Designing an inclusive (better) design team
I have been on all kinds of teams.
I’ve been on a few where everyone agreed outright on everything. No one challenged anything that was said. So nice? Decisions are quick. Progress is made.
Why would anyone want to work with anyone else? So easy. LOLs :👍🏻:s in Slack. Beers. Table-tennis. Nice.
I’ve also been on a few where every decision was harder. A lot of back and forth. Everyone needed to work on explaining themselves clearly, or changing the approach until the idea was understood. More people felt empowered to challenge and ask questions.
Things took a little longer. Blah. Drag. Amiright? Who needs it?
We need diversity… of all kinds.
The current political divide is a glorious articulation of what happens when we choose only to speak and listen to people who will affirm our own views. Factions form. Misinformation is amplified. We get lazy in articulating our thoughts to those who disagree. And ultimately we tune in only to those who think, look, act, and feel a lot like we do. It’s bad for us and bad for the world.
It becomes harder and harder to find, hear and understand those voices who disagree. And we may be building it into our design teams. We must stop.
It’s been discussed at length, by people much more articulate than I, how more diverse teams yield more creative results.
DE&I for Everyone
We seem to rally around the low-hanging diversity fruit — and awarding our organizations and our tools a diversity honor badge a little prematurely.
The Cultural Fit Dog Whistle.
Most of the designers and design managers I speak with have made great efforts to recruit and hire for gender and ethnic diversity. And have the numbers to prove it. Good on ya.👍🏻
They sometimes also, however, hire for that all important “cultural fit.” When we unpack that — what are we really saying? We should all want to hang out together and grab a drink? Stay late? Does that really allow for diversity in station of life (age, parental status), religion, nationality, mobility?
I can tell you that I’ve interviewed at least one large Bay Area forward-thinking design powerhouse — that was “ just starting to see some of our staff have children” at the time of my visit. A team of over 200 designers. Five or fewer parents.
Let’s chop the diversity, not just slice it…
We all try and look at the work and how the applicant approaches problems. But we may expect them to approach those problems the way our foundation and education have taught us to expect problems to be approached.
… students who came from a diverse background of study (and subsequently more diverse background of interests) would introduce more diversity of thought into the medical profession, and create better doctors.
This is in stark contrast to the very strict hard-science requirements found in the classic recruiting and vetting process for med-school students. The theory is that students who came from a diverse background of study (and subsequently more diverse background of interests) would introduce more diversity of thought into the medical profession, and create better doctors. Ten years it seems to be working as they are expanding the program. Interesting. Perhaps this speaks to me because my degree is in neuroscience and biology from a liberal arts school.
Fight the Urge to Make it (too) Easy
Be careful not to recruit from your school/college/background/gamer team? too much. (Or your lack-of-school. Or your boot camp. Or whatever.) Beware of the dog-whistle of cultural fit. Chop diversity in all the ways, don’t just slice it by including station of life diversity and problem approach diversity.
If, when looking around at your team, you realize you all get along great all the time and hang out after work because you’re all in the same station of life…your work is suffering. Designing isn’t supposed to be easy. Your team will thank you for it.