The Conversation


Title: The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth about Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations
Published by: Currency
Release Date: February 02, 2021
Pages: 368
ISBN13: 9780593238561


An essential tool for individuals, organizations, and communities of all sizes to jump-start dialogue on racism and bias and to transform well-intentioned statements on diversity into concrete actions—from a leading Harvard expert.

How can I become part of the solution? In the wake of the social unrest of 2020 and growing calls for racial justice, many business leaders and ordinary citizens are asking that very question. This book provides a compass for all those seeking to begin the work of anti-racism. In The Conversation, Robert Livingston addresses three simple but profound questions: What is racism? Why should everyone be more concerned about it? What can we do to eradicate it?

For some, the existence of systemic racism against Black people is hard to accept because it violates the notion that the world is fair and just. But the rigid racial hierarchy created by slavery did not collapse after it was abolished, nor did it end with the civil rights era. Whether it’s the composition of a company’s leadership team or the composition of one’s neighborhood, these racial divides and disparities continue to show up in every facet of society. For Livingston, the difference between a solvable problem and a solved problem is knowledge, investment, and determination. And the goal of making organizations more diverse, equitable, and inclusive is within our capability.

Livingston’s lifework is showing people how to turn difficult conversations about race into productive instances of real change. For decades he has translated science into practice for numerous organizations, including Microsoft, Deloitte, JP Morgan Chase, Under Armour, American Express, L’Oreal, and Bayer. In The Conversation, Livingston distills this knowledge and experience into an eye-opening immersion in the science of racism and bias. Drawing on examples from pop culture and his own life experience, Livingston, with clarity and wit, explores the root causes of racism, the factors that explain why some people care about it and others do not, and the most promising paths toward profound and sustainable progress, all while inviting readers to challenge their assumptions.

Social change requires social exchange. Founded on principles of psychology, sociology, management, and behavioral economics, The Conversation is a road map for uprooting entrenched biases and sharing candid, fact-based perspectives on race that will lead to increased awareness, empathy, and action.


The Conversation is an extraordinarily timely book. Just as companies and organizations in the U.S. and around the world are focusing anew on the entrenched bias in their culture, The Conversation comes along to offer a path forward. Livingston has digested his authoritative understanding of the science into a remarkably approachable volume, one that is animated by his storytelling and voice on the page. The Conversation is a major achievement, one that is poised to play a significant role in improving our understanding about bias and addressing systemic racism in the workplace.”
Robin J. Ely, Diane Doerge Wilson Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

“Social justice is a long game, and it has to start with awareness of the problem. Dr. Livingston’s book, just like his live presentations, is one of the most compelling articulations of the problems of racism and discrimination that I have encountered. As I’ve seen in my work with organizations like Airbnb, when a company is prepared to do serious work, the results can be extraordinary. This wonderful book is the place to start. The Conversation manages to be both intellectually compelling and substantive while also being infused with warmth and humor, just like Robert. I highly recommend it.”
Laura W. Murphy, civil rights activist, consultant, and former director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office

“As a product and business innovator, I like to think about how to design globally and execute locally. This maxim is just as true when it comes to a company’s culture. Candid conversations are among the best ways to dispel myths and false narratives around diversity that hold us back, but we need factual information and a framework. The Conversation offers exactly that. This book should be required reading for leaders and all those who share the goal of a more equitable future.”
William P. Gipson, retired Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Procter & Gamble

“I met Dr. Livingston in 2013 when he made the first of many trips to Asheville to educate our county and city leaders on how racism shows up in organizations. His presentation awakened us to what was possible if we had the courage and commitment to do the work. Fast forward to today and the progress that Asheville and Buncombe County have made toward reparations and greater racial equity, and you can see Robert’s handprint in shaping this change. The Conversation is a testament to Dr. Livingston’s storytelling skill as he deftly weaves research with vivid examples to make the case for how and why change is possible. This book is a must read.”
Lisa Eby, Former Human Resources and Community Engagement Director, Buncombe County Government

“After devoting decades of his life working to end systemic racism, Livingston speaks not only with authority but with a refreshing optimism. The thousands of hours he has spent with community leaders across the country have shown that when conversations are candid and respectful, Americans can indeed come together.”
David Gergen, CNN Political Analyst, Adviser to Four US Presidents, and Professor of Public Service at the Harvard Kennedy School

“Systematic racism is a part of our past, sadly part of our present and will be part of our future if we don’t educate ourselves on its realities. We all need to seek the truth and be willing to have the uncomfortable conversations necessary to transform ourselves and our organizations. Livingston's thoughtful and instructive book will help us all start these important conversations.”
Mike Kaufman, CEO, Cardinal Health

“Livingston's expertise as a researcher, teacher, and practitioner is on full display in The Conversation. This book provides a practical, science-based approach for addressing the seemingly intractable problem of racial inequality in contemporary organizations. A timely and important book.”
Miguel M. Unzueta, Professor and Senior Associate Dean, UCLA Anderson School of Management

The Conversation should be required reading for organizations and individuals that are committed to change. Livingston has made the important and challenging task of truly addressing systemic racism within an organization approachable and achievable. These aren’t easy steps, but they are essential for businesses and leaders looking to make a powerful and necessary difference.”
Alex Timm, co-founder and CEO, Root Insurance Company

“This book is a wonderful combination of solid science with gripping story-telling. With clarity and wisdom, Livingston lays out why racism is a problem, why we should care, and what we can do about it. Each chapter sparkles with insights drawn from the sciences, humanities, and Livingston’s own experience. A rare book that is not just intelligent and entertaining, but also profound and humane.”
Selin Kesebir, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, London Business School

“A timely and much-needed guide for leaders who value inclusion and want to dismantle systemic racism. The Conversation is an engaging, practical guide based on scientific research that is as relevant in the workplace as it is in our personal lives. With easy-to-implement actions that move the needle, it should be required reading for anyone in human resources, diversity and talent functions.”
Rita Mitjans, Retired Chief Diversity and Social Responsibility Officer, ADP

PUBLISHED REVIEWS (Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist)

View published reviews here