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Retailers lacking in (Dis)abled Intelligence

DaveFarrell200616Social Intelligence (SI) is the ability to get along well with others, and to get them to cooperate with you. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability of individuals to recognise their own and other people’s emotions.

(Dis)abled Intelligence (DI) is the ability to accept and encourage diversity toward an inclusive environment of mutual benefit.

Retailers place significance on both social and emotional intelligence, yet shun or cower from the (dis)abled equivalent. So why is this? Here are a few possible reasons:

  • Misconception: Archaic fallacies circulate through management cultures fuelled by oblivious leadership that perceives employees outside the “norm” as high maintenance and not add-value.
  • Ignorance: Few have experience with, or are provided with the tools to manage, diversification, so are underequipped to employ, encourage and develop those within this genre.
  • Fear: Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of standing out – of being bold. The fear of introducing an unknown quantity without the support and understanding of the organisation. Most are preoccupied with a prescribed culture – neat little boxes so as to not upset the prevailing status quo.

So what’s the solution?

Commitment: Retailers need to develop their own (dis)abled intelligence so they can champion progressive teams to embed inclusive grass root cultures.

Change: The financial and communal benefits of an inclusive business are exponential, far outweighing perceived costs of social education and cultural change. To achieve an invigorating balance, a comprehensive cross-section of employee is required, otherwise we risk the unthinkable – a mundane environment devoid of innovation and variegation.

Support: Seek input from knowledgeable organisations and charities. Above all else, employ a facilitator with intimate experience to champion the crusade. Then listen, listen and listen again for there are more (dis)abled people working for us than we realise or appreciate – often shielded by a workforce that identifies, relates and supports within itself.

Educational institutes have reasonable (dis)abled intelligence and do much to prepare youngsters for the next step in life. Retail, on the other hand, is woefully inept at taking over the reigns and fulfilling their role in developing a meaningful holistic society.

The word ‘diversity’ is bandied around at length, but we don’t see much evidence of inclusion beyond the traditional boundaries of race, gender and religion. We need to find the courage to open the doors and embrace all those who have already overcome more than most.

If retailers envelop an integrated work culture, they will be in a better position to ensure they accommodate all our potential customers without prejudice or ignorance.

Dave Farrell is a retailer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at

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