How does diversity, equity and inclusion manifest in the red and blue ocean?

Guest Blog by D&I Expert Lyndsey Oliver

What do red oceans and blue oceans have to do with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

My answer? Everything.

The Red Ocean

When considering organisations with a Red Oceans culture – these are the norm. And, Fish have swum in red oceans for centuries.

Red oceans drill into the Fish that they must be the ‘best'.

For a fish to get to the top of their game, they are continually told that competition is fierce. That there are limited places at the top, and if a fish wants a seat at the top, then it is necessary to do whatever it takes to get there.

The path to the top in a red ocean is made easier for a particular type of Fish. They are aided by tides and currents, which are biased towards Fish with specific labels, and this gives them Privilege. This Privilege is often not recognised by the Fish, but it is undoubtedly recognised by the ‘other’ Fish that have barriers and obstacles placed in their way and often have to swim against the current.

To be successful, it is essential to stand out in a red ocean, yet ‘sameness’ and ‘conformity’ are crucial – so, in essence, stand out - but not too much.

The performance and potential of Fish in a Red Ocean are measured by comparing like for like, and as a result, the ‘other’ Fish twist and contort themselves to fit into the Red Ocean environment.

Red oceans require logic and predictability. Control and conformity.

In a Red Ocean, the Fish believe they are more important than the ocean, which is fundamentally sel-fish and destructive.

Red oceans are restrictive.

Fuelled by ego, power and status a red ocean is toxic, and it is where individuality and innovation dies.

It’s an ego-system.

The Blue Ocean

In a Blue Ocean, collaboration is more important than competition, and whilst competition is encouraged, it is not at any expense.

In a Blue Ocean, Fish are accountable – for themselves and the ocean.  Success in a Blue Ocean is measured by health – the health of the Fish and the ocean's health. It is a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship, which is sustainable and balanced.

Blue oceans are spacious, and in this spaciousness, creativity, innovation, and opportunity flourish.

The Fish care for each other, and there is no one-type-of-Fish deemed to be better than any other  – all Fish are equal and equitable. In a blue ocean it is safe for all Fish to be themselves. Difference is valued, which means that no Fish has to twist and contort itself to fit in.

Fish in a blue ocean are inquisitive, courageous, curious and relational. They are conscious, supportive, active and communal.

The Fish are allies to each other.

Inclusion is at the heart of a Blue Ocean. The inclusive culture warms the hearts of the Fish, and it maintains a constant temperature in the ocean. This ensures that the ocean, and the Fish, can not only survive but thrive in a healthy, vibrant and sustainable ecosystem.

About Lyndsey Oliver:

Lyndsey Oliver a.k.a Chief MsChief Maker and Founder of Making MsChief – a Diversity and Inclusion consultancy. She wants to live in a world that is equal, equitable and inclusive for everyone. She has written a book, 'Why all fish are biased' yet would not label herself as an ‘author’ and is the creator of Programmes such as Back to Work without a Bump® and Liberate – a programme exploring your unconscious bias. When not Making MsChief she is a Mum to two young boys and two dogs. Lyndsey loves sport and enjoys Cross-Fit, Netball, Stand-Up Paddle boarding and being by the sea.
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