The Flip-Side of Cultural Diversity?

A study conducted by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam finds less civic activity in diverse communities.

The study is the largest ever on civic engagement in America, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America. Putnam surveyed residents in 41 US communities, sorting residents were into the four principal categories used by the US Census: black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. They were asked how much they trusted their neighbors and those of each racial category, and questioned their civic attitudes and practices, including their views on local government, their involvement in community projects, and their friendships.

The Findings: Lower “Social Capital”

The study found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

Putnam has studied the problem of declining civic activity for quite some time, finding that the US has experienced a pronounced decline in “social capital”  – which refers to the social networks — friendships, religious congregations, neighborhood associations and so on.  He states that when social capital is high, communities are better places to live, neighborhoods are safer, people are healthier, and more citizens vote.

Putnam writes that those in more diverse communities tend to:

distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television…People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ — that is, to pull in like a turtle.” 

These findings challenged the two dominant schools of thought on ethnic and racial diversity, the “contact” theory and the “conflict” theory. Under the contact theory, more time spent with those of other backgrounds leads to greater understanding and harmony between groups. Under the conflict theory, that proximity produces tension and discord. But Putnam’s findings reject both theories: In more diverse communities, there were neither great bonds formed across group lines nor heightened ethnic tensions, but a general civic malaise, with levels of trust lower even among members of the same group.

The “Diversity Paradox”

In a nation that is inexorably becoming increasingly diverse, how are we to interpret these findings?  

First, it is important to note that there are also some very positive recent findings about diversity, While ethnic diversity may, in the short run prove a liability for social connectedness, other research suggests it can be a big asset when it comes to driving productivity and innovation. In high-skill workplace settings. Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist and  author of “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies”  finds that the different ways of thinking among people from different cultures can be a distinct advantage:

Because they see the world and think about the world differently than you, that’s challenging. But by hanging out with people different than you, you’re likely to get more insights. Diverse teams tend to be more productive.”

Page calls this the “diversity paradox.” He thinks the contrasting positive and negative effects of diversity can coexist in communities, but we must be wary of civic engagement falling off too far.

Putnam’s Take

When he published a detailed analysis in the journal Scandinavian Political Studies, Putnam argued that the negative effects of diversity can be remedied, and that history suggests that ethnic diversity may eventually fade as a sharp line of social demarcation.

In the final section of his paper, Putnam discusses how social identity can change over time, stating that experience shows that social divisions can eventually give way to “more encompassing identities” that create a “new, more capacious sense of ‘we.”

He also points out that increasing diversity in America is not only inevitable, but ultimately valuable and enriching. To help reduce divisions that hinder civic engagement, he suggests programs such as expanding support for English-language instruction and investing in community centers and other places to foster meaningful interaction. Putnam states: 

I think over the long run, as we get to know one another, and as we begin to see things that we have in common with people who don’t look like us, this allergy to diversity tends to diminish and to go away. So this is not something that I think as an argument against immigration. On the contrary, actually, I think in the long run we’ll all be better. But I don’t think that progressives and integrationists like me do our cause any service by hiding from ourselves the fact that it’s not easy.

Putting It Into Perspective

I believe it is important to remember that social diversity is a rather recent phenomenon, and the American consciousness is still evolving as is plainly demonstrated by the obvious dog whistle racism of the anti-Obama crowd.

What is also important to note is that Putnam does not extrapolate some universal principle that heterogeneous societies have any less potential for social cohesion than homogeneous ones -only that it takes time for people to look past their differences, and the American experience demonstrates that over time society can change.

For example, one of the remarkable aspects of the study is that it focuses on diverse communities. In fact, 50 odd years ago diverse neighborhoods were unheard of. I recall the changes in my old neighborhood, Bedford Stuyversant, Brooklyn. There was “white flight”following the construction of the subway line between Harlem and Bedford in 1936, as African Americans left overcrowded Harlem for more available housing in Bedford–Stuyvesant. But today, my daughter lives right near my old home in Clinton Hill, which is now a diverse neighborhood.

So it would not be fair to overgeneralize based on a study of diversity given such a short time frame.

Our Polarized Society

I believe that it would also be mistaken to lay off the problems of American polarization on attitudes about race on the part of the members of society themselves. To put this in perspective, bear in mind that even as America’s oligarchical structures have tightened over the  past few decades, society as a whole has nonetheless managed to trend toward a more diverse perspective.

This has occurred despite increased political polarization. When there is a demonstrative and concerted effort by the wealthiest class – including the media and politicians it controls- to manipulate people’s thought processes such that they devolve into a divisive, polarized mental framework, we should avoid the temptation to simply cite racial attitudes. While this is a contributing factor, alienation has much deeper roots, and It takes a great deal in such a divisive environment to take the bull by the horns and overcome the mental conditioning that is damaging the cohesiveness of American society,

I observe that change is inspired by trauma and shock. And given the increasing disparity in wealth distribution, mistrust of our leaders, expanding unemployment and the decline of the American middle class, we have a very interesting opportunity as a society today to evolve – together.

The key is to see past our differences, and Putnam agrees with me here. The only thing holding us back is that we submit to the mechanisms of control.


boomer graph

What I Know About Work Now That I Am In My 50s

Senior Columnist on Life/Work/Family for The Huffington Post addresses the concerns of my generation – the Baby Boomers.

As anyone who’s watched Forest Gump can see, we’ve had a tumultuous ride. It’s been all about change. Today we’re struggling to deal with the lessons of getting by in an increasingly unstable economic environment, the shattering of past paradigms, (as those in the so-called “Red States” continue to cling to old, dying myths) and dealing with age, mortality and loss. 

So where’s the silver lining? And what are the lessons that the up and coming generations can learn from our example, our wisdom and our mistakes? Here are a few shining gems from Linda’s excellent article,  

What I Know About Work Now That I Am In My 50s. A note -all the words and links below are from her article. She writes:

 “I’ve spent the decades since trying to live the balanced message that I want my children to hear. I’m not quite there yet, but over the years I have gotten closer, and learned more than a little — not just about the meaning of life, but also of work.

It is okay to live for your work. “No one on her deathbed ever said, ‘I should have spent more time at the office,’ ” the saying goes. But I’d wager that many have looked back on their lives and been damn proud of what they accomplished at work. Isn’t the goal to find something you are so passionate about (and so talented at) that you want to be doing it all the time?

You probably won’t feel that way every day, or even every year. A working life is not linear. We used to think it was, back in the days when you put in 40 years at the same job and got a gold watch when you retired. But the workplace has changed — job security is more about months than decades now — and that has freed workers to change, too.

Embrace that. Ping pong around, zig and zag — not only from one job to the next, but from one state of mind to another. Go full throttle straight out of school. Take a more scenic side road during the years while you raise children. Roar back again when those kids are grown. Or, maybe, the other way around. It doesn’t make you an inconsistent worker, but rather a better human being.

6. Stop feeling guilty about the gel time. The best place to find inspiration, perspective, enthusiasm or direction in your job is outside of it. “I would very soon become threadbare if I were only lurching from one film set to another without any nourishment,” Daniel Day-Lewis said recently of why he insisted on waiting a year, and just living his life, before playing Lincoln. For those of us who don’t have a year? Take a walk, read a book, play with your kids. When I get stuck in my writing, I take a shower.

Sheryl Sandberg is right. Too many women “leave before they leave,” moving emotionally away from work when they start to have families, failing to “raise their hands” for promotions and big projects.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is right, too. Women can raise their hands day and night, but there are logistical barriers in the current outdated workplace, that are far higher than any “ambition gap.” The reason women are “leaning out,” rather than “leaning in,” is largely because they are overwhelmed by the impossibility of “doing it all.”

I know more than an eager 20-something. I am wiser. I have made more mistakes, hence learned more lessons. I know that what seems like a crisis, or a debacle, or a triumph, will probably look far less dramatic by tomorrow, and it’s better to take the long view of life rather than riding the roller coaster day to day.

They know more than I. Every day they teach me something about technology, or pop culture, or optimism, or how things need not be done the way they’ve always been done. Mostly they have taught me about balance. Everything I just wrote I learned by trying to articulate it for the now-21-year-old who once scribbled on a pad at breakfast. His generation deserves a better mix of what Freud called the “cornerstones of our humanness,” love and work. Mine can’t build that for him, but we can take hard-won knowledge and point the way.”




Infographic by

sunday sermon

American Conservatives Have More To Grapple With

An extensive survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older, details the shifts in the U.S. religious landscape.

Overall, the demographic changes mean that America is becoming a minority Protestant nation with more religiously unaffiliated than ever before, more atheists/agnostics, and a growing number of non Christians, including American-born Buddhists.

Non Christians are thriving socially and financially, with nearly half of Hindus in the U.S., one-third of Jews and a quarter of Buddhists having obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about 10% of the adult population overall. Hindus and Jews are much more likely than other groups to report high income levels.

Key Findings: Protestants Becoming The Minority

  •  Barely 51% of Americans now report that they are members of Protestant denominations.
  • More than one-quarter  (28%) of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion or no religion at all.
  • 16.1% are unaffiliated with any faith today  – more than double the number who say they were not affiliated as children.
  • 1 in 4 Americans ages 18-29 say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.
  • Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses. While nearly 31% were raised in the Catholic faith,  fewer than 24% now describe themselves as Catholic.

A Growing and Diverse Unaffiliated Group

The 16.1% who are unaffiliated with any particular religion exhibit remarkable internal diversity:

  • 25% are atheist or agnostic (1.6% and 2.4% of the adult population overall, respectively).
  • The remainder (12.1% of the adult population overall) describe their religion as “nothing in particular.”

The latter group is evenly divided between:

  • “Secular unaffiliated” who say that religion is not important in their lives (6.3% of the adult population), and
  • “Religious unaffiliated,” who say that religion is either somewhat important or very important in their lives (5.8% of the overall adult population).

Non Christians Thriving

Even smaller religions in the U.S. reflect considerable internal diversity:

  • Most Jews (1.7% of the overall adult population) identify with one of three major groups: Reform, Conservative or Orthodox Judaism.
  • More than half of Buddhists (0.7% of the overall adult population) belong to one of three major groups within Buddhism: Zen, Theravada or Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Muslims (0.6% of the overall adult population) divide primarily into two major groups: Sunni and Shia.

The non Christians are thriving socially and financially:

  • Nearly half of Hindus in the U.S., one-third of Jews and a quarter of Buddhists have obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about 10% of the adult population overall.
  • In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.
  • Hindus and Jews are much more likely than other groups to report high income levels.

Other Survey Highlights

Other highlights in the report include these:

  • Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Nearly 20% say they have no formal religious affiliation, vs. 13% of women.
  • Black Americans are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation.
  • Non affiliated are relatively young:
    • 31% are under age 30 vs. 20% of the overall adult population.
    • 71% are under age 50 vs. 59% of the overall adult population.

More and more, the changing demographic landscape demonstrates that this is not your grandfather’s conservative, WASPish America, and looks much less like the current Republican Party.  Americans are more fluid in their affiliations, and becoming more intellectually empowered.

Marketers had better get over traditional approaches to the market and get their fingers on the pulse of the nation.

Marketing Models That No Longer Work

 of provides a list of 10 Marketing Principles That Aren’t True Anymore. His core observation is that mass marketing models no longer optimally address the new attitudes and behaviors of the socially connected consumer.  For instance, while TV drives awareness, it is increasingly the Internet that drives conversion.
Of the 10 marketing principles that Rich finds increasingly irrelevant, I will highlight those that I consider to be the top 3.  It is important to consider these consideration points in the context of your own product and marketing environment because principles that work best for one type of product marketing environment may not work as well in others.

3 Marketing Principles To Rethink

1. Mass Segmentation Models – The old mass segmentation models are giving way to micro-segmentation.  Here’s why:  because people have more in common with those they follow on social media than their demographic peers, and because everything happens in real time online. Consequently:

…it’s more a relevant message to a relevant audience at a relevant time.

Customer segmentation is the practice of dividing customers into groups relevant to a particular line of business in order to decide how to relate to customers in each segment. The goal is to maximize the value of each customer to the business.

Micro-segmentation groups small numbers of customers into more precise segments, based on factors, including behavioral predictions in order to direct specific marketing actions to each micro-segment. The goal is to maximize the effectiveness of every contact with each customer.

The Process: For example, customers of an online gaming company might be segmented into Lifestyle Stage Groups, such as: 1) fun; 2) new; 3) active; 3) star; 4) churn; and 5) reengaged. Deeper dives into each Lifestyle Stage Group can be made by segmenting these customers into Segmentation Layers, using cluster analysis on sets of attributes that share a common context, including behavioral and demographic. By associating each customer with a string of different clusters, customers are then grouped together as micro-segments.

Intended Results: Micro-segments, which typically contain very few customers each, allows for highly personalized predictive analysis and marketing action optimization.   Tracking and analyzing how different marketing actions affect the spending behavior of different micro-segments makes it possible to predict the effectiveness levels of different marketing actions on different segments. As a result, marketers can better determine which marketing approaches will have greater impact on each group of customers. Further, since the micro-segments are dynamic, and there is movement through the Lifestyle Stages, dynamism of the customer path can be factored into the analysis. As explained by micro-segmentation company, Micromove:

Most companies  view segmentation as a method of clustering similar customers together at a given point in time, but they completely disregard the path or route that each customer has taken to reach his or her present segment. By analyzing customers based on their movement among segments over time, [micro-segmentation] achieves far more accurate segmentation than any other known method.

Focus on Customer Lifetime Value in segmentation allows for better targeted marketing based on more precise predictive customer behavior models.

2. The Purchase Funnel (Reach and Frequency)

For products where the purchase process is more complex, building awareness through reach and frequency is only a first step. In line with the Consumer Decision Journey as defined by McKinsey, to improve conversion, you need to rethink the “purchase funnel” in favor of a more complex consumer decision model.

My article, The Customer Decision Journey: Research Overturns the Marketing Funnel shows that the old consideration funnel has given way to a decision loop (“the consumer decision journey”) that takes place in a less linear and more complicated purchase environment where there are numerous touch points and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer. 

consumer decision journey

McKinsey’s David Court has a presentation showing what this means for marketers. He explains:

You have a trigger of some sort, where people start across the decision journey — they are now going to move towards purchase. The first stage is initial consideration. In many industries, people actually start in their initial consideration of a brand with a relatively narrow list, we believe because of the busy lives and bombardment of media — it’s just very difficult to get through all this clutter in this consumers initial consideration set. However, once the consumer decides they are going to buy a product, they move into a stage that we call active evaluation. It is here that the number of brands they are considering increases. Which is exactly the opposite of the premise of the funnel, going from broad to narrow. This is the stage when the consumer is intent on purchasing and they are actively researching the product.

3. Acquisition Only

Your business model will naturally continue to depend on new customer acquisition goals, but not exclusively. Marketing models based on new customer acquisition alone that do not also have strategies for retention and engagement break down over time, and the reason that pyramid schemes ultimately collapse is that there are a limited number of new customers to be sold.

Brand loyalty is important because brand enthusiasts will reengage and repurchase, and influence others to whom (s)he is socially connected to purchase and engage. So it’s vitally important today to keep the customers you have happy by delivering on all brand touch points, and creating a social context for them to become brand ambassadors.

Apple is the oft-cited example of a company whose brand loyalty-oriented model has been extremely successful. While not the PC market share leader, Apple has leapfrogged other PC makers in profitability because their customers are willing to pay more for a better brand experience. 

Lessons For Marketers In The Age of Socially Driven Conversion

Strategy: Traditional messaging is geared toward trying to get into the consumer’s initial consideration stet. However, rather than continue to push ads and promotions out to broad groups of consumers, marketers need to be sure that their marketing activities are aligned against how their consumers research and buy products.

Consider the likely results if the customer reaches out during the active evaluation stage but is not provided the facts and testimonials that (s)he is looking for to make the purchase decision. The budget spent on gaining recognition and getting into a customer’s initial considerations set will not only fail to result in conversion, but will effectively deliver the client to a competitor who delivers on the customer’s pre-purchase expectations.

In essence, this means that the customer has moved past a brand’s promise to a brand’s value in the consideration phase.  So marketers have to bridge the gap between consideration and conversion sooner by developing ways for people to talk about your product, and making word of mouth work in the age of socially driven conversion.

Social engagement doesn’t mean that, as Rich Meyer puts it, consumers necessarily “want to have a relationship with their salad dressing or butter…You also need to think more about your brand as media than just providing sales information online.”

In other words, since the joy of the purchase itself is often more than that derived from the product itself, what value are you delivering in the customer’s purchase experience? You need to emotionally connect to your customers and give them an emotional reason to select your brand.  The choices consumers make are not rational ones.

Tactics: Tactics include being represented on independent internet sites where people go and research and buy products. If you don’t have enough presence on those types of consumer driven approaches, when the consumer is reaching out during active evaluation, you’re not there for them to find.

Rich Meyer summarizes the customer-centric approach in the age of socially-driven conversion extremely well:

I believe the greatest strength any marketer can have is his, or her, ability to understand the dynamics of their brand/product from a consumers POV.  This means understanding what are the key drivers to conversion and where and when consumers want to interact with the brand.  I love Oreo cookies but I don’t want to friend them on Facebook.   Organizations that prepare for change and implement new marketing thinking will be ready to leverage new business and customers.

CRM Can Reach a Higher Consciousness

Click to view the Facebook Marketing Humor and Wisdom Page and be sure to “like” it!

Strategic CRM For Dummies

Dick Lee, founder of  High-Yield Methodsdiscusses why CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is out of mind for most CEOs. He partly blames software vendors for positioning CRM as mere software, a tactical tool rather than an enterprise-wide business strategy. But even more fundamental, he believes that the true strategic vision for which CRM was originally intended, is “rooted in a world view that chases strategic CRM right off most radar screens.” What world view is that? One based on achieving customer-centricity.

3 Reasons for Customer-Centricity In The Age of The Consumer

Lee gives 3 compelling reasons why customer-centricity is more than a buzzword.

1. It’s A Buyers’ Market

According to Lee, many business leaders and journals remain stuck in a time warp of internally focused business strategies, rather than customer-centric ones. Lee cites as examples Business Week and The Wall Street Journal as indulging in wishful business thinking, speaking of “regaining pricing power,” for instance. And yet, the business environment has shifted fundamentally. Here are some of the environmental shifts that the market has taken:

Demographics: An aging population means a fundamental shift from accumulation phase buying to retirement spending

Shorter product cycle times and increased productivity are flooding markets with too many goods and services for markets to absorb.

Global market competition and online communities are creating a hyper-competitive environment in which only the toughtest companies can survive.

2. Customers Are Taking Charge

Customers are learning how to leverage their advantage in today’s buyer’s market. Social media allows them to take the microphone away from marketers and demand that marketers listen to them, rather than try to influence them:

Run the proposition that companies have to shut up and listen to their customers up the average corporate flagpole. You’ll get run out of Dodge. After all, how can you make next quarter’s numbers by listening? Gotta squeeze those customers for every nickel they’re worth—every month, every week, every day, every hour—to make this quarter’s goals. Who has time to worry about next quarter and the next and the next?

3.  Companies Have To Offer More To Stay Even

Customers are demanding you offer the best products and  service, or they’ll go elsewhere. This may seem unfair to companies, but, as Lee points out, the side with money to spend are the ones who determine what’s fair:

But CxOs are still fighting “unreasonable customer expectations” and demanding that customers pay them a “reasonable price.” Reasonable enough to support whopping CxO salaries. Wanna stand up in front of a team of your peers and tell them to do more and expect the same, or even less? Duck.

Strategic CRM To the Rescue

Companies are under increased shareholder pressure to perform. But how? Cost-cutting will soon run its course. Endless reorganization, which Lee realistically calls downsizing in disguise, is counter-productive. Hard Selling and marketing no longer work. The only option left is to align with customers.

The above video by Emailvision describes Strategic CRM as “marketing as if you only have only one.” Companies that have heard the message of Stragic CRM, and used it to their benefit include:

  • Promologistics: “We now feel confident about the promises that we make to our customers, who rely on our services to grow their businesses.”
  •  “[It] gave us the ability to create highly targeted campaigns, understand their effectiveness and highlight areas for improvement.”
  • Gazzar Wines: “We grew our sales by 20%…Our email marketing now engages customers with tailored product recommendations based on their purchase history and browsing profile.
You can download their success stories from Envision’s site here.


Strategic CRM means reframing CRM back to a strategic initiative that creates value for the company by delivering new value to customers. Customer relationship management isn’t just about data mining. It’s about building relationships with customers at every touchpoint, and that grows out of a central strategy of customer-centricity that permeates the entire enterprise. The companies that dominate in the Age of the Consumer will be the ones who respond to their customers’ beliefs and values.