Reimagine: Inclusive design is shaping the future

A huge part of reimagining a better future is designing and innovating solutions for diverse communities. But how, exactly, can you make sure that you do that?

As part of this year's Reimagine! Global Summit Designit was invited to host the Inclusive Innovation and Design Hour. Discussing what diversity and inclusion are and how you can combine them with innovation.

In a hurry? These were the three key takeaways.


To be more innovative, you have to be more diverse. In fact, being diverse at the outset of your ideation puts you in a better position to be inclusive at the point of your solution. But what, or whom do we even mean when we talk about diversity?

1. What is diversity and inclusion?

Many businesses and individuals are still at the start of the journey, so this question crops up a lot. Simply put, diversity is the who and the what: who's being invited for the party, who's sitting around the table, who's being recruited, who's being promoted. Who gets to bust a move on the dance floor, and who's the benchwarmer forever awaiting their chance. In other words, it's what traditional characteristics and identities of gender and ethnicity and sexual orientation that you're catering for in your company. Inclusion, on the other hand, is the how. It's the behaviours that welcome and embrace diversity. So, if you're a great leader for inclusion, you've figured out how to embrace and galvanise a diversity of voices and identities.

2. So, what does it mean to be inclusive in the context of innovation?

Let's take a moment to reflect on being inclusive. Being inclusive in the context of innovation is less about asking whether you agree that diversity is necessary or good and more about embracing the potential that your processes, organisational culture and outputs are exclusionary by default. Inclusion is also hard work, but you might have heard otherwise. In fact, creative industry professionals often talk about how diversity is a necessary part of their practice and somehow more 'natural'. But although adopting a pro-diversity stance might come easier to marketing and communications or design organisations—those who interact with users more tangibly—this stance can obscure some genuine challenges. It sells you the idea that beyond being good, diversity is easy. It's not.

3. How do you actually innovate inclusively?

Inclusive innovation is good for your business. It's a fact that executive teams with more than 30% women are more likely to outperform those with fewer or no women. It's also a fact that £2 billion is 'lost' every month by businesses and organisations only catering to traditional and outdated characteristics. But that's not the primary reason you should do it. Inclusive innovation saves and enables lives. It facilitates participation in the civic space allowing for all voices to shape our society. Without it, we would continue to live in an image of the world defined by the most powerful few. But with a topic so complex, politicised, and charged with historical power imbalances, there are no shortcuts. If you want to innovate inclusively, you have to do the work. This means applying a Do No Harm lens to every aspect of your work, from your team to the process, your interventions and your storytelling. Before embarking on an intervention, ask yourselves:

  • Have I made a commitment to include underrepresented groups as innovators, stakeholders, and end-users throughout the design process?
  • Have I Included individuals from underrepresented groups as users in processes like research, development, implementation and final review—and if not, why not.
  • Do we have a plan to measure the impact of actions on users and implement solutions to make them more inclusive?

If you answered 'no' to one or more of these questions and are unsure about how to resolve or proceed—we'd love to chat with you more. So reach out to us and join us at our LinkedIn Sustainability Community Network to continue the conversation.