March 31, 2022

How can creativity help with improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion?

How can creativity help with improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion?

Business owners and decision makers are scratching their heads these days wondering if their problems can be solved in a better way; more cost efficient or more time efficient, less problematic and easier to manage. It is quite easy to suggest that an SME changes their IT systems, but there is little guarantee that all the people using that system will behave or perform as expected.

Aside from the adoption of new methods and systems, there is also the notion of recruiting differently so that the issues which stem from people, are handled at the source. For instance, if the organisation lacks digital and IT skills, they either want to recruit qualified people, or have a clear regimen for bringing them up to speed - the latter is extremely important.

We have long posed barriers to people by using the ‘qualification’ caveat: “You’re not qualified”. This is no longer an adequate justification. For example, self-taught professionals have an immense number of strengths in certain fields and the creative and tech worlds need these strengths more than ever due to the pace at which they are growing and changing.

Upskilling is a way forward to bridge the talent gap. People of any and diverse backgrounds should have a route in to creative and tech careers. By opening the doors without prejudice, diversity and inclusion can thrive. Organisations may have various and specific barriers (e.g. budget, logistics etc), but for the most part, SMEs are more than capable of selecting a training partner and ensuring that all staff are duly trained for their roles.

Dagile London offers short courses through online flexible learning and uniquely offer the support of a university lecturer for free, as the courses are funded by the European Social Fund.

If diversity is the mix of people, what is inclusion? Inclusion is about how people are made to feel. It is the culture of the workplace, such that it values everyone within it. It is to be considerate enough to realise that people, rightly or wrongly, face very different challenges. In the first instance, is support and education available for team members to simply learn and understand more about the problems?

People can be creative when they feel safe. Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work together to create working environments that are safe in every sense: Safe to be yourself, safe to not be judged, safe to be given space to learn and adapt, safe to explore your potential. It seems then, that we need EDI to support creativity. Can it be the other way around?

This is a challenging topic, and it has been driving me bananas as you will come to see…

Everyone can more or less agree, that diversity is one of the origins of creativity. People being different from one another, causes different ideas to come about i.e. variety breeds variety. That fact is clear as day in biology too. Consider how wild organic reproduction is stubbed by controlled agricultural breeding.

Whilst you may have your own visual representation of what diversity looks like to you, whether it be a beautiful garden, or a variety of people, I would like to share my visual for the absence of diversity:

Behold, the Cavendish subgroup of banana.

The entire Western world seems to eat one type of banana – a banana that cannot reproduce yet constitutes 99% of commercially sold bananas to developed countries. What is the problem? It has poor resistance to disease across the whole population. The disease will just spread and spread because the bananas are all clones.

Whilst we may appreciate the shape, colour and flavour for being consistent and predictable, this is obviously the opposite of having variety. Parasites and diseases have adapted to the Cavendish, and it takes a massive amount of pesticides to save crops.

Now after that vivid example, ask yourself if you ever knew that a seeded banana looks like this:

The seeded banana feels unwelcome in the Western World

I have a feeling that many of you did not know; this is a problem. You are unaware of the diversity amongst bananas. In fact, you are not even aware of a normal banana and instead are more accustomed to the abnormal seedless one, thus the seedless banana does not feel welcome in your company. You also made up your mind that bananas should not be different, that they should all be the same. This stagnant mindset is fine for your selective and personal diet but not fine when dealing with human beings.

What does diversity amongst people mean? I have already said it is a mix but why? It means that a workforce represents the communities in which it operates. The proportions of different people in the workforce should also somewhat represent the target customer base.

Imagine that there was an island of one race. Diversity is not about invading the island to balance out the races. Diversity is about fair and accurate representation. This is because it takes (a lot of) effort to ensure opportunities are accessible to all people. This is because not everyone’s challenges are fully understood or catered for, and there are remnant issues from historic events too. Essentially, we are starting from a point of disadvantage and we are looking for measures to counter balance a heavy skew. One of the ways we do this is to look at a community, and ensure everyone in that community has access to opportunities. This way, the abstinence from a job is a conscious decision rather than an unfair disservice from the recruitment (or other) process that fills that job.

Companies have started to set representation targets (e.g. 30% of new applicants must be women). This is where creativity really comes in. What new ways can we use to increase the dissemination of opportunities in a way that is inspiring and leads to accessible routes forward? How can we create progress for people who do not know that change can happen for them?

The challenging questions are precisely where creativity can help us most - to use divergent thinking and completely challenge normal recruitment practice. On-the-job qualifications and upskilling routes are paving the way for a new type of workforce: one that is highly adaptive and ready for anything.

One great practice I have observed is that corporate assessment centres are now giving a feedback report to candidates regardless of their performance. This is excellent because a person who is informed feels equipped and a person who is educated along the way can attain confidence in their next steps. Giving feedback is a massive burden and very time-intensive thus costly. That is where even more creativity helps. Organisations are investing in systems that make CSR and EDI initiatives easier to conceive, follow through on and monitor.

It is an integral part of the creative process to be very hungry for information. This hunger drives data initiatives. Dagile London has a Big Data course if you are curious about this area as well as a more traditional SQL and Databases course.

The protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 oblige employers to uphold fair treatment therefore inherently protect diversity. This safer environment is still not effective enough in helping disadvantaged people believe that things can change.

Diversity itself is quite broad. For example, neurodiversity refers to the various types of brains and chemical balances that modern science has come to recognise as being officially quite different. This different operation of minds leads to people having quite different default behaviours. We used to attribute most things to people’s personalities, but now we can see that predispositions can exist.

Some types of minds may be predisposed to having natural creative tendencies, whilst other minds would innately challenge those same tendencies. It has been found that dyslexia commonly leads people to exhibit above average creative and leadership capacity. This is not a causality debate but it is certainly a discussion about acceptance and encouragement – a celebration of differences.

Let us look at a set of established practical steps for driving diversity, and explore what a creative mindset can do for us.

1.     Hiring strategies should advertise more effectively to widen the scope of applicants they can receive.

2.     Conduct internal audits and provide diversity training.

3.     Make flexible working available.

Hiring strategies

It is not enough that you give yourself credit for trying. That is not creative enough because the creative process does not overlook failures so easily. Creativity demands that you find answers, therefore if something is not working, you should know about it just as much as what is working. Ensuring that enough data is coming back in to your strategy, means you can improve and adapt it to serve its purpose.

Internal audits and training

Audits help ensure that there is integrity behind the data that is collected over time. It is rather difficult to ensure that EDI training is leading to impact. Are people’s biases being removed and prejudices warded off? There are many typical human tendencies that are actually posing obstacles to EDI and we have to creatively combat them. We should not be looking to punish mistakes – rather, find a way to create lasting change because as said before, everyone has their own set of challenges that may be unique to them.

Flexible working

It is no doubt that flexible working immediately caters for various needs people may have. People tend to take better care of themselves if they have responsible autonomy, because we all respond more creatively if we have freedom of choice than if we are confined. Limitations can attack people’s resilience, turning already-limited convergent thinking into the absence of any critical thought whatsoever. Frankly speaking, how many of us genuinely get time to think and to think deeply?

Creativity can sometimes take time to reach fruition, where the chaos turns to calm and elusive truths become obvious realities. People need to evaluate themselves and their values, to really reach connectedness with the problems they want to solve. It is this type of self-activation that helps people speak their mind and collaborations can become greater than the sum of their participants.

Dagile London delivers many digital skills that are very conducive towards flexible working and even remote working careers. Many of our courses tackle organisation and collegial cultures that must be addressed in the modern workplace so that you as a learner, can feel equipped not only to deal with the digital world, but the real world too.

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