Common Denominator

Did you ever consider the role the common denominator plays in Corporate USA?  “The common denominator is typically a feature or quality that is shared by all the members of a group of people or things”, or at least that is how Merriam Webster defines it.  So it should be no surprise that with leadership in many companies being predominately male that the common denominator tips the scales toward more “masculine” topics.

What do I mean?  Well, let me give you some examples and see if any of them fit something you have experienced in your corporate experiences.

When I was in the Information Systems Department in my 30s the CIO was a big Harley guy.  He loved his Harleys.  Guess what?  All the guys started to get Harleys.  If you had one you got to go riding with him.  You could talk to him about them.  You had a shared interest, a common denominator.  To be fair, there were a couple of women that had Harleys and if they did they could ride along with the men on occasion.  Either way, it was an “in” to the top.

Later in my career, I entered the field of Human Resources and found the common denominator was golf.  The men would go golfing on Friday mornings and the women, well they weren’t invited.  On the other hand, if you were male and wanted to golf, Friday mornings were away from the office playing golf and connecting with the leader.  Your career level did not matter, if you were male you were in.

When I returned back to Information Systems the leader of the department liked cars.  Anyone getting a cool car was sure to share it with him.  Again, it was an “in” at the top, the common denominator.

So what have been my observations?  It is a combination of common denominator and what the leadership likes that can drive the corporate culture.

What is the point?  The point is that inclusion becomes difficult when we focus our topics solely on the common denominator of the leadership.  We have all seen it happen.  We probably all have done it.  We learn more about those things that our leadership is interested in.  Sure, go out and buy that Harley, it’ll be good for your career.  We do a dis-service to ourselves by not sharing what is of true interest to us.  We will never know if there is another like interest that is shared but maybe not as mainstream.   In fact, some things I have learned I have absolutely no interest in but have learned in an attempt to fit in.

So how do you discover those hidden things that are not a part of the common denominator?  Ask your employees.  Ask them what their interests are but do not give them a list to choose from.  Let them tell you.

I would love to see an organization seek out those things that interest their employees that are not the common denominator.  Search for those things that might inspire a sudden interest in something completely new and different.  Create more common denominators that include more people.

I dare you to stop talking about what is common and search for something that is uncommon.  I dare you to expand what you know about the world around you.  Through that inclusion and awareness diversity can grow and flourish.


Raissa Urdiales
Raissa Urdiales
Raissa lived most of her life along the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. She currently lives in the quiet city of Tega Cay, South Carolina, just across the border from the very active art community of Charlotte, North Carolina. Raissa has not always considered herself as an artist. She spent a great portion of her adult life staring into computer screens and managing computer system implementations and upgrades in the traditional corporate setting. It was through a chance paint night that she discovered her passion for painting. On her 51st birthday, she treated herself to some acrylic paints and brushes and has not stopped painting since. She balances her passion for creating with her day job as a systems analyst. In the wee hours of the morning, you will find her painting before she immerses herself in the technology that is consuming the world today. Although Raissa does not have formal training in the arts she is very conscious of the benefits it has on the human psyche. She holds a Bachelor's of Science majoring in Psychology where she focused her studies on Organizational Psychology. Through her corporate career, she has learned how to strike a balance between that which provides monetary reward and that which fulfills us as humans. For her, this balance is obtained through painting, writing, and exercise. She is currently a member of the Guild of Charlotte Artists where she exhibits select pieces during the quarterly art shows in and around the Charlotte Metropolitan Area. She has also submitted and is featured regularly in the Light Space & Time online gallery. When she is not painting or working with computer systems, she is writing. She currently has a column with BIZCATALYST 360° named “Artful Being” where she writes on topics both in and out of her corporate life to help others gain balance on what it is to be human.

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  1. I remember when in my teens my buddies would sit in front of a TV watching football or basketball on the weekends which bored the hell out of me. One day when with a group of guys settling in for a basketball game I said I was out of there. One of my buddies seemed disturbed as I was leaving and asked in front of everyone else where I was going and I said “To the library with your girlfriend”. Adapting has it’s rewards as well!