David Livermore on “Driven by Difference”: An interview by Bob Morris


LivermoreDavid Livermore has written ten books on global leadership and cultural intelligence including Leading with Cultural Intelligence and his newest release, Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity, which further addresses the practical ways to leverage diversity to fuel innovation. Livermore is president of the Cultural Intelligence Center in East Lansing, Michigan, a visiting scholar at Nanyang Business School in Singapore, and has worked with leaders in more than 100 countries.

Dave averages 35 international speaking engagements annually, addressing an average of 7500 leaders over a year. He also serves on several non-profit boards.

Dave and his wife Linda have two daughters, Emily, a film student at University of Southern California and Grace, a high school swimmer. Some of their favorite activities are traveling (fortunately!), hiking, and discovering new foods together.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Dave.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Driven by Difference, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Livermore: Undoubtedly my parents. While my view of the world is significantly more global and inclusive than theirs ever was, they taught me what matters most—my faith, caring for others, and living a life of integrity. In addition, they encouraged my insatiable curiosity which has followed me all throughout life.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Livermore: I’m hard pressed to come up with one. But one of the first who comes to mind is Dr. Soon Ang, my research colleague and friend at Nanyang Business School in Singapore. She’s a world-renowned scientist and scholar yet she’s one of the most engaging, personal people you’ll encounter and is deeply committed to using our research to make the world a better place.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Livermore: Actually, there have been many. One of the first that comes to mind is when I was representing my U.S. organization in South Africa and I told our South African partner about a new leadership model that we wanted to roll out globally. He gently but kindly confronted me with my assumption that this very Westernized model was going to be effective in South Africa. And over a series of days, he began to confide in me the things said behind closed doors about many Westerners who march in without first seeking to understand.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Livermore: It’s huge! I never expected my graduate degrees to give me all the practical how-to’s that can perhaps only be learned through the school of hard knocks. But the exposure to such a broad range of theories, research, case studies, and diverse faculty and students has forever shaped the way I see myself, my community, and the world!

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Livermore: Most people probably become more jaded the longer they work in the world of work. I’ve actually become less jaded. Sure, there are people who are out to take advantage of others and some who are merely putting in their time. But most of the people I encounter in the work place are desperately trying to make a difference and what to be effective at their jobs.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Livermore: I’m inspired in many ways by Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching. And I resonate profoundly with this quote. To me, this is the essence of cultural intelligence—seeking to understand others and empowering them to succeed.

Morris: From Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

Livermore: Love it. Particularly since a “no” is a “yes” to something else and vice versa.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Livermore: For me, the key question is what’s behind the dangerous idea. If it’s simply to stir things up and appear radical, I’m not interested. But if it’s done with a quest to learn, evolve, and improve the quality of life for people everywhere, I’m on board. And may we all beware lest our innovative ideas appear very cliche before we even blink.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Livermore: Ouch. I’m obsessed with efficiency. And there are some tasks I need to just leave alone. And there are others — like an evening with one of my daughters or my wife — where I need to toss efficiency aside and simply be in the moment.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Dave cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Please click here for more information on Dave’s books including the first chapter of Driven for Difference which you can download for free.

Please click here for more information on assessments, training, and other resources related to cultural intelligence, innovation and global leadership.

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