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Approaches to diverse innovation

In this video, Nathan and Adiba discuss examples of companies that are promoting diverse innovation.
<v ->Slack is one of those platforms that has always had,</v> diverse innovation from the ground up. And I remember when they added something as simple as multi-racial emojis. It was something very simple and very small but it’s just something that’s very embedded within Slack and Slack are always constantly doing things in those areas. And as an engineer who was within the mobile space at that time, I noticed that the way that Slack approached hiring was very different from other companies within the Silicon valley scape.
And they made sure that they hired engineering managers from diverse backgrounds, engineers at the lowest levels even, they gave them an opportunity to really be part of the company from the beginning and what went on was a ripple effect. There lots of different people in, that work at Slack who have now moved on to other companies and are now chairing programmes of diversity, or just like, you know, a representative in terms of, their background and their story. I think that that’s just a by-product of hiring candidates who fit into those areas. I think that most companies often look at their employees or employees from under represented backgrounds to do the work.
But I think it’s also about having that but also talking to consultants, specialists, who can do that as well. Because if the burden is mostly on the employees then there’s kind of a divide there between their day-to-day responsibilities and also them having to solve a big problem of diversity. And I find that, you know, that’s something that was really unique to Slack that I can’t think about any other new age tech company in the past five to ten years. <v ->One good example I can give</v> was from my time at Transport for London. So Transport for London set up a group called IDAG, which is the Independent Disability Advisory Group.
And IDAG basically has experts in their field around the space of disability. Now, TFL being such a big organisation and trying to serve 9 million Londoners, all different shapes and sizes with different needs, it’s vital that you have, again, a group which you can share your ideas with. But they can also be brutally honest about those ideas and make sure what you do develop actually helps to benefit those individuals. So a good example of that is TFL will come up with an idea for example, station access, where you might need to think about how people can access that station.
And some of these ideas will be put to the Independent Disability Advisory Group and they will provide that feedback, that quality assurance on the ideas which come out for your organisation. And I think the output tends to be and normally is
a station which allows for people from different backgrounds or abilities to be able to use the station appropriately. And it just doesn’t stop with disability, also things with design in general. So you’re talking about lighting, what that might mean for people with dementia for example, someone might be neuro-diverse, someone might be blind and might need to navigate the station in a certain way. So there’s all these things which are taken into consideration and TFL being such a big public transport authority, it’s really important that they have these groups internally to be able to speak to them.
<v ->Key features for me are talking, doing some research</v> around the audience, depending of what you’re building and having that as a metric that you always use to measure whatever KPIs it is that you’re developing at any stage. I find that it’s not just about how well your product is doing, but it’s like how is it being used in other markets? And what is the feedback of people that don’t necessarily look like your day-to-day user. Like how do other people perceive your product? I think those are the things that really help innovation and new ideas kind of forming as you grow. I think Spotify comes to mind.
I remember like one time playing around in the settings in Spotify and when I was back home in Lagos they had a setting which automatically toggled your data. So that was very important because the average Nigerian living in Lagos doesn’t have a lot of data. But like having that in mind when they were building that product and automatically doing that as soon as my location changed, I thought that was just really, really interesting. One thing that is really changing now and in terms of how teams are built is that, remote work has really opened up a lot of doors.
So lots of different companies are saying, well we can go and we can hire developers in Africa and we can have them on our teams. And they’re building that kind of culture that you wouldn’t really think about before the pandemic. Then you can really have that as a part of your culture rather than trying to solve the problem from where you are.
<v ->A small organisation could work with an academic partner</v> and get them to look into some of the impacts of the scheme
and that could be a study of some sort with certain focus groups. So that’s one way. There’s, another way could be having a sort of hackathon or an accelerator. So you could share the problem to the world or to certain groups and actually see how they can help problem solve and shape the things that you’re looking to try and do. So that’s another way which you can do that. But I like to think that most problems which we face as individuals or organisations, some of those problems aren’t new, there’s always someone out there which is facing a similar issue or problem.
So sometimes coming together as a consortium of organisations to solve a problem together is one way of tackling that.

In this video you will hear Adiba and Nathan discussing examples of companies that are promoting diverse innovation.

Adiba advises that the burden of responsibility to advance equality in organisations should not only lie with staff from diverse backgrounds and that it can be helpful to bring in specialists or consultants to tackle organisational issues.

Nathan talks about an independent disability advisory group that allowed Transport for London to understand the needs of and better design for people with disabilities. He advises that smaller organisations could consider working with academic partners or running a hackathon or sharing a problem with broader groups.

Have you considered what external voices or expertise you could draw on in your own context? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, and take a moment to respond to a fellow learner.

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