3 Ways to avoid unconscious bias and achieve diversity in Design Leadership

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If you’re a Creative Director or Manager involved in hiring, there’s a good chance you’re being affected by unconscious bias.  

There’s a dire need for diversity in tech and it’s been a hot topic of conversation. When it comes to building design teams, we’re seeing the same hiring practices used over and over – a candidate is sourced from the ‘best’ design school, handed a case study, and required to whiteboard a solution. Their portfolio is reviewed, the candidate is tested and measured, and everyone ends up at a loss.  

Why? Because it’s a dated process that serves one kind of person – the kind who excels at interviewing. It’s of no service to managers, who ultimately need someone that can drive innovative thinking; and it completely underserves the candidate, who in more cases than not, is nothing like the hiring manager and simply aiming to please. It’s ineffective and reinforces unconscious bias (our natural tendency to categorize social worlds by beliefs and stereotypes that are outside our conscious awareness).  

Fortunately, there’s a way out. If you’re involved in hiring, you need to start paying attention. Do some serious self-reflection, evaluate your job descriptions and recruiters, and then take action to ensure you’re engaging in practices that support diversity and equality.  

Here are three tips to help you check yourself.  

1. Look far and wide 

Sometimes we miss what’s right under our nose, other times that close proximity keeps us from seeing a bigger picture. Your next great hire may be the perfect-on-paper candidate from the top-notch design school, or they may be the quiet intern with a mosaic of experience who’s been grinding tirelessly. Casting a wide net is the best way to capture candidates with lived experience and unique perspectives. The task of creating the leading products and services of tomorrow requires a fresh, varied approach.  

2. Ask for a narrative 

No two life stories are alike; however, one thing you’ll find to be consistent is the incredible stories you’ll discover from inviting someone to speak their truth. Allowing a candidate to share their personal narrative will uncover a deeper range of thought and perspective than simply having them answer standardized questions or perform rote tasks. It’s all about the story they choose to tell and the details that come up – pay attention to what surfaces. There’s a reason ‘the road not taken’ is synonymous with success.  

3. Think global 

It’s important to think about how your company’s work translates in a global context. In order to attract new markets and compete with the best, you need to have strategic leadership, diverse perspective and innovative solutions, formed by many different viewpoints. Much of this begins with the design team. It’s imperative to build and foster a culture of unique thinkers who aren’t afraid to be bold. Each person’s experiences are valuable to the progress and achievement of the collective whole.  

Keeping an open mind when it comes to design and management will enhance innovation and ensure your products resonate with a wide range of individuals. Globalization is uniting our world and the technology we create, impacts us all.  

What’s the most important thing you look for in a new hire?