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on May 1, 2010
The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work," by Laura Liswood, takes its title from the Chinese saying that "The loudest duck is the one that gets killed." She contrasts that saying with the American one that "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" to make two points.

Many of our ideas about effective behavior and other people come from what we learned growing up. They affect how we react to diversity in the workplace and elsewhere, but we're rarely aware of them because they work on a subconscious level.

When you hear the word "diversity" in American business it can have many meanings. It might mean, the mix of perspectives that you want on a project team to increase odds of innovative outcomes.

"Diversity" may be a description of the workforce. Today, there are people from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds at all levels. And, increasingly, there are women in the rarefied air of the C-suite that was once reserved for White men.

Some see "diversity" as a problem. It's just one more thing that poor, harried managers have to put up with.

On the very first page of her Introduction, Laura Liswood says:

"Diversity isn't the problem. The problem is that we bring our unconscious beliefs about ourselves and who others are into the workplace. The more diverse the workplace, the more likely it is that we won't have a fair and level playing field, not because of the diversity, but because of how we treat those who are different from ourselves."

So the primary goal of the book is to create a more level playing field by identifying unconscious beliefs about ourselves and others who are different from us. That's a worthy goal.

The strength of the book is that Liswood does a good job with the first part of that goal. She says things that need to be said, often in ways that make it easy to remember them.

The first chapter deals with corporate diversity programs. Liswood describes many of them as "Noah's Ark" programs because they concentrate on getting "enough" of different groups on the boat. It's a great phrase that makes it easy for you to capture her basic meaning.

She titled chapter 3, "Tell Your Grandma to Go Home." Your Grandma becomes the surrogate for the values and beliefs you absorbed growing up. Again, it's a concept in a nutshell.

Other chapters are similar. They're filled with insights and provocative questions that will help you explore your own attitudes and beliefs. If that's what you want to do, this is an excellent book.

But there are problems with the book that make it a poor choice if you want to make your organization more effective. That's true whether the organization is a small project team or a giant corporation.

Diversity is presented as such a large and complex issue that it's hard to get your brain around it. Here are the groups Liswood mentions in the chapter on Noah's Ark: national origin; age; culture; religion; gender; sexual orientation; socioeconomic or class; marital status; family; language; place within the organization; hobbies; and physical appearance. She notes that this "is not an exhaustive list."

Liswood also never helps you get across the yawning chasm between understanding and performance. Instead, there is the unsubstantiated and unstated assumption that if you become more aware of your unconscious beliefs, your behavior will automatically change.

There's another assumption, too. This one is about corporate performance. Discussing "Objections to Diversity," Liswood says:

"Many are skeptical that diversity is a tool for success, because they haven't read the business cases that outline the empirical evidence to support these claims."

This is a golden opportunity to make the business case for increased diversity or for a more level playing field at work. Instead of seizing the opportunity, she invites skepticism, by blowing off the reader's experience or other studies that don't make her point.

There's also a problem with language. Consider the term "diversity," itself and the many ways it's used. Sometimes it's a simple description. Sometimes "diversity" is the goal. And sometimes we're asked to "move beyond diversity" or to achieve "true diversity."

If you want to identify and examine some of your unconscious beliefs about other people and how they act, The Loudest Duck is an excellent choice. If you're reading to gain insight so you can help your own team become more of a meritocracy, The Loudest Duck will be helpful, but you'll need other resources.
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on June 11, 2014
This book has something for everyone who works in any type of organization - and don't we all? Not just for management or just for employees. Focuses on corporate but is 100% relevant in my world and I work at a small college. This has already informed and improved (i hope!) my interactions with both colleagues and students. I really like the practical nature of the book - too many books on diversity focus on the problems without offering solutions or talk about how great diversity is, without providing the tools for reaping the benefits of diversity. Read and enjoy - at times I laughed out loud at the jokes and analogies - takes a serious subject seriously but also addresses it in a fun way!
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on January 23, 2012
The Loudest Duck is a must read for those who want to be inspiring leaders in a more and more diverse work place. "The more diverse the workplace, the more likely we won't have a fair and level playing field, not because of the diversity, but because of how we treat others differently from ourselves". This easy read provides great insight in how subtle inequalities can be created due to cultural differences and background on a daily basis and how a more inclusive leadership style can be developed. I have spent over 10 years in Asia as an international manager (being a minority) and besides this book I recommend new international leaders to read the 'Culture shock' series for every key country they work in or have team members from. Don't forget that the minority does!
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on June 7, 2016
Excellent book for any executive committed to diversity in all levels of their company, to understand the difference between cultural diversity "Noa's Ark style, and true diversity. You have to read this book! Great read and very applicable to today's business environments.

Asela
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on April 18, 2015
This does a very good job of creating a forum to discuss managing introverts in a heavily extroverted culture. As a light reader of diversity and inclusion books working enough hours to make reading a luxury, this book was short and fairly to the point with analogies that can help start conversations. I suspect that a golfing man, perhaps in generation X or boomer, might feel attacked at points. Even though I don't fall into that group, until I finished the book, I wasn't sure I would recommend it for this reason. However, there is just enough balance and points I haven't seen represented this well that I think it's worth a look.
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on May 2, 2015
This book was a requirement for a college course, I'm so thrilled the teacher picked this one. I absolutely LOVE the insight that it has brought into my life. I would and have highly recommended this book to other professionals so they may in turn try to change their thought process with regards to diversity in our world. Highly recommend this book for any reader! A must read certainly!
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on April 4, 2014
This was a book club read at work. It was okay. I felt like many of the points made in this book I have heard elsewhere before. I did not feel like I learned any new information. However, this is your first introduction to diversity and even leadership, this would be a great place to start.
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on January 9, 2014
Not a FUN read, but a worthy read nonetheless. Because of the writing style of the author I personally felt as if I was being accused of a lot of things due to the fact I am a white middle aged male. That said, there were some excellent points to seriously contemplate. Once I decided to ignore what I felt were accusations, and focused on what I believe were the crux of her intent, I enjoyed the book a whole lot more and gained some great perspective.
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on January 18, 2010
Laura Liswood's new book, The Loudest Duck, provides a needed connection between the growing fields of academic and management theory on diversity and thus provides access to understanding the meaning of sound research through clear writing and specific examples that bring the theory to life. The advancement of women and people of color in organizations is still a challenge and progress is too slow. This book helps us understand many of the subtle, yet powerful dynamics that are holding back that advancement. The Loudest Duck will be a valuable contribution to people at all levels of organizations who care about diversity and care about organizational effectiveness.
Patricia Deyton, Director, the Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons School of Management, Boston, MA and Instructor in Gender, Leadership and Managment at the Harvard University Extension School.
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on December 9, 2009
"Of course! Why didn't I ever think of it like that?"

You will find yourself saying this to yourself over and over as you read this wonderfully practical, entertaining, and well-reasoned analysis of workplace diversity. This is solid advice based on Ms. Liswood's extensive experience in the field. Best of all, this is a book you will actually read -- and you will easily persuade others in your organization to read as well. It's NOT your standard consultant management book; you will come away with new insights and tools that will truly help level the playing field and cultivate the best from people at all levels in your organization.
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