Learning by Design and Creating a Culture of Mindfulness

Learning by Design and Creating a Culture of Mindfulness

About Kim Dabbs

Kim Dabbs presented the keynote at the July ATHENA Leadership Forum. She is a social entrepreneur, advocate, innovator, and leader of social innovation for Steelcase.

Dabbs, a Korean born American and Grand Rapids native, grew up feeling like she did not belong.

“When I thought about joining Steelcase, I thought, how can I begin to leverage the scale of a global company to create cultures of belonging? A place where people can experiment and design the future and environment that we would all love to live in?”

Kim’s passion around building a culture of belonging has led her to build transformational change at projects across the globe.

Five years ago, she moved to Munich, Germany to launch the Steelcase Learning and Innovation Center. While looking at their social impact during the development of the Innovation Center, they came up with three distinct pillars:

  1. People and Purpose: Believing in the power of people to impact and transform lives
  2. Culture of Innovation: Breakthrough ideas are possible when cultures of innovation are fostered within organizations.
  3. Systemic Change: Lasting change happens at this level.

Authenticity Breeds Collective Impact

They began to understand that when everyone can be their authentic self, impact happens collectively.

Authenticity, invoked conversation from participants in the event group chat. One participant admitted to struggling with authenticity and feeling the need to switch to a more professional and subdued demeanor in business situations.

How can we be Authentic and Professional at the Same Time?

As the Q&A section of the forum was coming to an end, Kim Dabbs gave a three-part answer to the omnipresent question: How can we be authentic and professional at the same time, while creating  a culture for your organization to do the same?

Her answer:

  1. First, we need to understand who is defining “professionalism.” Especially from a systems lens.
  2. How are we connecting people to purpose? Are we building cultures of innovation? When we our actions match our words, that is professionalism. We must cultivate those environments to live our definition of professionalism.
  3. Once we respect and honor everyone that works with us, that’s when transformation happens.



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