Diversity by Design: Embedding Inclusivity in Products and Solutions

Bridgett Rogers, Senior Customer Experience & Ops Manager, Lenovo

Traditionally, diversity and inclusion (D&I) for most businesses has revolved around the workforce and is led by human resources. D&I initiatives often focused on recruitment and development of diverse talent, but as societies have developed, so too has D&I’s role in a company. Now it’s also about developing an inclusive organizational culture where people of all genders, races and ethnicities, abilities, orientations, and beliefs can succeed. More importantly, it’s about brand purpose: living those values so genuinely that it’s evident in the products and services your company provides.

The technology industry is rapidly evolving with advanced capabilities like 5G, big data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As those technologies continue to embed themselves further into our day-to-day lives, the need for greater focus on inclusion in our solutions grows.

Consider for a moment the array of devices you use every day. Have you ever scanned your fingerprint or used facial recognition to unlock your mobile phone or PC?  Have you ever used audio to send or receive text messages while you’re on-the-go, or asked a voice-activated assistant to turn on your lights, search for an article, or play a song? For that technology to work, the science behind it must account for many different accents, hand sizes, facial structures, skin tones, and more. The great wealth of biometric data required to deliver universal user experiences behind these “smart” innovations relies on companies like Lenovo to design with diversity in mind.

Someone sitting in the backseat of car using the Lenovo Yoga 5G laptop. Screen shows a live video conference.

Diverse teams have always lent themselves to more creativity, versatility, and innovation within businesses, particularly where user experience comes into play.

Lenovo has a history of considering accessibility in our products, particularly for visually impaired PC users. For example, owners of a ThinkPad will recognize raised lines on the “F” and “J” keys that help tactically orient users to the proper finger alignment on the keyboard. There are also considerations for the grouping of function keys into segments of four keys at a time for easier navigation, and ThinkPad’s signature TrackPoint button that promotes better tactile support for the use of a mouse.

But Lenovo leaders wanted to expand their thinking beyond the physical form of a PC and account for diversity more broadly within our software, smart devices, data, and mobile solutions.

That’s where Lenovo’s Product Diversity Office (PDO) comes in.

Diversity by design

Earlier this year, Lenovo began developing its PDO as the authority on embedding D&I into our product design and development process. We collaborated with the product development teams in the PC and Smart Devices business unit and the diversity and inclusion office to create the PDO’s “Diversity by Design” process. It ensures diverse teams are represented in both the product planning and execution phases. Additionally, the PDO consultants with a broad range of diverse users to validate designs and provide feedback from engaging employees through partnerships with employee resource groups and diversity partners like Lenovo’s accessibility and inclusion advisor, Haben Girma.

“Establishing an office like the PDO is a natural direction for us,” says Yolanda Lee Conyers, Lenovo’s Chief Diversity Officer and President of the Lenovo Foundation. “In driving forward our corporate vision of providing smarter technology for all, we have to be sure that ‘for all’ piece is coming through our actions loud and clear, and that means really investigating the ways in which a diverse set of users might experience technologies differently, and accounting for that in our designs.”

Currently in its incubation stage, the PDO is exploring concepts of design review, audit, incident management, and innovation programs through 2021. Quarterly pilots offer a deeper look into the portfolio of emerging products and services from each of Lenovo’s four key product areas: software, commercial and consumer devices, the data center, and Motorola mobile devices. By separating the concepts and product pilots into four phases, the PDO team can learn as they go and amend the process where needed before applying to all products developed company-wide.

Lenovo Voice is the first product to complete the PDO process and recently entered the market as a “diversity approved” solution this year.  Lenovo Voice offers real-time translation assistance, subtitle assistance, voice input, and voice assistant capabilities, making the PC more intelligent, convenient and efficient. Lenovo Voice comes as a pre-loaded feature in Lenovo’s X1 Fold, available now to consumers. Additionally, Lenovo Voice will soon become available for download in the Microsoft app store.

The Product Diversity Office represents an intentional move toward greater inclusivity in our solutions – but you don’t have to establish a dedicated organization to begin advocating for diversity and inclusion in your area.

Anyone can start the process of evaluating their solutions by being more aware of how bias works, and how to identify and address it. It’s not exclusive to the design and engineering fields – this also applies to organizations like HR, Sales, and Marketing, who create programs, messaging, and tools for a large audience of users and customers.  As you think about the goods, products, or services you deliver, question how it’s received or used by people of different genders, races, abilities, and orientations – don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.

To learn more about Lenovo’s Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, visit this page and be on the lookout for a new D&I report publishing later in December.

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