2016 has been the year of polarised opinions. The question is, why?
Technology tends to create like-minded communities whose opinions are reinforced by a combination of crowd validation and algorithms. While this can be comforting to its users, it can also polarise opinions, lowering the ‘cross cut’ of information and in turn, exposure to different points of view. This side effect is something which stems from a larger, underlying issue that can be traced right back to the industry's roots.
Much as there has been a push for diversity, in reality, the tech industry is often driven by a largely homogenous voice. It only takes a quick look at the breakdown of the top tech companies’ employees to realise that what we are seeing in our day to day interactions with technology is an overarching voice, opinion and view on what's best for us as consumers. This fails to reflect the diverse range of users that consume technology on a daily basis.
From a business perspective, a successful product not only meets the needs of users but empathises with them, making them feel understood and encouraging them to become ambassadors of your product. It's also true that a product can't help but embody the values of the people that create it. So when the people who create technology don’t represent the values of their intended users, their needs are not met. Working within a team that have similar beliefs, opinions and backgrounds, the products that we develop reinforce our biases and lead to a culture of polarity. We’re excluding whole audiences, leaving certain parts of the market completely untapped.
Objectively, this simply isn’t good business, and tech companies know this. Take Google for example. There are one billion people around the world who live with some form of a physical or developmental disability. This is a market share any project manager would get excited about, regardless of whether it fits within a social cause or not. Google acknowledged that their products were not fully meeting this market’s specific needs, and went about changing this. This is not only a good example of social inclusion, but of good business.
Tech London Advocates released a manifesto last month which included the statistic that diverse companies outperform non-diverse companies by 34%. This figure is most likely down to a few factors - better decision making due to diverse input at the ideation stage, better products that truly empathise with the needs of users and access to a market that lives between the polarities we have been creating by ignoring whole groups of users. These positive impacts are direct results of diversity in the workplace.
All things considered, it’s safe to say the value of the space between polarities is more than just significant - it’s crucial to the success of the tech industry and the impact it has on society.
At Bemo, we’ve come a long way and are proud of our team and their diverse backgrounds. But we aren’t perfect. We are still on the journey of discovering how best we can represent our users, our clients and our community. We see the incredibly exciting potential of existing in the space between polarities as much from a social perspective, a happier work place as well as business sense. We want to include as many voices as possible in the development of our products. With this in mind, we have created a new series on diversity in the workplace -
The Space Between.
This series has a purpose - to acknowledge intention, but encourage action. The tech sector is constantly discussing the importance and benefits of change but looking at the current landscape of our industry, it’s clear that the discussions, while well intentioned, are not leading to effective change. Our aim is to help companies act with implementable practices to bring that change about through several stages of action.
This series will present a roadmap to diversity and will be shared in four parts
The Roots of Diversity
Hiring for Diversity
Nurturing a Diverse Culture
The Impact of Diversity
When we surround ourselves with a team of diverse voices, access to a space that promises creativity, innovation and a positive, exciting work environment is inevitable. This gets us really excited, and we hope you join us on this journey too.