Bloomberg Law
June 14, 2024, 8:30 AM UTC

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment—and Even Fail—to Make DEI Advances

Amy Yeung
Amy Yeung

During my years working at technology companies, it’s been clear to me that reframing failure in a productive way reflects a shared commitment to experimentation. This mindset applies to diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies as much as to other business initiatives.

From reserving offsite time for strategy and development to regular postmortems and actionable steps, each of the companies I’ve worked for highly protected the space around experimentation. This empowered individuals to lean into ambitious new ideas, and our teams were willing to try to execute on them.

Start With Intentionality

Other touchstones have emerged over the course of years I spent addressing how organizations can incorporate DEI values.

First, you need intentionality. Organizations should start with a specific and shared goal. From there, you can develop a programmatic approach with data-driven results.

Defining a specific goal is a multifaceted task, involving a number of viewpoints and constituencies; and diversity and inclusion takes many forms. For example, talent processes, compensation practices, and other employee development practices often take center stage in developing sustainable growth of DEI initiatives.

When leaders align on a shared organizational goal, managers can bring intentionality into delegating work assignments, which, in turn, balances critical components of success for employees.

Employee resource groups can become a welcome place of belonging and support, and further elevate voices in the organization. A chief diversity officer also brings a voice to the table, building coalitions as an executive-level leader of DEI initiatives.

Core business goals within an organization often already align with DEI. These can include year-over-year metrics in a corporate social responsibility report, or an environmental, social, and governance report that communicates company impact on the environment and community.

Not One-Size-Fits-All

No universal goal or solution fits all. A shared journey began simply when I served as executive sponsor and initial advisory board member of my company’s diversity and inclusion council. We intentionally allocated regular time and space for open conversation. These dialogues created a sense of belonging, sparked ideation, and produced specific programming opportunities and longer-term initiatives for consideration.

We found that clear commitments from leadership and across the organization were crucial to understanding some challenges in establishing a talent pipeline and data collection. Over time, we were able to make adjustments in recruitment to neutralize bias.

For example, we learned through our data that we needed to expand our pool of candidates, particularly in certain areas of the company. As a result, we identified schools and school fairs focusing on majors aligned with job opportunities and incorporated these into our recruiting practices.

For some “expertise” roles, we also conducted skills evaluations on resumes and removed identifying features. This required alignment in defining those skills, and limited implicit bias based on other candidate characteristics apparent on a resume.

I worked for another organization where our ESG philosophy reflected the company’s core business tenets. The organization was able to develop programmatic opportunities, such as regular meetings with business leaders, to ensure that its business investments and strategy were appropriately articulated in overall ESG goals. We also developed internal key performance indicators to consistently measure and analyze metrics.

Then in a volunteer role as DEI co-chair of a diverse legal association, achieving intentionality became more nuanced and required more frequent, smaller steps. With a membership that included a large number of microcommunities, achieving intentional goals required a further awareness, appreciation, and understanding of those communities, their experienced microaggressions, and backgrounds in intersectionality. Our work was action-oriented and focused on creating panels, educational material, and programs to build dialogue in the legal industry.

Support Innovation

Companies should consistently support innovation that aligns with company values and create a space that destigmatizes failure and encourages experimentation. When I was member of an informal ERG at a former company, we shared our own success stories about retaining talented individuals and found areas of opportunity. This dialogue resulted in data gathering and a public commitment to collaborative talent staffing, which opened more pathways to retain talent and provide managers with opportunities to cross-train.

Our CEO underscored these values regularly in company town halls, signaling that a key to our success was our commitment to innovation, which featured inclusion of diverse views and valuable talent.

In a different organization, the team—in concert with executive coaches and national legal leaders—developed a leadership series that focused on management agility and included a specific module incorporating best practices in managerial feedback and inclusivity. Our objective was to share effective managerial techniques and create support opportunities and spaces for legal teams.

Regardless where an organization’s journey begins, the investment in defining a space and redefining goals creates greater alignment. And bringing people of differing views together to find common ground toward a shared goal is, quintessentially, creating a culture of growth.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author Information

Amy Yeung has served in senior and executive legal leadership, counseling fast-growth private and Fortune 1000 public companies. Yeung has also served in leadership capacities in legal operations, DEI, and innovative leadership, including in her current positions as past chair of the Law Department Management Network of the Association of Corporate Counsel and a fellow of the College of Law Practice Management.

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at; Alison Lake at

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