How do we reckon with our own unconscious biases as we’re designing new work and products that will impact and influence other humans? Quite a few speakers and companies were struggling with that question at SXSW this year now that diversity and inclusion training has become more common. The question on everyone’s mind was: how do we get closer to a reality where our technology has a commitment to ethics?
Know the difference between your personal experience and unconscious bias
The first step is acknowledging and reducing one’s own unconscious biases, and realizing where personal experience ends and bias (which can be informed by personal experience, but also often by stereotypes and cultural context) begins. This is crucial for ensuring that you and your company don’t have an epistemological crisis when doing the hard inclusion work. The panelists in the session Designing with Bias conflated personal experience with bias, and thus weren’t quite sure what role personal experience could have in their work and wondered how data, design vision, or user insights could be trusted in this brave new world of diversity and inclusion. Not sure where your own bias begins? Take Harvard’s Project Implicit bias tests and head over to our Love Has No Labels campaign site for tips on how to fight it. (This list of cognitive biases is also great to reference!)
At every step of the project, consider who’s not in the room
One of the reasons why Harvard Business Review (and research) says diverse teams are smarter is because they process facts more carefully since they are challenged to consider perspectives different from their own and own up to their implicit biases. One panelist at AI x Radical Inclusion, Stephanie Dinkins, challenged us to consider “What does Artificial Intelligence need from me?” This was after sharing an example of AI-gone-wrong when Richard Lee, a Taiwanese-New Zealander, had his passport photo rejected by the algorithm reviewing his photo, which stated that his eyes were closed. In that case, the algorithm needed its developers to train it better, by using a more diverse data set to start, by acknowledging who wasn’t in the room designing the product, and by identifying the full spectrum of users who would need the product.
Cultivate empathy and belonging within your workplace
In a workshop held by Frog Design and Fast Company called Radical Empathy, we learned how appreciative inquiry can cultivate empathy and foster a sense of belonging and community between staff members. It can start with something as simple as having two people discussing a time when they felt a sense of belonging, with one person speaking at a time and the other person taking notes and retelling the story in their own words. From there, you can find common themes and values that are associated with a sense of belonging and start to commit to those on an organizational level; ours were compassion, oneness, curiosity, and acceptance. Then you have to make space for those values at work and on your teams.
See Radical Empathy research at work, as a part of Frog’s redesign of the pelvic exam:
Each of these points call for a re-centering of the human and being humble in our work process to design more inclusive products. It’s not an exhaustive list because this isn’t an easy task; it’s nuanced, challenging, and is influenced by individuals, organizations, and broader cultural systems and norms. Please add to this list by considering and sharing the ways in which you’ll design for inclusion, too!