OtherWise: The Wisdom You Need to Succeed in a Diverse and Divisive World

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Fear of immigrants, ethnic differences, culture wars, political polarization - these are forces that divide us. OtherWise steers us toward common ground in a world of difference.

OtherWise moves beyond merely “tolerating difference” to help you assess your underlying beliefs and undergo the changes in perspective and attitude that are required for managing and leading today. Informed by dozens of interviews and packed with illuminating data and powerful examples, this original ...

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OtherWise: The Wisdom You Need to Succeed in a Diverse and Divisive World

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Fear of immigrants, ethnic differences, culture wars, political polarization - these are forces that divide us. OtherWise steers us toward common ground in a world of difference.

OtherWise moves beyond merely “tolerating difference” to help you assess your underlying beliefs and undergo the changes in perspective and attitude that are required for managing and leading today. Informed by dozens of interviews and packed with illuminating data and powerful examples, this original book explains what America’s changing demography means for business, and how to shake off the fear of the unknown and truly connect across cultures, borders, and perspectives.

Advance Praise for OtherWise:

OtherWise is a must-read. The steps it advances are key to the improvement of our society, and all should heed its advice.”

Robert L. Dilenschneider, Founder and Principal, The Dilenschneider Group

OtherWise is a superbly written handbook on how to make it in a changing and increasingly divisive world—must reading for anyone seeking success.”

Harold Burson, Founding Chairman, Burson-Marsteller

“Copies of OtherWise should occupy prominent space in the nation’s major colleges and corporate marketing departments, and be required reading for anyone interested in the future of advertising and the global economy.”

Byron Lewis, Founder and CEO, UniWorld Group

“Dick Martin makes a profound argument that the opposite of intolerance is not tolerance, it is hospitality. OtherWise lives up to its title, and imparts wisdom on how to be hospitable to others. His book challenges beliefs and feelings to provide wisdom that might take one a lifetime to achieve, if at all. I will make sure my friends and colleagues all read this book.”

David Kenny, Chairman and CEO, The Weather Channel Companies

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Reading more like a compilation of thematically linked essays than a cohesive book, Martin (Tough Calls) presents his take on contemporary “Otherness”: what it is, its boundaries and structure, where it manifests itself, and whom it affects. Though many chapters might appear to have little to do with the “other” (“people we consider so different from ourselves that we have trouble seeing beyond those differences to what we have in common”), the theme remains in demonstrations of why we need both a more global and interconnected worldview. But his purpose is not to propose solutions. Instead, he writes with a concern for “understanding the issue, its importance, and its implications.” Though the book might at first appear to be business-focused, the chapters dealing with the topic’s foundational issues are of universal appeal. And with most chapters no longer than five to seven pages, the book’s lack of a developmental thread actually works to its advantage, allowing the reader to pick up and turn to almost any chapter at random without any loss of comprehension or purpose. Martin’s research, writing style, and breadth of subject succeed in revealing unconscious patterns and prejudices we may have, that we might be aware of “how even subtle appeals to group identity can influence our judgment and behavior.” (June)
From the Publisher
"...a thoughtful, balanced and extensively researched exploration of American diversity. OtherWise deserves a wide circulation..." Soundview Executive Book Alert
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814417522
  • Publisher: AMACOM
  • Publication date: 6/28/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

DICK MARTIN is a writer whose articles have appeared in the Harvard Business Review and other publications. The author of Tough Calls, he was executive vice president of public relations, employee communications, and brand management for AT&T.

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Read an Excerpt


Who Is “Other”?

When our primordial ancestors dropped from the trees and started walking across the African savanna on two legs, survival favored those with an innate ability to work in small groups, as well as a deep hostility toward anyone not of the group. That had the doublebarreled benefit of making it easier both to acquire resources and to keep them. Those characteristics were so critical that, over a number of generations, they became the norm. And they survive to this day.

We may be born into a world of blooming, buzzing confusion, as William James thought, but we start sorting it out almost as soon as we let loose our first cry. Our brains are not blank slates, but learning engines that follow patterns set into our Stone Age ancestors’ brains even before they acquired the faculty of language. These same attitudes and behaviors have been bred into us by natural selection.

Mounting evidence suggests that we are born with a rudimentary sense of fairness and injustice, right and wrong. By one year of age, babies show signs of prejudice, preferring people who speak a familiar language and accent. Eventually, they slowly develop what is called a “theory of mind,” the realization that other people have beliefs, desires, intentions, and feelings separate from their own. In most circumstances, this capacity blossoms into empathy. Sometimes, it stagnates in suspicion. This book explores both ends of that spectrum and suggests that the ebbs and flows between them may be the defining characteristic of our age. Relating to people unlike ourselves has always been important; today it may be the most critical life and business skill we can develop.

At the most fundamental level, our sense of self emerges in relation to others. The first “others” in our lives, of course, are the most significant—our mothers, our fathers, our siblings. But our personal identity is also intertwined with close relationships beyond our immediate family. Our clan and our tribe have defined who we are since the day of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Everyone outside that circle is a stranger, neither one of us, nor one with us.

We are by nature labeling machines, which is one of the secrets to our survival as a species. We categorize and label everything— animals, people, situations. And then we act as if those categories define reality. Of course, they don’t; almost everything we label could fit into more than one category. But in daily life, unless motivated to behave differently, we narrowly pigeonhole things willy-nilly because it’s easier than analyzing and weighing their actual characteristics, similarities, and differences. That’s especially true in our dealings with other people, who are orders of magnitude more complex than inanimate objects.


Categorical thinking may have helped our prehistoric ancestors traverse the African savanna safely when anyone outside their tribe was a potential enemy, but in the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is a shortsighted and dangerous practice. Thanks to the digital revolution and everything caught in its slipstream, the world is smaller, communications more insistent, privacy less certain, and community less personal. There are more people on the fringes of our standard categories than ever before. Our sense of personal identity and security, which we have always interpreted in reference to others, feels threatened. The real threat, though, may lie in our inability—or unwillingness—to control what social scientists call “irrelevant category activations.” In other words, we have to close down some of those pigeonholes.

At first, these issues may be seem to reside, at best, on the margins of a businessperson’s ambit—something worthy of an hour on the agenda of an executive retreat, or perhaps a paragraph or two in a speech to the local Rotary. But acquiring the wisdom of dealing with people unlike ourselves is not touchy-feely stuff; it's a hardcore operational capability, essential in relating to people, markets, and all the third-party activists who have an increasingly influential voice in how and where a company does business.

The world’s demography is changing more rapidly than ever. The population of developed countries is aging; the developing world and emerging markets have given birth to a new middle class; wealth is moving from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern, from the West to the East. The United States itself is fast becoming a minority-majority, multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational society. Non-Hispanic white people accounted for less than 10 percent of America’s population growth over the last decade. In fact, four states and dozens of the country’s largest metropolitan areas—including the twenty-three counties that constitute the New York metro area—already have minority-majority populations. Businesspeople need to get wise to these changes; they need to acquire the wisdom of relating to people so unlike themselves that they appear to be wholly Other.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: How This Book Came to Be vii

1 Who Is “Other”? 1

Part One Strangers at Home

2 Strangers Climbing in the Window 11

3 Strangers Making Themselves at Home 14

4 Bouillabaisse or Consommé? 19

5 A New America 26

6 It's the Culture, Stupid! 34

7 Race Matters 42

8 The Cost of Diversity 52

9 Queerness 61

10 Strangers with a Strange God 69

11 World Values 78

12 Gut Values 84

13 Second That Emotion 89

14 Feeling What Others Feel 92

Part Two Strangers Abroad

15 Strange Places 101

16 Roots, Not Branches 107

17 Political Attunement 114

18 Management Across Borders 121

19 Organizational Culture 128

20 We Are What We Speak 133

21 Horizontal Empathy 141

22 Practical Empathy 146

Part Three Strange Times

23 Me, Us, and Them 153

24 Sisyphus Had It Easy 161

25 Lost in a Loop 168

26 Voting with Your Feet 176

27 Free-Floating Anger 181

28 Mind the Gap 185

29 The Chicken Soup of Social Life 191

30 People Are Crazy 197

31 Fluent Listening 204

32 Presence 209

33 Congruence 212

Conclusion: How to Be OtherWise 217

Acknowledgments 223

Notes 227

Index 265

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    Dick Martin¿s new book, Otherwise, is about diversity and how

    Dick Martin’s new book, Otherwise, is about diversity and how to deal with it. It is ‘must’ reading for anyone doing business internationally and for students of globalization. I also recommend it to Americans who are concerned about the growing tensions in the U.S. between races, religions, ethnic groups, political parties, socio-economic classes and lifestyle advocates. Mr Martin’s writing is clear and concise, without lapsing into jargon or pedantry. Otherwise is organized into short, self-contained chapters which enable the reader to easily digest the material even when the book is read for short stints at a time, rather than straight through. Mr Martin uses a few carefully chosen statistics to frame each issue, several fascinating social science findings to provide insights into it, and one or two amusing anecdotes to bring it to life. I doubt that there exists any book on diversity that is more interesting and accessible than Otherwise.

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