Consultant Özlem Yuce discusses the importance of team diversity when building products, and the impact of a non-diverse team on product development.
Wet Suits and Shirley Cards
Not so long ago the prevailing wisdom for developing products for women was to “pink it and shrink it”. Nowhere was this clearer than with wet suits. Designed to fit men like a glove, women were left with uncomfortable, ill-fitting garments that didn’t protect them the same way.
With Kodak’s skin tone colour reference cards, known as Shirley cards, the benchmark image was a white woman, so people of colour spent decades looking washed out in printed images. What’s worse, it wasn’t people of colour who changed this, it was Kodak’s commercial clients in the furniture and chocolate industries who wanted to improve the colour balance in product photographs.
These teams clearly lacked diversity, and this was reflected in their ability to create products that were truly ubiquitous, and they closed themselves off to whole markets as a result.
Three Ways to Improve Diversity in Your Team
Know Where you are
Take an honest, balanced look at where your organisation is today. You won’t be able to tackle the issue if you don’t know how far you have to go.
Build Diverse Teams
By doing this, you improve the quality and innovation of your products. Not only does this improve the internal representation of target markets, it has been proved that increased diversity within teams improves the team’s ability to solve complex problems.
Embed Diversity into Your Ways of Working
As product managers, we are leaders of our teams. When we design our product processes, we should create psychological safety to ensure diversity of thought is respected.