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The Strong Link Between Diversity and Innovation: Insights from Salesforce and TBWA/Worldwide

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“I’m looking forward to a future where we don’t have to have a diversity conversation anymore. Where we are doing it because it just is.” — Lola Banjo, Strategy Innovation Executive, Salesforce

Platforms are transforming to better acknowledge real-life demographics of users across traditional and social platforms. Fifty percent of the US population under 35  are people of color and 50% of the global population are women, after all.

How can we get more action from conversations about diversifying platforms and invite more users to become part of the creative process?

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Doug Melville, Chief Diversity Officer of TBWA\Worldwide in North America, sat down with Lola Banjo, Strategy Innovation Executive at Salesforce, during #SMWNYC to talk about the opportunities for women and people of color within a creative and digital space, among other topics.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation.

Diversity is a business imperative

While Melville’s role within diversity at TBWA\Worldwide is significant, he himself began the discussion by saying it is key that a diversity officer not always be in charge of the matter, rather turn to people who know about innovation, like Banjo, to look past an established “recipe” for diversity issues.

“People that are not in the diversity role, talking about diversity is so important because you recognize that it’s not because they’re doing their job. It’s because it is important. Diversity is a business imperative. It’s something that is going to drive real, meaningful change in our world, but it’s also driving real business results,” Banjo agreed.

The message of diversity has to be owned by a given organization or brand and “embedded in the DNA,” Banjo said.

Banjo inclusively went beyond the sentiment of variety and included research that can attest to the importance of diversity within a business, citing that companies which are gender diverse are 15% more likely to outperform. Companies that are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to outperform. It is an undeniable win-win for all.

Innovation without inclusion fails its consumers

When testing for an audience, Banjo says she strives to find a person that is very different from herself, or her team.

“[We] dig into how we can solve for this persona that’s different,” she said, adding that it could be a middle-aged disabled woman who could most benefit from a given product if it is designed with her in mind.

Need a bigger example?

Banjo talked about a research study out of the University of Virginia which showed that women were more likely to be injured in car accidents because the crash-test dummies that product designers used were shaped as males. “I think the statistic was around 71% chance of [women] being moderately injured in an accident,” she said.

Opportunity through diverse thinking

Any medium of communication serves as a voice and is a way to connect with others, Banjo reminded people. But consumers are the ones who pick what thought patterns or conversations they want to be a part of.

Within social media, for instance, consumers can more quickly voice their takes or concerns to a company as opposed to before, when they needed to utilize snail mail or find a way to phone the headquarters.

“You can go on Twitter connect directly with a brand, you can connect with the people that are influencing that thought at the organization. It’s forcing companies to think differently as well, to think about the fact that if they do something unnecessarily wrong, it can travel through social media within a day,” she said.

Thus, the focus on diversity can make or break a brand, quickly.

Diversity just is

Banjo’s goal is to emphasize that brand and product design should not be limited to itself, but should instead consider how it will design a better world. Yet, ultimately, she hopes there will be no need for an extensive talk on diversity.

“I’m looking forward to a future where we don’t have to have a diversity conversation anymore. Where we are doing it because it just is,” she said, versus having to strategize on how to include different people.

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