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The Lessons of Diversity and Inclusion

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

ronke modern day article

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Diversity and inclusion are a conscious requisite and the discerning action that organizations, leaders, and employees must partake in to build influential people and products.

Developing efficacious and customer-oriented products is the primary responsibility of product leaders. Nevertheless, great product leaders do much more than just product; they build up the people around them by embracing their diversity, uniqueness, and insights. Furthermore, they choose to celebrate their team members' distinct backgrounds and unique circumstances.

Scrum teams, teammates, colleagues, partners, and leaders are individuals from all walks of life. They each belong to different races, ethnic groups, and cultures, and they come from unique backgrounds with various life experiences which have shaped their outlook on the world. As product leaders, we need those diverse perspectives to come together to create product magic.

Likewise, a successful product becomes that way because of customer diversity. When there is diversity in every step of the process (including user research and customer interviews), outcomes are better able to increase revenue growth or perhaps even become an industry disrupter.

What is diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace can be described as when an organization ensures that it recruits and hires candidates from diverse communities representing its customers' diversity.

Its diversity makes people extraordinary. Yet, even though there are huge distinctions between individuals, most of us identify diversity by a small number of social classifications like gender, race, and age.

Why diversity and inclusion are essential in product management

Diversity and inclusion are essential within the product management space because our cross-functional teams are made better by them. We can only build efficacious, best-in-class products with individuals from unique cultures, backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs.

A diverse product management team powers imagination, ingenuity, and creativity. It provides organizations with a competitive edge. In addition, when cross-disciplinary teams include individuals from unique ethnicities with different interpretations and experiences, we strengthen our propensity to comprehend the requirements of our current customers, leads, or prospects.

When product exploration encompasses a wide range of thinking, the product can be built into something everyone can use regardless of race, ethnicity, and circumstances. So, if we create products that work for everyone, we can increase our customer base, allowing our organization’s revenue to grow. Diversity is essential to build best-in-class products.

As product leaders, we are the epicenter of our organization - our actions and body language speak louder than words. To build successful people and products, we must ensure we cater to diversity. This can be accomplished by putting the following actions into practice.

#1 - Diversity enhances innovation

As product leaders, we spend most of our time immersed in the development of our products, bringing our vision to fruition. Sometimes, we don’t even use the products that we are building. Consequently, this can make us develop blind spots and only view the world through our distinctive lens. As a result, it’s easy to presume that our clients are just like us and that they’ll probably use the product in the way we would.

Take a product manager leading a B2B portfolio of products as an example. Chances are they don’t have real-world experience with the problem we are trying to solve. Likewise, as a PM leading a B2C suite of products, a customer-first approach should encompass diverse social circumstances and cultures.

To solve these blind spots, we need outside-the-box thinking. We need cross-disciplinary teams from diverse groups with distinct backgrounds, proficiencies, experiences, and expertise to increase innovative, imaginative, exceptional, and creative thoughts. This will have an enormous effect on our organization meeting its objectives and staying true to its ethos, mission, and vision.

Furthermore, when employees are in organizations where they can use their voices, they feel heard. They see themselves reflected in other employees and leaders. When diversity is encapsulated wholeheartedly, they feel more comfortable and safer bringing their extraordinary ideas to the table.

That is how successful diverse organizations outpace those who function and perform in ‘one voice’.

#2 - Embrace diversity with empathy

Customer empathy is to discern the nitty-gritty requirements and emotions of our customers. It’s not just identifying and delivering on their strategic and tactical needs but instead observing things from their point of view. As such, diversity plays a significant role in customer empathy. When organizations are inclusive and diversified internally, they can provide innovative solutions to customers' problems, eliminating previous blind spots.

Understanding their drivers while empathizing with both our customers and team members is the foundation of developing products that make a difference. We can do this by safeguarding that we are listening to all our customers, not just the ‘loudest’ ones. We must disregard the approach of building products for people like us. Instead, we design and build products for a more comprehensive range of customers by allowing diversity to reflect the different types of product users.

#3 - Representation matters immensely

Diversity management has never been more paramount. We still need to foster more inclusion of employees from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives into organizations’ structure to operate effectively in the real world, meeting the demands of emerging markets. Therefore, organizations must cultivate their diversity management approaches to acculturate to the expanding diversity of the workforce globally.

As demographics change, diversity becomes necessary to grow into new markets, retain employees, and recruit new candidates. High-performing candidates and emerging leaders want to see themselves reflected at every level of their organization.

Not only does it influence individual and company performance, but employees are more likely to stay and grow their careers in companies where they can relate to their coaches and mentors. Seeing someone who looks like you in leadership has profound psychological effects on employees, allowing them to see who they can become in the future.

Diverse representation in leadership unlocks the variability of new viewpoints and experiences, which helps companies flourish by increasing innovation and earnings. A more diverse and inclusive leadership team can even establish an organization’s character, culture, and what it reflects (such as equality, diversity, and inclusion). These things go a long way to attracting and retaining talent, making a diverse organization appealing to inclusion-focused customers.

#4 - Recruiting diverse candidates

Bringing multicultural professionals into product management is often unheeded. This tends to happen because the path to product management is so indeterminate. There are various reasons why diverse candidates don’t apply for product opportunities. Part of the challenge is that we are not meeting talent where they are, and even when they come to us, we do not engage as much as we should with them.

Another challenge to recruiting is the job descriptions, which are sometimes inaccurate. For example, a job description may mention a degree in computer science or an MBA; however, the degrees are not compulsory. What is required are the skills that these degrees teach, but that one could also get from experience. A good discernment of technology and how to apply it and a great appreciation of how business works are sufficiently good.

As the center of humanities and technology, we miss out on diverse talent that can make a difference in our organizations and humankind by not redefining job requirements.

Likewise, the interview process must be culturally diverse to ensure there are no unintentional barriers or deterrents for multicultural talent. The questions asked should be in no way biased or discriminatory or even looking for specific answers. In fact, the interviewers should be diverse themselves and look for individuals who think differently than themselves that reflect the society that they’re in.

Final thoughts

Diverse product management teams with individuals from all walks of life can help mitigate any blind spots, leading to designing and building products that make a difference in the lives of our customers. The success story of our organization is dependent on our ability to embody diversification. We need employees who reflect the world's various backgrounds and the society in which we operate.

Not only is diversity and inclusion an essential ethical requirement, but it’s also the discerning action that organizations, their leaders, and employees must participate in. When inclusion-focused customers see themselves reflected in the employees of the businesses they interact with, they trust that organization more, increasing revenue and the ability to compete in emerging global markets.

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