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Us Plus Them: Tapping the Positive Power of Differenceby Todd L Pittinsky
Synopses & Reviews
Moving beyond mere tolerance
Us-versus-them is the costly mind-set in which organizations, communities, and whole nations too often find themselves trapped. In fact, recognizing difference as a positive force can bring astonishing value to even the most diverse organizations.
In Us Plus Them, leadership scholar Todd Pittinsky introduces a groundbreaking new science of diversity that:
Debunks the assumption that wherever there is difference there will be inherent tension and animosity
Challenges the effectiveness of our standard attempts to fight prejudice and combat hate in our schools and workplaces, our civic and religious lives
Reveals how we benefit from the mixing of different ethnic, racial, national, social, and religious groups in a globalized world
Through a wide range of examples—from Maine and Michigan to Rwanda and Bhutan, and from small-town classrooms to corporate boardrooms—Pittinsky opens our eyes to misunderstood yet useful aspects of us-and-them relations, including many of the neglected positive dimensions of difference. He provides a bold new assessment of the popular and scientific approaches to the issue, proving that its time to move beyond mere tolerance to build communities in which the two sides of the us-and-them equation engage each other because they both want to.
Much as Martin Seligman and positive psychology have shifted the focus from mental illness to mental healthiness, this book shifts our mind-set to diversity as a positive force. Understanding the science and practical use of that energy will help us build the schools, neighborhoods, companies, and nations we want, and not simply avoid the ugliest problems of the past. Pittinsky shows us that our great diversity experiment hasnt failed—it hasnt even begun.
You are asked to play a game of word association. The word you are given: prejudice. What do you free associate with this loaded term? Different” and discrimination” come to mind. Possibly even the word hate.”
Its time for a new dialog, says professor and researcher Todd Pittinsky—once that swings the pendulum from negative to positive; from them” to us.” In Us Plus Them, Pittinsky argues against the assumption that simply reducing prejudice will improve relationships between different groups. The simple rooting out of what we dont want will only fuel the problem. Instead, his research shows that moving from the desire to stamp out prejudice to an approach that builds interest, kinship and engagement will actually open up new possibilities within groups thrown together based on circumstance—whether thats in schools, neighborhoods, companies, or even nations.
Pittinsky's research offers a much-needed path to build helpful, active relationships between different groups in business and society. Much as Martin Seligman and the field of positive psychology have reoriented the science of individual well-being from the study of mental illness to the study of mental healthiness, this book aims to reverse a long-standing imbalance in the theory and practice of leadership related to groups. For decades, research and practice have adopted a "deficit model" for addressing the problem, assuming that the best we can do is eliminate our prejudice toward others or else try to ignore or eliminate their otherness.” In todays globalized world where difference is a constant (and is what former U.S. President Bill Clinton calls, our greatest opportunity”), we need a radical new approach to building bridges to move us forward.
Us Plus Them presents this new approach and clearly presents the opportunities and responsibilities for leadership the world over.
About the Author
Todd L. Pittinsky is an associate professor at SUNY Stony Brook. Prior to that, he was associate professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and research director of Harvards Center for Public Leadership. Pittinskys research has been published in leading academic journals and business publications. He is the coauthor of Working Fathers: New Strategies for Balancing Work and Family, the editor of Crossing the Divide: Intergroup Leadership in a World of Difference, and coeditor of Restoring Trust in Organizations and Leaders: Enduring Challenges and Emerging Answers.
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