Over the course of the last year, it seems like almost every company in the U.S., and many around the world, have made statements to indicate their support of racial equity and committing to do their part to help national and global economies “build back better.” It is evident that some of these companies are putting more effort into saying the right things rather than putting their words into action.

But even among the companies that are earnestly exploring the ways their businesses can advance racial equity, there seems to be a pervasive mental model that is getting in the way of having more impact. That mental model is exemplified in the conversation I had a with a senior business leader at a Fortune 500 financial services company last week:

“I worry that we are trying to make the opportunity fit us, rather than seriously exploring what we need to change about ourselves to take advantage of the opportunity.”

I appreciated the honesty and the introspection that was behind that comment and the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that this is precisely what most companies are doing. Companies are directing their traditional products, services, distribution systems, hiring systems, and marketing strategies at new segments, new communities, or new social problems.

But that is not going to work.

At least it’s not going to work at a scale that will allow companies to affect the lives of thousands of customers, employees, and community members that live near their offices and factories. If companies are having a hard time finding and advancing BIPOC talent, they can’t simply look for talent in the same places, in the same ways, and with the same talent evaluation systems. If companies are exploring ways to advance health equity, they can’t simply continue to use the same profit algorithms to determine commercialization, marketing, and product development strategies. If companies want to have a meaningful impact on closing the racial wealth gap, they can’t simply direct their existing products and services to new communities.

For the companies that are truly committed to advancing equity, they need to take a different path. It’s a harder path to navigate, but it is much more likely to lead to concrete results.

Read the full article about corporate mindset by Dane Smith at FSG.