vander Eyken

The advantages of leveraging diversity through inclusion have been widely recognized, if not often successfully reaped, for decades. Why is it that now we are all so focus on this topic. Amazingly there are still a lot of people who choose to ignore this, while there are ways to ensure you are not seen as disrespectful. Chris Altizer and Gloria Johnson-Cusack not only provide explanation to recognize diversity but also use it through true life examples.

Altizer and Johnson-Cusack goes on to explain that to gain the benefits of diversity, we need to understand sources of advantage. When you consider the sources of advantage, these aren’t new, but how we think of and talk about them needs to change. When one refers to recognizing the elephant in the room, consider this as the elephant of advantage.

This book refers to earned and unearned advantages and really digs deep not only into the definition but shows ways around dealing with these advantages. The challenge is that most past and current programs or experiences don’t allow and explore differences between earned and unearned advantages. Exploring the difference is key to opening the door to safe-yet-brave discussions, awareness, and positive action.

The research behind this book includes scores of interviews, the work of cited experts, and the lived experiences of the authors. The book centers on each individual’s reflection, growth, and action to increase earned advantage and strives to meet each reader where they are in their daily life.

People tend to claim absolute truth, based on their limited, subjective truth of others. It’s not that any one of them is entirely wrong; it’s just that none of them is completely right. When you recognize where you stand within this, you will soon realize how to deal with it and make it right.

We don’t see what we won’t look at, and we can’t know what we won’t think about.

Altizer and Johnson-Cusack speaks to earned advantage being benefits or positions gained or granted by virtue of what you do without regard to how you’re born or where you’re raised; unearned advantage are the benefits or positions gained or granted by virtue of who you are or where you’re from.

The opportunity for intentional diversity, equity and inclusion is to grow the elephant of earned advantage for everyone, which generates benefits for everyone. How do you do that, there are plenty of exercises throughout the book to really make you reflect on your beliefs and how you act/react.

Recognizing earned and unearned advantage is hard and necessary – but insufficient. Recognizing the relationship between them is essential.

Where does the elephant come in, well Altizer and Johnson-Cusack believes that by continuing to look into yourself it is like touching a different part of the elephant – it takes courage; as we muster the courage to touch different parts and get comfortable with the occasional uncomfortable reaction, we get from reaching out, we all grow; we’re afraid of being trumpeted, stepped on, etc. – that’s being human but exploring the discomforts of recognizing unearned advantage is necessary to begin working with it. The more we do, the better we get – mindset helps.

Your mindset, or established set of attitudes, begins with your natural traits but develops over time based on life experiences, your mindset is a lens through which you see and understand the world – it interprets and decodes everything you perceive, so it’s quite powerful.

Intentions are powerful because they help us focus on what we hope to achieve without losing sight of why we want to achieve it.

The fixed advantage mindset can accept any single example of discrimination due to unearned advantage as an exception – but it often cannot accept a pattern of them as a rule.

Altizer and Johnson-Cusack really shows how The RAIN framework is a key foundation of Growing the Elephant:

Recognize – Accept – Investigate – Natural Awareness

Expanding your Growth Advantage Mindset involves increasing your awareness of yourself, of others, and of the impact you have on others. RAIN can help you do that.

Researchers have found that most organizations increase their effectiveness when their teams are powered by a diversity of perspectives that come from diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, age and gender – who you are and where you’re from.

By growing earned advantage, you’re meeting the intention for this book and by doing this in your daily life will improve the lives of those around you in the many situations and roles you provide either leadership or followership.

Altizer and Johnson-Cusack stresses that it takes courage and awareness to manage the inevitable challenges that come with facing the various parts of the elephant, it really makes you wonder if it is really worth it. The authors sought to give the readers different ways to share and grow opportunities for earned advantage from whatever unearned advantage they may have.

You may surprise yourself with how it improves your life, as well.

Published by Practical Inspiration Publishing

Monique Vander Eyken, HR Consultant – MVE Consulting