Let’s say you’re sitting there in front of a lovely, hot, cheesy, delicious pizza.
It’s gorgeous. And you’re the only person in the room. It’s all yours!
Wait, what’s that? Someone you don’t know comes to the table and stands there. In your head, warning bells are going off – are you going to have to share? If you give that person a slice of pizza, how much will be left for you?
For the sake of argument, let’s say your office rules mandate that you have to give a slice of pizza to anyone who asks. So you grudgingly give a slice to the newcomer and sulk a little bit now that you’re left with one less piece of that gorgeous pie.
Your pal George comes in and of course you give George a slice – ha, ha! you have to! it’s the office rule! – and he takes the seat next to you.
You and George eat two slices each. It’s a great day.
But, the pie has gotten pretty small. It’s more than halfway gone, in fact.
You start to panic, and think about hiding the pizza. It’s against the rules to hide it, but it’s a really great pizza and you’ll no doubt be hungry some day – who knows if there’s ever going to be any pizza in your future? You and George begin to talk about ways you might lock the door, off-shore the pizza, or use metrics and analytics to make the pizza impossible for anyone else to understand, and, therefore, beyond the reach of their grubby little hands.
Just then, the person you gave the first slice to comes back into the room.
You tense up. Who is this woman!? She can’t possibly want more pizza!!
Wait, what’s that she’s carrying? It smells fantastic. Why, it’s a NEW pizza, one she made after having tasted yours!
Yes, having tasted that great, cheesy slice of pizza – she’d never been invited into that room before – she began to think, “What if we could make a pizza with sausage, mushroom and onions? I wonder what that would be like?”
Her pizza looks amazing. You have a slice of hers, and so does George.
Heads nod in agreement – this is one swell pizza. It was so smart of you to give her that first slice!
Through the door come three other people who had met the woman earlier. She taught them how to make pizzas, too, and this new group have invented a pizza with ham and pineapple, and another with chickpeas for gluten-free people, and one with – get ready for it – melty cheese in the crust!
You are astounded, and have one slice of each. Now, you’ve eaten two slices of your original pizza, and one of each of the new pizzas. Beyond your obvious bloat and need for a Tums, what are you left with?
A very satisfying experience. See, by giving up one slice at the beginning, you’ve received back four slices. Plus, you still have three slices of the original pie.
You have a pizza surplus.
And this is precisely how we’re going to get more women and people of color in leadership roles in organizations around the world.
Hang with me for a minute. Since 85% of US executive officers are men, it’s the guys already in the room who can make the biggest difference. They are the ones who can make sure everyone gets a slice of the pie on the table – by being aware of what happens in terms of growth and innovation when everyone is included and exposed to opportunities.
It’s totally counter-intuitive: Giving an opportunity takes nothing away from your own experience – rather, being generous actually creates multi-fold and plentiful rewards.
Remember the pizza surplus.
So, does it matter if there are more women in the C-suite? More people of color? More inclusion? Isn’t what I’m talking about just a grabby redistribution of power?
To my mind, it’s not about a power grab. It’s about this: Today’s fast-paced, highly changing world requires all-hands-on-deck solutions. All hands. Male hands, female hands, people of all hues, beliefs, backgrounds and experiences.
We’re all a part of the solution.
Which, come to think of it, simply means more a lot more pizza for everyone.
(thanks to the Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreud for the pizza analogy in his piece here.)