Us Plus Them: Tapping the Positive Power of Difference

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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 ...

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Us Plus Them: Tapping the Positive Power of Difference

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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 it’s 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 hasn’t failed—it hasn’t even begun.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Us Plus Them, Todd Pittinsky’s new book from Harvard Business Review Press, arrives at an ideal time” — 800 CEO READ


David Gergen, Director, Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School; senior political analyst, CNN; and former presidential adviser —
“In Us Plus Them, Todd Pittinsky has crafted an important work of scholarship on how leaders can address differences in our diverse and multicultural societies. His bold ‘what if’ questions could change the course of history.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor; author, SuperCorp and Confidence
Us Plus Them shifts the diversity paradigm by focusing on the best (not the worst) of human nature, stressing original virtue (not original sin), and urging that differences be acknowledged as appealing opportunities (not ignored because they might otherwise produce conflict). Todd Pittinsky’s timely, important, and optimistic book has the potential for transformative impact.”

Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration, University of Southern California; author, Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership
Us Plus Them upends the way we look at relationships. No more zero-sum games; no more clever nuancing around human differences. A key challenge of leadership is harvesting the gains that arise from the basic incongruities of our collective humanity. Pittinsky’s original perspective is destined to create healthy controversy and healthier organizations.”

Roderick M. Kramer, William R. Kimball Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business —
“Far too often, individuals, organizations, and even whole nations find themselves trapped in a costly and sometimes deadly ‘us versus them’ mind-set. Todd Pittinsky provides a powerful framework for promoting and securing cooperation among the most unlikely of allies. This marvelous new book can change the way leaders think and act—to the benefit of us and them.”

Juliana Oyegun, Chief Diversity Officer, The World Bank Group —
“Todd Pittinsky throws down a very real challenge to leaders who practice the deficit approach to managing difference. Reading this book has encouraged me to try an entirely new way to generate understanding and mutuality across differences within my organization.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781422177778
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 8/14/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,444,275
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet 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 Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. Pittinsky’s 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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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 Us and them: Where Is the Leadership? 1

2 Another "Other": A More Realistic Model of "Us and Them" 25

3 A Lopsided Science 61

4 Misguided Strategies 91

5 Take Empathy in a New Direction 125

6 Tap the Positive Power of Pride Displays 153

7 Lead Boldly Toward 171

Notes 207

Index 227

About the Author 249

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This is an easy to read book with a new tact on how we view and treat difference. The argument presented is well written and compelling.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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