About The 10 Lenses

The 10 Lenses is a breakthrough research-based framework that illuminates how people view race, ethnicity and cultural identity differences through 10 distinct “lenses.” We all too often find ourselves polarized by powerful legacies surrounding race, ethnicity and national origin, social class, sexual identity and regional differences. Identity differences can seem like impenetrable barriers communication can be frustratingly difficult. The 10 Lenses offers a new way of thinking and talking about cultural differences in this increasingly fragmented and polarized environment. Created by bestselling business author and thought leader Mark Williams, The 10 Lenses will enhance your ability to respond to complex cultural challenges and spark personal and organizational learning.

“A brilliantly innovative approach to make conscious what is often implicit in the dialog on diversity.”
– Dr. Philip J. Stone, Harvard University

What are The 10 Lenses?

The 10 Lenses are distinctly different belief systems and styles for dealing with cultural differences. They affect what we see, how we interpret what we see, and the actions we take related to the many identity-related issues we face every day. The Lenses have been validated by The Gallup Organization, which conducted a groundbreaking 4,000-person survey on The 10 Lenses in 2001. The Gallup Organization also created an online assessment, which is available to all learners.

Assimilationists want individuals to submerge their individual and cultural identities in favor of nationalistic and patriotic ideals.

The Colorblind see people as individuals and ignore race, color, ethnicity and other external cultural factors.

Culturalcentrists seek to improve the welfare of their cultural group by accentuating their own history and identity.

Elitists believe in the superiority of the upper class and embrace the importance of family roots, wealth and social status.

Integrationists support breaking down all barriers between racial groups by merging people of different cultures together in communities and in the workplace.

Meritocratists believe in the individualist credo of America: if you have the abilities and work hard enough, you can compete with anyone to make your dreams come true.

Multiculturalists celebrate the diversity of cultures in the United States and the contributions they make to our national character and history.

Seclusionists feel strongly that they should protect themselves from racial, cultural, and/or ethnic groups that diminish the character and quality of their group’s experiences within the society.

Transcendents focus on the human spirit, our universal connection, and our shared humanity.

Victim/Caretaker/Champions see their liberation as a crucial goal. They feel that they are still suffering from the generational impact of previous oppression.

FAQ’s About the 10 Lenses

How Were the Lenses Discovered?

After more than fifteen years of qualitative and quantitative research, Mark Williams was able to recognize and document ten perspectives and classify them into ten patterns of thought and behavior. Those patterns were identified in books, newspapers, movies, political speeches, organizational policies, societal norms, policy perspectives, and everyday interactions.

Where Have the 10 Lenses Been Used?

The 10 Lenses have been used at Global 500 corporations, communities, institutions of higher education, local and federal government, industry conferences, and at secondary schools with faculty and students. The 10 Lenses have been successful from the C-Suite to the mailroom because they speak to everyone in a compelling manner.

Have the 10 Lenses Been Validated?

Yes, the Gallup Organization created a survey to help determine dominant lenses and the combination of lenses through which we filter perceptions. The survey also determined that the lenses could withstand statistical analysis. Data were collected first from 318 Gallup Organization employees, then from 45 Harvard Medical School staff members, and two national samples – one that consisted of 1,001 participants and another of over 4,000 participants. The conclusion: The lenses do exist as modes of thought, feeling, and behavior in the general population.

The Lenses open minds and reduce defensiveness. Each of the Lenses contributes something valuable to society. Only when we fall into the weaknesses or conflicts of the Lenses do we get into trouble. The Lenses enable people – regardless of their level of education, rol within their organization, or status within their community – to explore the underlying beliefs and values that drive cultural tensions in a safe and enjoyable environment. The Lenses create a bridge between competing beliefs that allow people to talk openly and honestly about who they are, why they see the world the way they do, and how we can take steps together to connect and collaborate to build inclusive communities.

The premise of the 10 Lenses is that many conflicts about differences are being fought over at the wrong level. The Lenses demonstrate that there is no right or wrong, only a failure to come to terms with the pieces of the puzzle that must be dynamically assembled in order to provide structure for society. The Lenses are a powerful diagnostic tool because once they are clearly identified, they play out through patterns of behavior that are predictive.  

Are Some Lenses Good or Bad?

No. Each of the Lenses has inherent strengths and weaknesses. The challenge is that when you become locked into a particular lens or lenses, the door to understanding and effective action closes. The concept of a Lens is not designed to lock you into a category; nor is it designed to tell you or others if you are racist, sexist, homophobic, patriotic, lazy, prejudiced, biased, good, or bad. Rather its purpose is to help you identify the range of thought and behavior patterns that you and others exhibit and the impact of those behaviors in communication and accomplishing goals.  

Are the Lenses Mutually Exclusive?

No. The Lenses are not mutually exclusive. You probably identify one lens you use above others. You will likely have a preference for three Lenses, depending on the specific situation or the dimension of identity that is relevant. For example, you may be an Integrationist on race and a Seclusionists on sexual identity.  

Can the 10 Lenses be used to Understand Differences In Addition to Race, Ethnicity, and Culture? 

Yes, the Lenses can be used to understand the thought patterns related to how one frames their beliefs about any group of people based on identity. The basic principle of the lenses are effective as they relate to gender, religion, region, social class,  nationality, education and sexual identity.

Do the Lenses help stakeholders think comprehensively? Yes, the 10 lenses help stakeholders learn from the following perspectives: 

Societal Understanding – Learn to assess which Lenses are “at play” within your business environment.

Strategy Responses – Learn about strategies to deal with the conflict between Lenses in your business environment.

Systemic Levers – Examine which Lenses are embedded into your organizational systems and policies.

Self-Awareness – Learn to consistently motivate and monitor yourself to behave based on the strengths of your Lenses.

Sensitivity – Learn to work with those who hold Lenses different from your own?

Skills – Recognize and respond to the Lenses in your customer and business community base

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