Friday, May 29, 2015

High Touch through High Tech--Creating Unity Through Technology

High Tech and High Touch—Creating Unity Through Technology
By Daniel Guillory, CEO, Innovations International

Dr. William Guillory had an idea about 10 years ago.   Many times people talk about how institutions need to change to create a society where each person, with all of the differences they bring, can truly be a part of the mainstream.   However, that can seem like a challenging prospect to anyone.  The question Dr. Guillory asked was how each individual person can impact the world around them and create an environment of inclusion in their home, in their community, and at work.  That is something that is reachable and attainable for each and every one of us.   But he also asked one other question—if a number of us did chose to do this, could it have some larger effect….bigger than any one of us as individuals could have?

As a former scientist, naturally the first place he looked was...the world of….disease?   Yes…disease—plague, pestilence—those items that have quickly and efficiently created deadly situations for living creatures.    And what he realized as he learned was how different diseases moved virally.   At the same time, social networking via the internet was in its early stages.  Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Myspace were all in their infancy, but he observed that many of the principles of how news and information spread seemed similar.   As a scientist, he continued with his inquiry…the next question he asked was whether those some principles could be applied to the idea of inclusion?  Could we create a more inclusive society for people with these same principles, where people that are different have an opportunity to participate in the mainstream?

Any scientist tests out his theory in the laboratory.   In this case, the laboratory for Dr. Guillory was a large automobile manufacturer.   If we can make this work in a company, then we can hopefully make this work in the world.   Everyone in the organization was exposed to the idea that by doing small actions in behalf of the people that we see and interact with most often at work, we can change the environment.  Saying thank you to someone who you haven’t before, going to speak with someone in person instead of sending an email, inviting someone new to lunch, helping someone to learn a software program, or choosing to mentor a new employee—these small acts began to have a ripple effect in the organization and truly transformed the working environment.

However, just doing something “nice” for someone doesn’t ensure transformation of a relationship or collectively a culture, from exclusion to inclusion. The essential ingredient involves authenticity with no expectation in return. Adding this ingredient creates the potential for transformation in the quality of relationship; one small increment at a time. When practiced as a natural behavioral pattern, over time, the result is a collective distribution of inclusive relationships throughout a family, an organization, a society, or a planet of people.

The question at this point is “How do we begin to touch thousands or even millions of people?”  That is where we believe technology offers us the answer.   In spite of traditional barriers—race, gender, class, education, economic status—almost all adults have smartphones or information technology….in fact most say that they cannot see living without either or both.   Since they are such an important a part of our lives, technology is our entry point.

Our goal is to create a free mobile application where you can enter the 5 or 6 individuals closest to you.  And for each person, you can choose 1 or 2 small acts of inclusion or appreciation© for each of them.   The mobile app will remind you to do the act on a regular basis, and as you complete each of the actions, you will be acknowledged.  The more actions you complete, the more you will see your own tree of influence start to grow. As each of us are reminded and motivated to do this more, it becomes contagious (or viral) and influences those around us to do the same. 

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Using Technology to Disrupt Diversity and Inclusion

To me, technology offers a great opportunity to disrupt diversity & inclusion in so many different ways.  At its core, diversity and inclusion are about the willingness to experience personal growth and personal transformation.   Technology, with its ability to speed up my exposure to people, information and interactions has the capacity to change the life cycle on this process.

Think of the role that social media played in the Arab spring, or even something like the ice bucket challenge, and think of ways that we can increase the exposure that we have to divergent people, ideas, and perspectives.  

Now because we increasingly control what we consume, and because the internet is designed increasingly to cater to our preferences, there is a danger that we could become more narrow.   So many people that I know on Facebook share pictures of vacations, personal events , and milestones....but so many of them are with people who are from their same demographics in terms of race, class, education, etc.   What if we used the tools of the internet to show us perspectives and opinions different from our own?   I know I really enjoy the Daily Show, but to maintain some knowledge of other people's thinking, shouldn't I on occasion watch Fox News, Al-Jazeera, TV5Monde, Univision and others?   

For technology to speed the process and help us iterate diversity & inclusion, we must make certain that use it in a away that achieves that...not to make our experiences more narrow.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

True collaboration for advanced creativity and innovation with divergent groups is not easy--it is a challenge

True collaboration is like any long term has its ups and downs and moments of real tensions.   Tech companies now who are using creativity and innovation as part of their business case for diversity and inclusion are certainly using what is the life's blood of most Silicon Valley enterprises.  But that does not mean it is easy, and may involve more than people expect.

Because there will be disagreements of principle (sometimes severe disagreements) when bringing together divergent viewpoints , I am a big believer that a foundation of trust is vital to keeping people together through difficult times.   My business partner and I sometimes have significant differences of opinion....but I think what keeps us together is that there is a trust that we both have that we both feel strongly about something that is best for our organization.  We truly have our best interests in mind.

So many tech companies are now actively recruiting many more diverse people into their workforces.  As this happens, they will need to understand that:

1)  Once that number of people reach a critical mass, it will impact the culture of the organization--it is impossible to stay the same.  This may be a tough one to accept for founders, because the culture (which they have established in tech companies) is a large part of their success.

2)  To create trust drive high level creativity and innovation, people must trust the organization.  The foundation of this trust is inclusion--and environment where I can achieve both personal and professional success, no matter who I am .

3)  Collaboration and next level creativity and innovation will require a transformational personal growth process.  They both require to invalidate long held beliefs in order to advance to the new stage.

It is so exciting--with tech's embracing of rapid change, there is a real opportunity to be innovative not only with apps and the internet, but also with inclusion, creativity and collaboration.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Diversity in Tech--Continued

The recent emphasis of technology companies on filling the pipeline with more diverse engineering candidates has been laudable.   I hope at the same time that the development process for these new candidates is also designed to teach them critical thinking skills.  Although computer engineers are all valued, most technology companies want people who can also be high level strategic thinkers and can pivot quickly. Coding itself is a commoditized skill.  And the need to fill the void of engineers feels very similar to the need that the North had for blue collar workers after the Civil War.  However, as we saw in that example,  even though many people of color were put on assembly lines, they were never made a part of the permanent power structure.   To truly create an inclusive environment in tech, it will require a change in how the actual power structure is composed in technology companies (Board level, C Suite), and a focused, sustained effort on creating an inclusion.  

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Diversity in Tech..Only addressing step one

It has been great to see the attention that tech companies are paying to diversity and inclusion. I am sure that the motivation is one part altruistic (it is the "right thing to do") and one part realistic (the enormous need for more engineering talent).  Both motivations will be important for the success of the initiatives.

However, the vast majority of energy and effort that organizations are expending is on developing the pipeline and recruitment.  The next part is to some extent even harder, and that is creating an inclusive organizational culture.  Most tech companies hold their culture dear to their hearts, and will do anything to maintain it--they equate it with their success.

However, if organizations are going to significantly change their composition, the culture will need to grow and transform with that.  Companies are made of people, and often , people resist change.   These changes , however will be needed to ensure that the money spent on developing the pipeline isn't simply about becoming the best graduate school to recruit from, but creating a long term sustainable culture of inclusion.

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