Home Business Social circles are shrinking, but we need rich perspectives for innovative design

Social circles are shrinking, but we need rich perspectives for innovative design

by maria

By: Lauren McMullan, VP & General Manager, SharkNinja London

The unusual circumstances of the past year have triggered a huge amount of social change, both through sparking new trends and exacerbating existing ones. One such trend is the shrinking of social circles.

This has been gradually happening for many years. Both in the US and the UK, there is evidence our interactions increasingly tend to be with people who have similar viewpoints to ourselves and this has been exacerbated due to the rise of increased digitalisation. Although the internet has given us the opportunity to interact with many different types of people from across the globe, as humans we are naturally drawn to interacting with people who have similar world views to ourselves, and are therefore more likely to engage with people and content that fits with this. In turn, the mechanics of social media mean that we are then fed back people and content which reflects these preferences, limiting our exposure to different perspectives and often giving a false sense of our viewpoints being ‘world truths’. Now, with our physical access to people restricted and our reliance on the digital world increased, Covid-19 has catalysed this shift change even further.

Smaller social circles and exposure to less people may be beneficial when it comes to preventing the spread of disease, but when it comes to innovation, this trend is problematic. For those designing new technologies, services and products to make the world a better place, having a real understanding of the varying traits, needs and values of their customers is key.

It’s no secret that when it comes to the technology and the wider STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries, diversity has been a long standing challenge both in the UK and across the globe.

According to independent body Diversity In Tech, just 15% of the UK tech workforce is black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).[i] A major report from Inclusive Boards, which encourages organisations to develop more inclusive and representative senior teams, found the tech sector’s senior leadership is woefully lacking in diversity in the UK. Just 8.5% of senior leaders in the sector were found to be from a BAME background. What’s more, 65% of boards in the top tech firms surveyed had no female directors, while over two-fifths of executive teams had no female representation at all.[ii]

Yet the key to successful design and innovation is to understand the rich perspectives, views and values of the world. How else can technology firms design products and services which adequately meet the wants and needs of the diverse populations which make up their customer base?

Clearly, it is imperative the technology sector ensures tomorrow’s innovators are representative of the world we live in. With this in mind, for technology firms to stay ahead of the game, they need to ensure two things. One, that their hiring is diverse and two, that staff are given the tools they need to work with the perspectives of different communities in mind.

There are countless ways in which companies can achieve this. Importantly, it must be noted that for firms to truly diversify, changes must be implemented at every level. When it comes to HR and recruitment, practices and goals must be put in place which ensure a diverse pool of talent is brought in, starting at entry level roles and continuing up to senior boards. Equally important, especially when it comes to technology and design, it that all employees are knowledgeable in the benefits of diversity and are well-equipped to champion this and incorporate diverse perspectives in their work.

At SharkNinja, our internal DEI and WeLead (gender diversity) teams have been working to establish a series of comprehensive series of activities and talks. We have partnered with non-profit organisations Stonewall and Beyond Equality, who have come in to speak with our staff about LGBTQIA+ and gender diversity in tech. We are also launching a 10-part speaker series addressing a range of topics including: LGBTQIA+, Disability in the workplace, Dyslexia & the creative mindset, and The Power of Neurodiversity in the Workplace. We will be joined by top experts in their fields from leading organisations such as Status Queer and the National Dyslexia Organisation, who will impart their knowledge and advice on achieving true diversity in the workplace.

A vital part of our design process is our Consumer Insights Programme, which ensures customers are involved in every stage of our design process, with each new product guaranteed to have passed through the hands of at least 300 customers. This year, as well as continuing to ensure these panels are as diverse as possible, we will be organising panels which focus on gathering feedback from customers with specific needs, covering the likes of physical disability.

Ensuring technology firms are diverse and representative of the world we live in is not only morally right, it is a business imperative. All of us in the technology sector have our part to play, whether that means getting engaged with the equality ventures our companies run, or setting these up/ creating space for others to set these up if they don’t exist. The rebuilding period we are now entering is a once in a generation opportunity for the technology industry to finally tackle bias, to build a diverse and inclusive environment for those of a diverse background to thrive in and ensure the products of our future are suitable and appealing for everyone.

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