Inclusion Session at TechEd Madrid 2011
Why did I attend?
Give it a go – why not, at least there is food and beer. These were my initial thoughts on attending the session entitled
“EMBRACING INCLUSION WITH DESIGN THINKING – DRIVING INNOVATION”
I mean, as a technology company, Lemongrass are driving innovation all the time, so that sounds relevant for me. We are always looking to design new products and services, so that sounds interesting and it involves “embracing inclusion”, that has to be a good thing – and if not, I can leave at 9 and not miss much of the evening in Madrid anyway.
The Panel Discussion
So the first part of the evening ticked the food and beer box, and the panel discussion was interesting, with a real eye opener being the comment that when a job was advertised by one of the panellists, there were over 300 male applicants and less than 10 female. Further inquiry found that other eligible women had not applied as they weren’t sure they could meet 100% of the requirements, where in the men’s case, applicants had applied even if they only met 80% of the requirements.
This sounds familiar as during our recruitment, we regularly receive many more applicants from men than women, and in fact for BASIS/Technical Architecture roles, we rarely see a CV that is not from a chap.
Take away number one
When we try and recruit the best, we might be missing talent who don’t apply because they don’t think they are good enough in the case of women. How can we tackle this? Ensure our adverts are written with inclusion in mind, and also, actively chase women techies in the community and ask them to apply – sounds like asking for a law suit!
There was a surprising degree of comment from the floor, and then this part of the evening was wound up and the workshop component kicked off. Having so far been sat on my own, I looked around to find the most diverse looking table to join, thinking with my inclusion hat on and wanting to hear as many points of view as possible. Turned out I sat down at a table where most of the people, although looking different, all worked in marketing for SAP – not quite as diverse as I was hoping, but it made for an interesting evening.
We were given a brief introduction into design lead thinking, which basically involved being asked to draw a chair. Having drawn a chair, it turned out that our customer didn’t really want a chair as they had asked for, but a comfortable place to rest – and hence really wanted a bed. The end result was the customer didn’t want to buy our chair, that was light weight and easy to fold for carrying round TechEd, but would have bought a bed.
Take-away number two
Even though you think you know what your customer wants, often, in your head, before even they do, it’s worth making them expand a bit on their request to make sure the solution you are putting together is really what they want. This is hard because often the customer isn’t interested at the outset in telling you more –“I’ve told you I want a chair, just draw me a chair!” Persevering at this point though might pay off as if you’re the only supplier that goes back with a bed when asked for a chair, you will either win, or look really silly.
This seemed to be the basis of design lead thinking, and we didn’t really go much further with this approach which I think is a shame as I’m sure it has a lot more to offer than the basics we picked up. However as we are all consultants or marketing people, a little knowledge was enough for us to confidently use a design lead thinking approach to solve our challenge.
Our group picked the challenge – HOW DO YOU BUILD AN ORGANISATION THAT IS SUPPORTIVE AND INCLUSIVE OF “NON-HIGH FLYERS”. Great debate then ensued about what constituted a “non-high flyer”, with some passionate input from people who felt this described them, even though they were clearly very successful in their field.
At this point my feeling is we could have done with more coaching on the design lead thinking aspect, as being a bunch of consultants, we immediately tried to produce solutions. I also felt we could have applied the principals of inclusion within our group a bit better to ensure all voices were heard and all opinions given an even weighting.
The outcome however was impressive, with a number of policies proposed that included flexible working to support an alternative career choice, non-financial rewards to encourage contribution from all and clear linking of performance with roles.
Take-away number three
The outcomes weren’t important, the way we got there was, and I think the session was a great way of demonstrating that.
A great fun session, that should get more attention within the TechEd format somehow, potentially with “mainstream” pods to tackle some of the softer sides of the SAP industry.
I met some great people, and heard some ideas that were different from my own, and were all the better for that.
I would recommend these sessions to anyone, so if you’re considering them at the next TechEd in 2012, I’ll see you there!