How Organizations Can Design & Manage For Inclusivity

Written by Holtby Turner

Google’s Director for UX Design, Kat Holmes asserts the 3 ways to design and manage organizational inclusivity are understanding the cycle of exclusion, adapting inclusivity design, and taking a questioning approach. In her brilliant book on human centric design – Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design – Holmes asserts that inclusivity must be designed as a process. So, as such a respected human-centric designer, we wanted to share what these mean in practice.

Understanding The Cycle Of Exclusion 

Holmes’s process is called ‘The Cycle Of Exclusion’. By working around this cycle we are forced to ask simple yet important questions before creating or re-evaluating existing processes, such as: Why are we making this? Who uses it? How is it made? Who will make it? What is it we are making? With this perspective, whilst architects cannot accurately predict how residents from different backgrounds and with diverse abilities might use a building, they can work through the Cycle of Exclusion to highlight exclusionary design and environments that are not fully inclusive. 

Adapting Inclusivity Design 

In a similar manner, forward-thinking managers should be able to look at management practices and consider how these might be seen and met in a different manner, and by different employees. We have been talking for a long time about cross-cultural competencies in the built environment, yet the reality we see is that few managers are fully aware of this beyond their regional environment.

In their fascinating book Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business, Dan Keldsen and Tom Koulopoulos argue that inclusivity to Zillennials is something they expect and draw energy from (zillennials being the newly appointed term for Generation Z, inspired by millennials). Accustomed to a world in which cultures mix at the speed of the internet, and where new markets are only an Instagram-click away, they see inclusivity as the norm. Leading them thus requires a sensitivity to this, and a capacity to capitalise on unfamiliar trends and markets to win loyalty. 

Into this context has stepped Black Females in Architecture (BFA), a new society co-founded by four young, brown women Selasi Setufe, Neba Sere, Alisha Fisher and Akuao Danso. BFA has over 150 members who connect in person and via their WhatsApp group. Already with a commission in Bermondsey, “for those who care about diversity in architecture, the founding of BFA is the biggest leap forwards of 2018” wrote Architecture Foundation’s Phineas Harper in his 2018 annual review for Dezeen magazine.

A Questioning Approach  

What this means is that an increased focus on inclusivity can bring about several positives for companies. On the one hand, inclusive hiring and management practices enables a company to draw from a wider talent pool. On the other, the talents acquired in this manner can give key insights into the needs and behaviours of new customer groups. 

In practice, designing for inclusivity makes it easier for an organisation to be attuned and engaged in wider opportunities cross-sector. Observing, questioning and – more increasingly – using empathy to connect the dots, is open to all in modern, multicultural organisations. Louise Karunwi from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development believes that leaders must become accustomed to the state of imperfection that is implicit to this way of working – for an organisation can never be ‘fully inclusive’. Today’s leaders should establish reflective practices which highlight what may, or may not, turn out to be exclusionary as the simplest step forward in modernising their businesses. 

In writing about the slow process of inclusivity in modern organisations, Karunwi emphasises the need to balance thinking with an immediate proactivity as part of a long-term agenda. The built environment needs a more diverse workforce, but this cannot be achieved by force. Instead, leaders need to look through their entire HR process – from hiring through talent development to succession planning – to ensure that inclusivity isn’t just a buzzword, but something living and breathing in the organisation. As Liz Peace continually reminds us through Real Estate Balance, diversity is not a nice-to-have, it directly impacts your bottom line, growing revenue, resilience and a competitive edge. 

This article was edited from Holtby Turner’s original report on leadership that you can download for free here 

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