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Impacts of not supporting diverse innovation

In this video Adiba, Nathan and Alex discuss how products can fail if they do not consider diverse audiences and their different needs.
<v ->I think Microsoft comes to mind.</v> They had one occasion where the Kinect, they hadn’t tested that with quite a wide variety of people. And in this case, it couldn’t really recognise, you know, black people playing around with the controller. <v ->Depending on what age you are or which generation you are,</v> some people might remember Blockbuster and they were a sort of DVD, rental outlet or VHS, if you go far back enough. And the new kids on the block being Netflix, had a different model. Blockbuster had a very old board of individuals, people which didn’t look at the new world in the same way, whereas Netflix was very much a young organisation.
Sometimes people saying that “Age is just a number” and that is true. And sometimes it comes with different insights and experiences, and Blockbuster failed to recognise the ideas and some of the experiences of maybe the younger generation and how that could benefit their business. Now Netflix is the largest streaming service in the world. And Blockbuster had the opportunity to partner with Netflix and actually integrate them into their company, and they rejected it because they felt it’s not going to be something which takes off. <v ->A product that maybe I could say could possibly fail,</v> as I’m at home, is the game controller. All 10 fingers of my body needs to be working.
Both of my two hands need to be able to do something. I got to be able to do this. I’ve got to be able to click on those buttons and do that. That makes that assumption once again, that I have all of this moving, you know, and the game controller has not actually failed. That’s the key thing. It hasn’t failed because it’s obviously part of most of their experiences, but it’s failed people, you know. So maybe it hasn’t failed in terms of commercial sense, but it’s failed to particular communities who, especially those who are disabled, who necessarily cannot engage with the gaming experience. There’s a good example, I think.
X-Box, recent, a couple of years back did launch a controller, which was sort of to be an adaptable controller, allowing folks of all experiences to be able to use it, to take part in a gaming experience. But it’s not something we’ve seen that’s been like, replicated across the board really well. And that was really interesting because those adaptive controller was created by a disabled designer
and you know, him having those particular experiences was he was able to contribute. And that’s kind of a way of that diversity innovation right, which kind of goes back to, you know, why should I design for a disabled person when there are disabled designers who can design for their community. Let me, as this individual, to step back and give that space to somebody else to do their thing. And Liz Jackson says this really well about, you know, the challenges in disability design, or designing products for disabled communities.
You know, we always talk about empathy in design, and she kind of critiques it and says that, “It’s a facade because, you know, designers tend to want to fix disabled people, rather than giving them space to express themselves.”
<v ->On the lowest level, it’s just, you know,</v> the anger and frustration. Sometimes when you see some of the examples of things that happen out there, you’re like, if they like literally, you know, they had one person in the room could easily see that that was an issue, then it wouldn’t lead to, you know, just a feeling of rage. So I think it goes from internal rage to real life consequences. And then that’s the scale that this affects.

In this video Adiba, Nathan and Alex discuss how products can fail if they do not consider diverse audiences and their different needs. They give examples of mistakes including not testing products with diverse groups and not having a diverse company board.

Alex discusses a game controller, which assumes that users have two hands and ten working fingers (1). The game controller may not fail from a commercial perspective, but it may fail people who do not have those physical traits.

What do you think about products that are commercially successful but fail certain people or groups? Can you share any examples?


  1. Xbox Adaptive controller

Further resources:

  1. Video: Liz Jackson, 2019. Honoring the friction of disability, AIGA conference.
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