Podcast 24: Inclusive by design series – inclusion is an attitude

Welcome to this week’s question of gamification.

This week I want to start a bit of a series around inclusion and design. In fact, I want to name it inclusive by design, because it’s scenario that we basically focus on quite a bit. And actually I as a woman in the gamification space specifically wanted to join the gamification space to make it more inclusive, because when I looked at the industry of gamification back in the mid 2000s, I saw a lot of young white men and the odd Asian man and they didn’t necessarily relate to me. They didn’t necessarily speak my language. And some of the designs that I saw also didn’t quite appeal to me. At first I said, “Oh, this is maybe just me personally. Maybe it’s just not my thing.” But then I asked around.

I also went looking for research and actually found that a lot of the time it was very one track focused, very much focused on their experience of life, their experience of the world and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not 100% inclusive because you’re only coming with one worldview. Just like if I design something just by myself, it would only have my own worldview in it. So that was not an indication of their masculinity or anything else.

But I also felt that we were missing a trick. And actually I was really quite passionate about it. We were missing a trick in a sense that gamification was becoming this big buzzword, especially in the corporate learning space, and it wasn’t actually working. And I could see clearly why because it wasn’t appealing. It was a lot of the time, very competitive. It was a lot of the time, very superficial. And I went, “No, there’s more to this.” I knew from my work up to that point where I had been using games, gamification and game elements for all sorts of things throughout change management, throughout leadership throughout training, I knew it worked and I said, “No, no, there has to be another way. There has to be a way that we can be inclusive by design, but we need to change our approach.” So basically I wanted to bring that voice and bring that perspective of let’s be inclusive by design.

Now, just recently I gave a keynote speech at an event, pretty much focused around people in the academic world. And I have to say I was personally challenged a little bit from a confidence perspective I think as well to say that, “Look, I’m not a scientist. I’m a field worker. I’m a practitioner. I work with my clients to the best of my ability.” I read a lot of research and I do my best to integrate what people find in it insofar that I can understand it because I also admit some of the scientific papers out there on games, gamification, diversity, inclusion, differences between age, culture, gender, abilities, some of them are seriously hard to make sense of if they’re written for scientific purposes. So anything I can read, I will and anything I can’t read, I will have to [inaudible 00:02:58] just purely out of practical reasons.

What occurred to me is that when we talk about inclusion and diversity or inclusion by design better, it is in fact a conscious action. It is first and foremost an attitude because we all have our preferences. We all have maybe things we get a bit fearful about that make us feel threatened. Just like the academics made me feel threatened like, “Oh gosh, what can I possibly offer? I’m merely a mere mortal living in the world of the corporate sector doing my business the best I can.” But you know what? I haven’t written a paper about it. I haven’t actually proven my theory left right and center. If somebody wants to take on my theory and prove it, absolutely love it. Do talk to me.

That bias in my head even was preventing me from delivering the best possible talk. So from an inclusive by design perspective, I also needed to make sure that I could not only engage to myself to the best of my ability, but also deliver something that was, I suppose, interesting enough for the group to take something away from. As a speaker, I always adapt my talks to the audience. Not everybody in our field does that. And I would be a little bit critical of that. I mean we’re not one track ponies or we shouldn’t be.

If you have a framework, great. But it’s like a hammer is not the solution to every single problem. And sometimes your framework is not 100% most fitting one. And maybe a mashup of two frameworks works better in situations. So being open to that and being open to more than one worldview is important.

Actually somebody that caught me messaging something on Twitter that made me reflect, “Yeah, you’re absolutely right.” One of the things he used was a hashtag, “It takes all kinds.” And thank you for that by the way. You know who you are. I actually said to myself, “Yeah, you’re intimidated by all the facts, figures, science.” Because I was listening to another keynote speaker at the conference and this man probably had great science, but I couldn’t make any sense of anything he said, nor his slides. I picked up maybe two or three words that I could relate to, but in an hour long session that’s not enough. And to be fair, when I looked around the room, most people had disconnected.

So if you want to be inclusive by design, it’s also about the language we use. It’s about the interaction we use with people. You won’t always get everybody along, but it should at least be an attempt to bring the majority along in an inclusive approach at least. If you want to be excluding and sit in your own little portal, that’s also fine. But that’s your choice then. But it’s not mine though.

In this series, what I want to do is focus on what are the elements of inclusion. How can we design for it? A bit of my thinking about it, some of my frameworks that I sort of work with. And then what practically can you do to encourage inclusion by design.

My first big topic that I want to broach on this is inclusion is actually first an attitude. People say, “Oh yeah, we’re all for diversity. We’re all for inclusion.” But does your behavior reflect the same thing? Does your behavior actually actively encourage that? Because there may be subtle ways in which you are not being equal, in which you’re not being accepting.

So to me, if you look at conversation … So at the same event I spoke about the topic of inclusion as part of my presentation. And somebody came up to me afterwards. One of the examples I gave was something we worked on where we used a female lead … a black colored middle manager and white colors workers, both male and female. Now, I probably hadn’t given the whole perspective and the whole picture, but the person came up to me and said, “Well look, actually by putting a female lead in that situation and then manipulating people to believe that there is actually a role model for them, they felt that that was very feminist and very wrong.”

Now, when I then explained the full picture, I said, “Well, actually you’re the player. You could be from any of those backgrounds. We wanted to be inclusive in the reality of that particular world there are female leaders, there are black middle managers, there are white middle managers, white male, white female. There were also white lead commanders. So there’s white leaders.”

In some ways we were trying to be as inclusive as possible. And during the testing phase we did get feedback from a variety of groups. And the feedback loops are ongoing, the research on that is ongoing so it’s not a concluded finished product or item. But I found it fascinating because it also reflected on their personal bias, their perspective. And I think when you’re trying to come to a level of acceptance … And I have to say anytime I speak about inclusion, even if I don’t focus on just gender, I’m called a feminist whether I like it or not, it’s one of those things.

But it did show to me that actually was the person really behaving with an open mind or were they just trying to prove their worldview. Was that actually the full picture that they got? Because once they did get the full picture, they did actually say, “Oh yeah, okay, that’s fine.” And if it was just purely an exercise … If for example, my example was an exercise in tokenism, just use a token woman, a token colored person, a token disabled person. If that was the case, then obviously we would be alienating people and it wouldn’t hit and feel right to the target audience. But you have got to start somewhere when you want to be inclusive in the real world. And inclusive will take time. And sometimes out of merit, you may not be able to pick a fully team with elements of all of these various segments of society. Sometimes they’re just not available to you.

So there are reality constraints in any given world, in any given job. But when you want to be inclusion, be mindful of your perspective, so your own bias, because we all have one. Me, just like the next person. And also focus on your actions as opposed to what you say. And then when you come and say something, be respectful and respectfully patient. Sometimes silence is golden. Even if you think that, “Gosh, this is a whole load of … I’m struggling with this,” maybe silence sometimes is the better option. And if you really don’t think it is the better option, be respectful of the person and approach it from the perspective of, ‘Well, actually maybe we all have something to contribute,” because I actually believe we do.

I can learn from everyone around and you know, I hope they can learn a little bit from me even if it’s just a little bit even if it’s just to realize, well actually what she does is not what I do. And that’s okay. You know, they don’t have to like me. I would love it if they did, but you know, at least getting them somewhere along the track is important. Actually in the presentation I gave, I was looking for some good graphics too to present to the audience and one that I came, around with a signpost of rattlesnakes and the signpost reads, rattlesnakes may be found in this area. Give them distance and respect. And sometimes that’s exactly how you need to be in order to not let your personal buyers get the better of you when you’re dealing with a situation that you may or may not 100% agree with.

So I think respect is something really important. We don’t know where the other person is coming from. We don’t know their picture. We have not walked in their shoes. So we shouldn’t really be judging because they may have very valid reasons for why they say what they said. Uh, why they are thinking that this is an important topic. I think, you know, in the backdrop of today’s, world politics, you know, this message really is so, so important. What are we afraid of too? You know, when something is different, what are we afraid of? And you know, I’m afraid of snakes. So that rattlesnake scenario is like, yeah, I will give them distance. I will also respect that they are dangerous. So therefore we and me and them are not going to go be whole jolly together. So, you know, that’s a, that’s a given.

But when it comes to exploring different cultures, exploring what different age groups are, like exploring what people and how people experience the world when they’re different to me that I am open to. And sometimes, you know, I will, I will admit I’m not perfect. I sometimes may get it wrong and I sometimes may get totted and make it told off. That may actually by my very question, you know, I have put my two feet in or something, you know, so, so it’s a, it’s a very difficult topic to get 100% right. I think it should be a, you know, from an attitude perspective, a continuous work in progress in, in our company we are trying to be as inclusive as possible and you know, which is why my first hire was a male to balance out, my femaleness. And then we also have someone that’s of Asian origin.

I’m from, a female Belgian origin. We also have a refugee and the team is also European. And you know, I’m actively looking to bring new people in and you know, ideally I would like to find a new team member that’s a lady for that very reason. Now, you know, that would create a 50, 50 splits, in our team. And you know, it would then sort of confirm that we’re trying to do inclusive by design. It is, however, also driven by merit. They need to be able to do what we need to do and what we need them for. So it’s not just about anyone, any old lady can go in and get job over a guy. No, it’s more a case of, you know, let’s find the best suitable person. But I do have a very specific idea about balancing gender in the company for optimum results because that’s also, proven that actually a, a 50, 50 split is better for productivity.

So, you know, for me, the starting point for everything to do around inclusion, is that inclusion is first and foremost an attitude. And the attitude comes through in, in your open-mindedness, in your actions, in your biases, in your respect for others, and your respectfulness of differences, in your patience, with different level of abilities, with different levels of, worldviews with, you know, your own patience around, you know, why do I not understand this? Why do I not get this? And you know, it also is an attitude and an exercise in self esteem because I think a lot of what we see on a world scale at this stage is people being fearful of people that are in any form or shape different. And you know, it’s different. And then there’s a power fight. Who’s better, who’s bigger, who knows more, who can do this the best.

And for a lot of people that’s really important. And then for quite a whole bunch of others on the other side, that’s so totally a contest that we don’t want to be part of. So, you know, let’s keep it real and sort of say, well, actually, if you want to be inclusive by design, we look at our attitudes internally first and then when you’re encountering the other attitudes, then you know, let’s work with that. Let’s look at it as feedback and see, is there maybe another way to get to the solution? Is there another way to get to your destination because I actually believe there’s more than one way to do everything. And Yeah, you know, and, and maybe in the science world, that’s exactly what you don’t want to hear because you want that one scientific black and white piece of proof, that it has to be a certain way.

And you know, in business we often have to work around and sort of make do with the constraints that we have. And I think in the academic world too, you know, they have smaller budgets and most of us, will never even dream of getting, you know, so keep it real. So my top five things to be mindful of are respect, patience, your open-mindedness, and your actions and looking for the full picture. So those are my top five attitude tips to get into the picture when you are trying to be inclusive by design. I hope you will enjoy these short snippets around inclusion by design. I will be developing more on the same theme and share with you what you can do, and how any gamification setting that’s important and how in a workplace setting. In fact we probably as a global workplace need to be super mindful of that because quite frankly a lot of our politicians are not doing it right now.

So we might as business people maybe need to set the tone and change the direction and maybe as citizens of our countries the same thing because it is one thing to see it happening and tolerating it. And often toleration and not taking any action or not even stepping into a situation is that silence approval or that silence i gnorance and you know, I’m not advocating everybody should go out on the street and you know, demonstrate on every single thing, but where have you in the last number of months or I think months is probably enough of a time frame. Have you tolerated exclusion? Where have you tolerated active disrespect to somebody that look different was maybe a different age, different gender, a different culture, a different ability? Have you laughed at them? Have you not said anything, but so that injustices were taking place? I mean, that to me is also an attitude. How tolerant are you of people not being treated as equals or human beings with the same right to exist as others? So yeah, it may be naive. It may be a dream. It may be Utopian that we could all include everyone all of the time. But I think if we don’t, as an attitude, strive to take action towards it, I think we could end up in a very scary place. So I hope you enjoy the question of gamification. Do like us and, leave your comments and I look forward to sharing the next session.



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