Hoffman is the founder and CEO of Culture Shift Labs
(CSL), an advisory firm that specializes in helping corporations catalyze growth by engaging the “diverse elite.” Andrea uses this term to describe
the highly-coveted African American disruptors, innovators, influencers and subject matter experts who are in increasing demand by Fortune 500 and global multinational companies retooling their strategies to tap into the changing demographics fueling America’s
next generation of growth. Hoffman has spent over 25 years studying the behaviors, size, scope and economic impact of minority consumer groups and businesses. She estimates the purchasing power of African Americans at over $850 billion, and notes that unlike
most U.S. economic sectors, this one is continuing to grow each year.
At Culture Shift Labs, Hoffman has employed her expertise to develop a business model that helps corporations and organizations be deliberate and accountable in leveraging the talent, expertise and insights of the diverse elite to enhance and innovate in mergers
and acquisitions, corporate venture, corporate development, and corporate governance.
Q: Do you believe that corporate America is ready to embrace diversity as more than a governance benchmark, to see that diverse talent can be leveraged to expand markets and improve profitability?
A: In terms of moving the diversity needle holistically, I believe we’re at a real tipping point in corporate America. There is considerable buy-in on the need for diversity in the boardroom and the C-suite as well as external collaborations. The conversation
has forever shifted from ‘why should we do this’ to ‘how can we do it better than our competitors to gain an advantage.’ I believe that there are more conversations happening in more important places among the C-suite than ever before – that’s because there
are measurable results.
We work closely with clients that have come to understand that if they value and invest in diversity and inclusion like they do other strategic assets, and measure and manage it like they do other investments, including holding executives accountable for results,
the ROI is clear and compelling.
Q: We know that boards are primarily refreshed through current directors’ networks. How does an “old boy’s network” learn to accept, value, AND leverage diversity of culture, race, thoughts, and experiences around the boardroom table?
A: A recent study showed 77 percent of board candidates come through personal networks. So if your board members don’t know African-American leaders how can they recommend them?
My advice for corporate boards is that each board member should, once or twice a year, be required to participate in immersion events to meet new executives and report back on how they’ve expanded their knowledge base and networks. Invariably, when directors
are exposed to new ideas and new opportunities, they quickly realize that new thinking, new expertise and new perspective are needed.
Boards must also create new board seats, versus waiting for people to step off or for their tenure to come to an end. New board seats should prioritize executives who are experts in new subject-matter areas like cyber security and reputational risk that traditional
board members are not as familiar with. Companies need to look to the next generation of leaders who are creating syntax, who know and understand consumer, technology and demographic shifts. Then, they need to be very deliberate about the networks and organizations
used as lead sources to fill these new seats.
I know that first hand because I’ve spent 25 years developing a database of accomplished, highly-qualified and in-demand African American and Latino professionals. It’s not uncommon for directors to know ‘one or two’ diverse professionals – they are typically
the same recognized names, like Colin Powell – good luck getting him. Culture Shift Labs has built a proprietary database of these executives.
Q: That leads us to the whole pipeline question. So you are saying a robust pipeline of diverse executive talent is there, it’s just a question of tapping into it.
A: When we talk about the Culture Shift Labs pipeline, it’s a pipeline of solutions.
Our database incorporates candidates for C-suite and corporate board positions. The diversity solutions include corporate board and professional services diversity, the law firms, the investment bankers that help companies. Our database includes fund managers.
Think “diversity and inclusion 2.0” or at the intersection of diversity and innovation.
Part of our methodology is debunking the unicorn theory, that these professionals simply don’t exist… and if they do, there can only be one of them. Our database is quite comprehensive.
Q: Speaking of networks, tell us about Culture Shift Labs’ proprietary database. Who is in it? How do you utilize it for your clients?
A: Twenty-five years of building relationships led to my database of 4,000 individuals in it. These are accomplished African and African American innovators, influencers, investors and subject matter experts and supporters of inclusion driven innovation.
This is an exclusive network of individuals who are often hard to reach or under the radar. Most of them work in the United States, but we have some influencers across the globe.
Our database is categorized by the four I’s: influencers, inventors, investors, and innovators. We also have subject matter experts in a variety of disciplines from cyber security and brand reputation to digital innovation and technology.
We draw from this database to problem solve for our clients and generate opportunities for growth and innovation through inclusion. We build circles of influence for African American business leaders who may not be connected to the right people. We help top
executives be more deliberate with activating their intentions in competitive ways and we customize and curate private events for our clients to meet these individuals and tap into their genius. We also produce our own signature event called Culture Shifting
Weekends on the east and west coasts that’s a sampling of our powerful network. We curate this event so that we capture the magic of the network and facilitate collaborations and to deal flow.
Q: How do companies access Culture Shift Labs’ talent database? How do you select the individuals included in it?
A: Organizations can access the database by being a corporate member and taking advantage of our full business model (Consulting, Convenings & Connections). Alternatively, clients can work with one of our CSL Network Alchemists who analyze the database, finding
the right talent based on a client’s needs.
The business model for Culture Shift Labs is based on an integrated approach through consulting, convening, and connecting. We provide end-to-end solutions that help companies execute their inclusion strategy once we design it or tweak theirs for them.
The CSL Network Alchemists are similar to what other companies would call account strategists or supervisors. When you think about mergers and acquisitions, corporate development, or corporate venture, corporate social responsibility or corporate boards, if
you’re not being deliberate about investing in, acquiring or engaging the next inventors and innovators and arbiters of the new economy, who are African American men and women, you definitely are not operating from a 21st century strategy or business model.
Demographic, technology and business shifts are real and interrelated. A 21st century business model helps companies harness these shifts and add value to both business and society. Our Network Alchemists comb our database to find the talent, the partnerships,
the acquisitions, the investments and the board and C-suite diversity necessary to remain relevant.
We provide the know-how and the know-who. We provide both so it allows CEO’s inclusion strategies and visions from the top of a company to be realized. This is what makes us unique.
As for our database, our list of experts expands daily. We are constantly getting recommendations. People are hand selected to be in the database, it’s very high touch. We don’t allow people to just fill out a form to join.
Q: Tell us about your Katapult platform and what you hope to accomplish with it?
is a collaborative SaaS platform that can assess, measure and help improve all of the facets of diversity, growth and innovation through inclusion. Katapult is a data-driven and analytics
fact-based human capital management tool.
Every facet of the diversity and inclusion ecosystem is built into this platform. No longer are divisions of firms operating independently, no longer is there a lack of communication among departments and leaders. This platform provides data and a score to
all the ways a company spends money against diversity and inclusion. For example, how a company sponsors events or buys ads or anything to do with hiring, and looks at partnerships with external organizations, corporate social responsibility and much more.
With Katapult, it becomes possible to measure the business of diversity so that you can leverage and improve upon it. What you can’t see, you can’t measure, and what you can’t measure, you can’t improve—it all goes hand in glove.
Q: So Katapult is a diversity benchmarking tool?
A: The magic of Katapult is that it maps “Next Practices” and activates on the insight so that a company can improve their efforts.
“Best Practices” traditionally build on what worked in the past. “Next Practices” is a forward looking orientation based on a profound understanding of what’s happening next. It’s a 21st century business model with an action plan backed up by thousands of resources
that you can draw on to execute a plan to improve where you are and to fill in the blanks of where you’re not.
The tried and true excuse has always been, “we’re committed, we just can’t find any qualified candidates.”
But within Katapult we now have over a thousand resources in our recommendation engine, and 4,000 talented individuals in our CSL Talent Database. No more excuses – just results.
Andrea Hoffman is the Founder and CEO of Culture Shift Labs and founder of Culture Shifting Weekends. For over two decades, early adopters in corporate America have been turning to Andrea for
her business growth and new markets expertise. As a strategist, business development expert, dealmaker, and connector Andrea also helps companies access overlooked business opportunities and provides access to circles of influence, innovators and “arbiters
of the new economy”. She has the largest database in the nation with African American subject matter experts in it. Her second book, $50
BILLION Dollar Boss: Stories from African American Women Entrepreneurs on Leadership and Success, (Palgrave Macmillan) was nominated for a 2015 NAACP Image Award. Andrea is also the co-founder of a SaaS technology called Katapult.
Culture Shift Labs (CSL) is a consulting firm providing seasoned intelligence, unique business opportunities and collaborative technology to executives and corporations seeking growth. They also provide proprietary access to their world-class network of over
4,000 African and African American innovators, inventors, investors, subject matters experts, and influencers who care about growth and innovation through inclusion. CSL advises senior leaders, cities and philanthropists on growth and innovation through inclusion.