Commentary

Diversity and Inclusion Are the Basis for Good Design

Oct 24, 2016

On Friday, a botnet army, launched from internet-enabled everyday things like printers and cameras, attacked and temporarily hobbled a critical part of the internet. Fortune’s John Jeff Roberts has a must-read take on what happened, what to do now, and who’s to blame. (Turns out, it’s partly you and me. Yikes.)

That brought me back to a conversation I had recently with Shamla Naidoo, IBM’s Chief Information Security Officer, who is responsible for the safety of all of IBM’s digital assets. She mentioned the internet of things (IoT), specifically, a world where anything from shoes and shirts to medical devices and weapons will be linked to the internet. The threats are enormous. “We have to learn to be creative to think in new ways, to look at alternative theories, to look at the things that are non-obvious,” she said.

And diversity is going to be key to thinking in new ways. “We want a fully integrated workforce that is inclusive of people with a diversity of thought and backgrounds,” she added. She has learned to amplify the benefits of diversity by assembling teams in such a way that the members can more effectively learn from each other. “I can teach you about business, about the new technology,” she said. “I need people who can think.” (She’s hiring, by the way.)

I spent part of my weekend thinking about design as an important tool in business and in life, and how the arrangement of the physical or digital world is really an experience of inclusion or exclusion—design can bring people together or keep people out. Every day your Twitter account goes unhacked in a good day, and any day you are attacked by an unpoliced troll is not. Both of those experiences are the result of a series of design decisions. (Or, non-decisions, in the case of abuse.)

Ultimately, inclusive design considers the unintended consequences of its assumptions and decisions: Mindfulness if you’ll pardon the cliché, is baked into the design.

I’ve sprinkled some fascinating design-related finds in the links below. Enjoy.

Wishing you a mindfully inclusive week!

On Point

Tech’s most outspoken reporter says CEOs are responsible for their diversity woes

Actually, Recodes’s Kara Swisher said it’s because “they’re fucking lazy,” and went on from there. In a no-holds-barred interview given on stage at Harvard’s Tech Conference 22, Swisher called the tech sector’s preoccupation with unconscious bias nonsense, saying their bias is “totally conscious,” and was pointedly unimpressed with their ability to "code something to the moon" but not educate people. Swisher, who has been covering Silicon Valley since 1997 is now eyeing a run for San Francisco mayor.

Streetwise

Gerrymandering explained

Gerrymandering is used to favor one political party over another one in a given district and has long been used as a design tool to marginalize communities of color. This visual, adapted from a Reddit post, is the best way to understand why it’s so effective. But redistricting is actually necessary from time to time. Turns out there’s non-biased software available to help. Haven’t heard of it? Huh.

Washington Post

Big companies are shifting focus to retention of talent

It’s an optimistic shift away from cost-cutting and toward employee engagement, and that means paying more for talent, finds a new HR Services’ 2017 Compensation Planning Survey from Xerox. “Attracting and retaining top talent is increasingly critical, and organizations need to continue—or start—finding creative ways to do so,” says the CEO of Xerox HR Services. What remains to be determined is how these retention plans align with diversity goals.

Yahoo Finance

Re-thinking how we interact on the internet

Ralph Ammer has written an insightful essay lamenting how interaction design for the internet has abandoned the promise of true discovery and human connection for advertising-based profitability. Ammer has reconfigured his Interaction Design program at the University of Applied Science in Munich to a course called “Natural Design,” to better answer the question, “What kind of design fosters resonance between people?” If you think of inclusion as a design problem, he provides excellent food for thought.

Prototypr.io Blog

A Trump supporter played “Black Jeopardy” on SNL and it was funny

SNL brought back a recurring skit called “Black Jeopardy” this weekend with a twist: Tom Hanks played a Donald Trump supporter as the third contestant. In another twist, the sketch deftly zeroed in on the many quirks and suspicions that some people in the black community actually share with Trump supporters. It managed to be both funny and sweet, which is tough to pull off.

Entertainment Weekly

Someone needs to help doctors confront racial bias in medicine

Here’s a problem that somebody should know how to solve: Doctors consistently provide worse care to patients of color. There are many examples: Patients of color are less likely to be diagnosed with depression, or given the pain meds they need. Hispanic patients with HIV are twice as likely to die as white ones. One doctor wrestles with the moral questions about objectivity in medicine and the obvious harm that racial bias continues to cause. “When problematic parts of ourselves, such as racial bias, intrude, we find it hard to recognize the problem.”

Scientific American

The Woke Leader

Negativity in the workplace will make you sick

Drama queens, complainers, cynics and other negative people are no fun in politics and less fun in your workplace. But, notes Inc’s Jessica Stillman, hanging around the people who exhibit these behaviors is bad for your health. Although everyone has to deal with negative people from time to time, if it’s a steady diet, you need to make your mental and physical health a priority.

Inc

We are increasingly trusting strangers and that's a good thing

Collaboration expert Rachel Botsman says that people are losing trust in big institutions like government, schools, and church. (And corporations, sorry.) But, thanks to new, and increasingly better designed, social technologies, we’ve found ways to put our faith in each other. This new willingness to trust perfect strangers is a profound shift that needs to be examined and amplified. “A trust leap happens when we take the risk to do something new or different to the way that we've always done it,” she says. How can we instill confidence in ourselves to take the right risks with other people?

TED

Infrastructure designed by men puts women at risk

When urban planners think about aesthetics or efficiency, they use men as their default “customer.” But women and men use things like public transportation differently and see different risks in everyday situations. Changes to cities designed to make things more beautiful or efficient have led to unintended problems, like increases in sexual assault cases or decreases in women’s income. The answer? Let women—of every income level—join urban planning teams.

The Guardian

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