How Left-Handed People Hold Phones, And Why It Matters To Your Business

Being a left-handed person, I immediately understood the point Anka Wittenberg, Chief Diversity Officer at SAP, was making about diversity during an intriguing breakout session at the recent SAP Ariba Live event. She told the story of a company (not hers) that asked people to record short videos and upload them online as part of a major branding investment. Fifteen percent of the videos were upside down because the project owners neglected to consider how left-handed people hold their mobile phones.

L to R: Gustavo Amorim, Global Marketing Vice President, SAP Ariba; Anka Wittenberg, Chief Diversity Officer, SAP; Reginald Williams, Consultant of Supplier Diversity at Procurement Resources

“We need to reflect the diversity of our customers and suppliers in order to truly understand their needs,” said Wittenberg. You need an inclusive cultural awareness in everything you do to drive business in a sustainable way.”

Top five global leadership qualities

I was among the many people applauding heartily during the session that was part of the event’s Diversity and Leadership Forum track.

Called “Leadership of the Future in Procurement — Get Ready!”, the panel discussion was led by Gustavo Amorim, Global Marketing Vice President at SAP Ariba. He played a short video featuring leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith, who shared the five top qualities of global leaders of the future: global thinking, cross-cultural appreciation, technological savvy, building alliances and partnerships, and shared leadership. While traits like vision and integrity are mainstays for leaders, these five qualities reflect what it takes to stand out in a significantly changed business world. The workplace is increasingly diverse, technology underpins just about everything, collaboration inside and outside corporate walls is paramount to good business, and leaders are managing knowledge workers who know more than they do.

Symbiotic relationship between buyers and sellers

A 34-year veteran in supplier diversity, Reginald Williams, Consultant of Supplier Diversity at Procurement Resources, saw cross-cultural appreciation as both problem and challenge ‒ and a significant business advantage.

“There is no better way to expand your customer base than to do business with them,” said Williams. “Supplier diversity is a demonstrable way to reach out and do business with those who provide companies with revenues. We must become an extension of our customers that have a broad, diverse culture base. Our responsibility is to support the customers of our customers with leadership that provides the tools, resources and education to do this.”

Inclusive leadership multiples innovation sixfold

Wittenberg said that developing an inclusive leadership culture at SAP has been imperative for growth in an organization with over 320,000 customers in more than 150 countries.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to be leaders by listening, asking and learning,” she said. “Our research has found that companies with inclusive leadership are six times likelier to innovate, able to cope with change, and to be agile. Leaders need confidence in themselves and to be curious about the future. We have training available for our nearly 90,000 employees to prepare them for an environment with lots of change.”

Collaboration equals shared ownership

Williams called for the development of an internal advisory council including people from every business unit fostering collaborative engagement.

“You can move needle with continuous feedback and continuous participation being driven as a shared process,” he said. “There’s no more top down leadership when people take ownership in what they’re doing. Collaboration results in shared ownership, commitment and results. The problem with diversity is that white guys think it’s got nothing to do with me. You must incorporate everyone into the solution driving the change.”

He saw supplier diversity as two-pronged with diverse suppliers on one side, and the application of standards of excellence for vendors on the other. The key to inclusion is that standards of excellence represent everyone. “We have a woman-owned supplier who returned 1.2 million dollars in savings. She operates one of largest minority companies in the IT staffing industry. But if we hadn’t made sure she was in the pool, we wouldn’t have had that kind of diversity,” said Williams.

Tech drives diversity

Leaders have a tremendous responsibility to make sure their companies are using technology to meet corporate diversity and inclusion commitments, and procurement is one way to do that.

“You can make a conscious decision on where you buy supplies and who you have in your supply chain. I believe technology is the catalyst for change, and to drive this change in an exponential way leaders need an understanding of technology,” said Wittenberg.

Follow me @smgaler