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Seeking common ground: an alternative diversity training paradigm

Cristina de Mello‐e‐Souza Wildermuth (Assistant Professor of Education, Adult Learning and Organizational Performance Master's Program, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Mel O. Wildermuth (Executive Partner at the The Effectiveness Group, Iowa, Des Moines, USA)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 12 July 2011




During a typical diversity program, participants are encouraged to recognize, evaluate, and appreciate differences. The purpose of this paper is to explore the rationale for “Conversity®”: an alternative approach to diversity training that is based on connections.

Design/methodology approach

The paper is based on a review of the literature on “traditional” diversity training paradigms, the impact of diversity on the brain, and basic social psychology concepts such as categorization and social affiliation. The authors relate literature review findings to their experiences conducting “connections‐based” (“Conversity”) diversity training.


The human brain is already wired to perceive differences. Further, human beings tend to prefer others who share their group affiliations. Possible consequences of “typical” diversity training programs may include a “backlash” against diversity, an increase in participants' fears, and a reinforcement of inter‐group divisions.

Practical implications

This paper offers practitioners an alternative paradigm for diversity training design including alternative categorization (i.e. emphasis on non‐traditional diversity categories such as personality or team color) and an intentional search for connections between participants.


Historically, diversity training programs have focused on the value of differences rather than on the power of common ground.



de Mello‐e‐Souza Wildermuth, C. and Wildermuth, M.O. (2011), "Seeking common ground: an alternative diversity training paradigm", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 43 No. 5, pp. 283-290.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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