We were talking about the importance of diversity in terms of
designing technology in a functional way
The discussion has moved towards the back end, asking the question how we can build
new technology and society in a sustainable way.
Creating sustainable impact
The importance of diversity (whether it is about diversity of mind/thought, skin color, gender and many more) in society, organizations and all human settings is nothing new. But similar to how many industries are crossing over each other, we are now seeing the need for a similar shift in the structure of teams and organizations.
The difference from diversity as we know it, is what Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg phrased as Radical Collaboration. When we bring together people with completely disparate ideas and ask them to solve a single issue, we create a tension that can be a great tool to solve the new kinds of challenges that society is facing.
In order for us to make our relationship with technology prosperous in the long term, we need groups with conflicting perspectives to join hands behind a solution. To create a sustainable impact, being one where future challenges and resources as well as opportunities are taken into consideration when solving for innovations and strategies, is something companies and society at large should put on their agenda.
With great scale, comes great responsibility
As we bring fundamental changes to society, we need to consider things not in isolation, but as a whole. The unprecedented speed with which technology can scale opinions, ideas, products and solutions puts increasing power in the hands of the decision makers. In order for these technologies to work in a socially beneficial way, we need there to be a broad set of perspectives included throughout the entire development process.
In areas from education, to transportation systems, to AI, this is being brought up as the most prominent way to create sustainable societies. We need to figure out how to make smarter, less biased, more inclusive and long-term decisions.
We’re all speaking different languages and we don’t have enough interpreters
– Priscilla Chan, on the need to create more cross-disciplinary teams and people through “Radical collaborations”
Priscilla Chan at SXSW 2019.
The future of decision making
The idea that – if we have a richness of perspectives, someone might call out things that are too selective – is guiding more and more institutions in their way of working. At Google, they are trying to develop “Decision Intelligence” where they are finding ways to educate and train people in decision making. Note that this is not single-disciplinary decision makers but people who are required to understand a wide array of topics.*
* Google and its peers are generally not seen as best-in-class when talking about diversity. The controversy around Google’s AI Ethics Council might support such opinions. Nonetheless this example was brought up during the conference as one thing Google does to address this topic, and no interpretation is put behind it here.
There are Computer science departments where philosophy, sociology and arts subjects are brought into the curriculum. Stanford has created an institute for human-centered artificial intelligence with just this goal: “… to become an interdisciplinary, global hub for AI thinkers, learners, researchers, developers, builders and users from academia, government and industry, as well as leaders and policymakers who want to understand and leverage AI’s impact and potential.”
I think that we don’t realize how valuable social scientists are
– Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Scientist at Google
Further, there are numerous companies evaluating the use of a “Chief Ethics Officer” or “Chief Values Officer” to broaden their perspectives in decision making processes. Independent of the success of these projects lies the conclusion that many future decisions will require multidisciplinary knowledge and understanding, posing challenges to companies and society to foster such skills.
Potential addition to the board room
Forbes, among others, are noting the emergency of a new kind of management disciple, a Chief Ethics Officer. Highlighting the attention that putting a broader set of perspectives into decision making processes.
Communicating what is under the hood
Finding new types of collaborations can be detrimental in solving society’s greatest challenges, but it can also lead to a new understanding of how to cater to your customers wishes. A globalized economy requires that you listen to a more disparate customer base, and if you want to flourish in this fast-paced market – you need to create a workforce that reflects this.
Once you set the internal structures, don’t be afraid to communicate it to the outside. In a panel discussion with designer Rebecca Minkoff and Kimberly Jenkins, professor at Parsons School of Design, the one piece of advice given to marketers was to “take a look internally and make sure what you communicate is what you stand for, if not – change”.
For example, 85% of consumer decisions today are influenced by women, of which a large share want to shop from female-lead business, yet most don’t know where to find these. Finding what internal structures speak to this group and captures their behavior can thus be detrimental.
Gwyneth Paltrow explained that the more controversy there is, the better her company GOOP does financially. When brands get called out by consumers, that should be considered an honor – it means people care enough about them. By being diverse and transparent, fostering radical collaboration and communicating this, companies and brands can speak to the modern and powerful consumer and stay relevant.
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SXSW is one of the biggest digital conferences in the world, and a global meeting place for the world’s most innovative technology companies and people interested in how disruption can transform their business and everyday lives. The event takes place during during 10 days each year and this year Cartina had the chance to be part of it.
This series consists of 6 global mega trends that business leaders, experts, innovators and disruptors talked about during the days in Austin.
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