The idea of "diversity" nowadays sends everyone into a tailspin of thoughts and opinions that appear to lead nowhere. In the past few weeks alone, I've read “Diversity is for white people: The big lie behind a well-intended word” by Ellen Berrey and “Has ‘Diversity’ Lost Its Meaning” by Anna Holmes , both of which stir the pot outlining the complexity and ambiguity of diversity- which everyone- especially those who have it in our professional titles- already know to be true.
Friends and colleagues also sent these to me because they along with other friends, colleagues and family scratch their head wondering why I went to business school twice and continue to play in this messy sandbox for over 10 years now- both unpaid and now as a professional. It's exhausting- and I knew it would be, but I jumped in determined to innovate "diversity"- this unruly idea and turn it into a product that honors the "people" in the triple bottom line of "people, profit and planet".
Continuing to ask "What is Diversity"? at this point is insane. We aren't getting different results! Disrupting this approach and using design and innovation processes allows us to ask “Why?” or “How?”- questions that always yield better results.
I share the sentiments that this article, "Hacking Tech's Diversity Problem" outlines, specifically about what the author calls the “diversity industrial complex”:
I'll use this blog to show how using design & innovation approaches can help take bigger steps towards inclusion. Specifically...
1. i connect and support Diversity Professionals:
I've been to so many conferences and workshops with diversity professionals from various sectors where the burnout and frustration amongst professionals committed to this work is depressing. We have unique challenges that need to be shared and understood. Many people have fallen into the trap of "that's just the way it is" or "it comes with the territory". Not true! Design and innovation gives professionals new knowledge, skills and attitudes that will let us be what Williams calls "bias interrupters "instead of simply "admiring the problem". We can have a distinct professional field where research can be relevant and interdisciplinary, advocacy and activism can be authentic, and best practices and standards for the multimillion dollar industry can emerge that create more shared value for all players involved.
2. I diversify Entrepreneurship and Innovation:
Organizations say "diversity drives innovation" and that "diversity of thought" is most important. This may be true, but we can't ignore the reality that people's "thought" and "talent" is connected to real social identities like race and gender. It's these identities that are the source of the individual's social reality that will drive their inspiration to create professionally. People aren't problems to be solved, but the way we make decisions about people affect their ability to solve problems. Outside of traditional firms, we know all entrepreneurs don't look like Mark Zuckerberg. I want to connect with entrepreneurs and innovators who want to understand how their race, gender, nationality and other pieces of their identity are sources of innovation.
3. I curate new conversations about diversity:
The lack of interdisciplinary intersections in diversity leaves the conversation about diversity outdated, disjointed and disconnected from current events and present realities. The voices of social justice warriors, diversity trainers, student leaders, diversity recruiters, diversity executives, intercultural educators, diversity program managers, activists, artists and more need to be brought together consistently to look at problems through their perspective lenses and to look at problems more holistically with their collective lenses. The result will be a deeper, more balanced celebration of differences and challenges and opportunities they present.
This new approach to diversity and inclusion isn't going to happen over night as innovation in general is unfortunately a new concept for many organizations. The discomfort and confusion already surrounding diversity will be heightened, but we can at least get started.
My friend- who is a rising rock star in the tech world sat and listened to my frustrations, experiences and aspirations with diversity and replied "So you want to completely change the way organizations do diversity period?" My response was. "Yes."
So here's to new paths- let the disruption begin!