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If you want to be a leader when it comes to inclusivity, creativity, and diversity, take advantage of the collective wisdom of industry veterans. Game and tech industry leaders have provided 60 tips (which you can find below) and started a Leadership for Diversity website to further educate people about diversity. With the events of the past week in Silicon Valley, these tips are clearly timely.
Megan Gaiser, the former head of Nancy Drew gamemaker Her Interactive and principal of consulting firm Contagious Creativity, and other game industry leaders organized the tips as well as our panel, Bucking the Status Quo, at our recent GamesBeat Summit 2017 conference. The panel highlighted the things that company leaders can do to take advantage of diversity as a business opportunity, rid the workforce of unconscious bias, invest in leadership transformation, and inspire creativity.
Led by moderator Guy Bendov, the CEO of SideKick VR, our panelists included Gaiser; Rami Ismail, the cofounder of Vlambeer; Asra Rasheed, the executive producer at Disney; and Asi Burak, the CEO of Power Play and chairman of Games for Change.
The panel prompted Gaiser to circulate a document about the best tips for enabling diversity in tech and game companies. This diversity manifesto is the culmination of three years of research by Gaiser and an equally long collaboration with me to secure diverse speakers at our events. It represents the collective wisdom of 134 game and tech leaders.
To contact the group or sign the manifesto, send an email to LeadershipForDiversity@gmail.com or head over to this website. And if you want to be on a diversity news mailing list, with news about upcoming events, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us in Seattle on Monday, July 31 at the Casual Connect “United in Diversity” Pre-Conference. We’ll be hosting a workshop, a diversity panel, and more. I’ll be co-emcee of the event, which has been underwritten by Casual Connect’s Jessica Tams. I expect we’ll have a diversity session at our GamesBeat 2017 conference as well.
“This is collective intelligence at its best, and we want to keep this growing,” Gaiser said.
The document features contributions or support from the following games industry leaders: Jesse Schell, Brenda Romero, Tim Schafer, Jessica Tams, Phoenix Perry, Rami Ismail, Brenda Laurel, Ted Price, Nicole Lazzaro, Ellen Guon Beeman, Caryl Shaw, Dean Takahashi, Sande Chen, Serafina Pechan, Jason Della Rocca, Theresa Duringer, Katie Stone Perez, Ru Weerasuriya, Casey Rock, Elizabeth Sampat, Joseph Olin, Sheri Rubin, Ed Fries, Kate Edwards, Justin Berenbaum, Sheri Graner Ray, Charles Babb, Elizabeth Olson, Marco DeMiroz, Kimberly Unger, Drew Davidson, Elizabeth LaPensee, Gabriëlla Lürling, Chris Natsume, Brie Code, Guy Bendov, Jean Leggett, Jen MacLean, Rachel Sibley, Wanda Meloni, Juan Gril, Tara Brannigan, Scott Dodson, Laralyn McWilliams, Keith Nemitz, Robin Hunicke, Mark Terrano, Asra Rasheed, Kathie Flood, Martina Welkhoff, Adriana Moscatelli, Bridget Ellis Pegler, Blair Leggett, Deborah Todd, Kim McAuliffe, Jon-Paul Dyson, Shannon Symonds, Margaret Wallace, Krissie King, Terry Redfield, Maya Zuckerman, Peter Alau, Kat Gordon, Heidi McDonald, Mark C. Crowley, Evo Heyning, Judy Tyrer, Victoria Van Voorhis, Cat Wendt, Bob Wallace, Susan Gold, Celia Pearce, Stephanie Barish, Ellen Lyse Einarsen, Morgan Romine, Kathleen Sanders, Heidi Boisvert, Diane McClelland, Ed Lantz, Kate McCallum, Darrel Rhea, Paul Darvasi, Lola Peters, Monty Sharma, Amy Allison, Nicole Radziwil, Jason Asbahr, Carmen DeMint, Carrie Dieterle, Erin O’Brien, Sunshine Mugrabi, Leor Mugrabi, Ariella Lehrer, Lola Barreto, Connie Miller, Rebecca Ann Heineman, James Silvers, Allison Stieger, Douglas Hare, Leslie Pirritano, Tim Nixon, Zoe Hobson, Molly Proffitt, Al Meyers, Mike Sellers, Lenora Edwards, Dave Long, Gillian Smith, Adam Bruce, Deborah Rozman, Susan Weeks, Erin Reilly, Billy Joe Cain, Rita Turkowski, Laurent Michaud, Josie Nutter, Melissa Wadsworth, Isaac Barry, Vincent Carrella, Karen Morgan, E.C. Morgan, Runa Bouius, Jesse Call, Niamh Fitzgerald, Jason Preston, Jason Pace, Lola Peters, Amy Jo Kim, David Tunnah, Mandar Apte, Derrick Morton, Steve Broback, and Megan Gaiser.
Here are the manifesto and the diversity tips:
While we continue to see more and more bias incidents occurring in the gaming, VR, AR, investment, television, advertising, marketing, education, and film industries and whereas we recognize this as a systemic problem that has been recurring for decades, we strongly assert that we must finally address the root cause of this pervasive problem — our leadership.
We believe diversity is as much a moral imperative as it is a business opportunity. Since the quality of our leadership determines the design of everything, ongoing biases are the enemy of inclusivity, equity, diversity and inspired innovation.
We believe both unconscious and conscious bias are holding us back. Analytical thinking alone is no longer an option; people want to be part of a community, not a workforce. Traditional leadership has outlived its relevance. Combating biases requires challenging belief systems. Achieving true diversity requires a cultural reformation. It requires a vision of creativity and diversity embodied by and communicated by top-level management throughout the organization.
We are issuing this call to action to invest in a positive leadership transformation to fundamentally re-imagine how we do business. We must begin by leveraging our creativity, the most important skill of the 21st century and the most valuable leadership tool we can employ. We believe a new style of leadership is needed, focused on what’s possible for the greater good: for employees, for the products, and the customers they serve.
We must invest in leadership enhancement to embrace techniques to observe and leverage our thoughts, judgments, and emotions, instead of being ruled by them. A new understanding of “heart” that moves past just the philosophical, often soft characterization is advancing into a realization of the heart as a dynamic, connecting, creative intelligence. The ego emotions and mind can override the heart until we focus on the heart center and activation.
Whether you call it conscious, creative, servant, facilitative, or human-centered leadership, the basic tenets are the same. This style of leadership requires raising our awareness and using courage to lead in the moment to embody our best possible selves. It fosters curiosity and encourages kindness, courage, respect, trust, risk-taking, resourcefulness and playfulness.
Creativity knows no bounds of culture, creed, gender or race; it’s the mother of diversity because it requires an open heart and mind to genuinely welcome diverse people, perspectives, products, and services. Companies no longer need to be built to last. They need to be designed for change. We must combine our creative intelligence, supported by our analytical thinking, data-mining and business acumen to co-create inspired human experiences.
We believe we can establish a path to a future where all people feel safe to bring their entire selves to work to truly collaborate. Imagine making meaning and money, in that order. Imagine media, products, and entertainment that empower rather than addict, dumb-down and/or distract us. Imagine using the lens of all genders to create yet unrealized products, new market niches, and revenue streams waiting to be discovered. Imagine business models that balance the benefits and accountability to serve the interests of shareholders, boards, employees, and customers.
We believe the solution starts with each one of us making a conscious commitment to learning to lead with creative intelligence, (our knowing, innate wisdom) supported by analytical intelligence, (our thinking – rational mind). It is an antidote to bias and the path to a diverse, inclusive and equitable environment.
Imagine what we can achieve together if we say “no” to fear and “yes” to lead using our creative intelligence, a broadly inclusive perspective. We together have the potential to inspire each other when we commit to rejecting our fears to embrace the path of collective intelligence, the reward diversity brings.
Here are the 60 tips as well as links for further reading below.
Reimagine how to inspire people, products, and the audiences they serve
Diversity as a value
- “Diversity makes us strong.” We explicitly state this as a principle so that there is no ambiguity about the fact that we welcome diversity: diversity of ideas, diversity of talents, diversity of cultures, and diversity of backgrounds. Any organization that values diversity is wise to over-communicate this to team members, management, and partners. This way, you will always be forced to live up to your words.
- Diversity in the workplace is critical to any type of creative endeavor, but it can come in many flavors. An employee who is the first in their family to go to college brings something very special to the table and couldn’t be more different from most Ivy League graduates. The best teams include both kinds of experiences.
Setting strategy and goals
- Make leaders responsible for changing their behavior to genuinely welcome diverse people and perspectives by linking their performance assessment and compensation to the progress of diversity initiatives.
- Focus on making meaning and money in that order and encourage that mindset up and down the organization. One naturally follows the other. Create a diversity strategy and plan created with the participation and collective intelligence of the entire company.
- Create a set of quantitative and qualitative measurements of the impact of various aspects of diversity practices and creative approaches/initiatives.
Transforming human resources
- Transform the role of Human Resources (HR) to Human Inspiration Resources (HIR). The goal of HIR is to inspire employees versus solve “issues” on a daily basis.
- Redesign the recruiting process, job descriptions and hiring practices to attract qualified, diverse applicants for employment.
- Implement a blind box resume to view all applicants without preconceived notions.
- Strive not to always make it about gender and diversity. Model equity in leadership behavior and decision-making. Hire diversity (don’t forget age, geography, favorite style of games).
- Internships with the purpose of increasing diversity: It’s hard to hire candidates with the right skills, and most of them are white because white people are more likely to have the financial resources to study on their own to acquire the skills instead of worrying about bringing bread to the table every day. Make a point of keeping a percentage of your internships to be from low-income or no college experience. At the end of the day, you may be surprised by somebody’s effort vs. theory acquired in school.
- When hiring, do consider the applicants with 10 years’ experience. But seriously consider those diverse candidates with seven, who are passionate and have a proven record of achievement as forward thinkers, and who can step into a bigger role, be molded, and grow.
- Write inclusive job opening ads to attract a more diverse applicant pool. Research shows that men apply to any job they think looks cool while women read the ad closely to see if they fulfill all requirements — and will not apply if they don’t.
Changing organizational culture
- View the culture as a dynamic art form and a work in process. Request ideas from the entire company. Bring together a small and diverse group from within the studio to cultivate and implement these ideas on a regular basis to continually improve and enhance the company’s culture.
- Nurture and celebrate failure. If people feel worried about failing, they won’t take risks. But if they know that their organization actively encourages failure in order to learn from it and progress, then they will feel confident about taking risks. In this way, companies can nurture a culture of positive risk-taking that will in turn yield diverse products, services, collaborations, and more.
- Encourage team members to leave their ego at the door.
- Create an environment that encourages everyone in your team to challenge ideas and offer their own.
- Resist the gravity of homogeneous corporate culture, structure, and policy. There will be plenty of voices who will argue for streamlined, standardized policy and process. Be a voice that argues for allowances and exceptions. Do the extra work required to stop and make a mental check across each person in your team or organization when corporate events or initiatives are planned — “will this be embraced by everyone? Will it make anyone feel uncomfortable?” When in doubt, ask the person directly if it would. Use company social activities as opportunities to celebrate the cultures present in your organization.
- Provide a safe place for dialogue on diversity issues. Honest, open dialogue can be healthy for individuals and organizations but must be accommodated by safe, supportive environments for sensitive dialogue.
- Make it safe for team members to admit mistakes before the consequences of them are discovered. Reward their honesty and make it very clear that you have their back.
- Amplify each other’s contributions, making work a place of pride not competition.
- Make the discomfort facing new ideas and opinions a highly valued part of the creative process.
- Manage inclusion through inclusive and collaborative behaviors.
- Create regular rituals to connect and unite team members when tensions/issues/roadblocks arise in the culture.
- Help your employees become comfortable with the kind of cognitive dissonance that accompanies paradigm shifts so they can adapt to other viewpoints, even if it is only momentarily.
- Proactively cultivate shared experiences for the team that are not directly related to video games. For example, set up an art corner in the office for origami or jigsaw puzzles that the team can work on together during breaks. Set up monthly times when a team member can share a skill or teach their favorite game from childhood. Watch documentaries related to creativity in other fields. Explore ways for a diverse team to connect through shared experiences that do not rely on the preexisting homogeneous culture of gaming.
- Ask team members how they are doing on a regular basis and be interested in their reply. If they see that you care, they will open up about what might be bothering them — at home or at work.
Investing in training
- Invest in “Leadership Enhancement.” Guide all leaders to become ‘diverse’ thinkers — enhance their creative, emotional, and conversational intelligence to become non-linear and network thinkers, collaborators, co-creators and risk-takers, comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty to gain deeper insights, sustainable and innovative solutions.
- Teach listening skills. Discussions involve listening to multiple points of view where winning is generating new insights vs. arguing for a point.
- Regular mindfulness, creative leadership, and unconscious bias (UCB) training for all.
- Make time and opportunities to train the next generation of leaders at your hackathons, events, and conferences as well as in local schools, community centers, and camps. Start a summer camp or interactive media lab program with young talent that may not have access to expensive training programs. Leverage your resources to extend capacity for new makers and producers to join your workflow as they grow!
Personal growth and leadership
- Make an active effort to expand your personal relationships beyond those who share your socioeconomic, educational, and professional backgrounds.
- Be actively aware of what messages you are putting into the work that you do, not just in theme and content, but in the way you include people, ideas, and cultural references. Stand behind the messages you create and be sure they reflect your true beliefs.
- Hang out in the hallways and listen. You can pick up more subtle cues in the hallways than anywhere else in the company.
- Use interactions, conversations, and meetings as opportunities to become aware of UCB behaviors (yours and others). Openly acknowledge them when you see them in yourself and respectfully acknowledge them in others. Be curious in your interactions. Use humor.
- Live up to our own inner magic: Diversity equals embracing ourselves in every single aspect. Accept who we are in order to value every other being. “Be the change we would like to see in our world.” It starts with us as an individual, and that is what creates new behavioral patterns.
- Strive to be respectful toward each other, finding our similarities while respecting our differences.
- Tasks can be delegated, not responsibility.
- Make a habit to reinforce and credit the contribution of diverse talent to build their confidence.
- Seek expertise and perspectives from outside the confines of our industry.
How to support minorities and minority opinions
- Actively seek out those who are most marginalized with special attention to those who have mental and physical health challenges as they are most often overlooked by leaders.
- Encourage minority groups to support each other. It is important for people in minority groups to understand this, especially if they have succeeded, because that means that they need to lend a hand.
- Wherever you go, look for the talent in the room who is not being noticed because of the color of their hair, skin tone, age, or background. Ask them about their work! Notice when your colleagues may be speaking over someone because she is female, queer, or transgender and use your voice to redirect attention to those being ignored.
- When someone approaches the company with a concern about how it can better respond to or include marginalized people, don’t merely listen. Act. And do so without punishing the person who had the courage to talk with you about it.
- Be alert for hints that diverse employees are dealing with an event or interaction that makes them uncomfortable even if they don’t bring it to your attention directly. Don’t pry, but that’s the time for a reminder that you have an open door, that you can keep things confidential, and that you’re glad to help.
- Balance each specialty diversely (i.e., place women in engineering as well as marketing).
Structure and new initiatives
- Create cross-disciplinary pods within your studio to foster mentoring relationships.
- Create “Workforce Groups” and “Awareness Initiatives.”
- Establish an internal diversity committee. A company diversity committee can be instrumental in engaging employees to take an active role in diversity initiatives. The committee working with HIR can (1) plan diversity awareness events and activities, (2) disseminate diversity education information and materials, and (3) serve in an advisory capacity to senior leaders.
- Create a work-from-home program for specific positions which can be filled by stay-at-home parents. We have plenty of positions in game development that can be done remotely, and with the right project management, many tasks can be done by a group of partial-work parents.
- Don’t just have a mentor program, have a sponsor program. All those in leadership levels should have a portion of their time directed toward an internal sponsor program where their job is to help the employee(s) they are sponsoring achieve certain goals — get on high-profile projects, get promoted, etc. By linking how well their sponsor does to their pay/performance, they will actively work toward doing well and the person-sponsored benefits. It’s a great way to make sure underrepresented voices get a “seat at the table” while also passing down institutional knowledge, instilling good corporate culture, and creating great succession paths which just makes good business sense! In addition, it helps make sure those in leadership levels get a more hands-on look at what is going down at lower levels in the company and gives them access to seeing things from a new perspective, which only helps with decision-making.
- Don’t automatically assume, if you aren’t receiving any complaints, that your company has no issues with diversity. Chances are, there are marginalized people in your employ who see things that bother them but who are too afraid to speak up. Having a diversity council within the company is one way to address this.
- Rotate leadership roles in starting in meetings and small projects.
- People recognize and resent tokenism. Be aware of this and ready to back up your initiatives with more than lip service.
Marketing and design
- When studying the market landscape, focus not only on the competitive landscape but also on the cooperative landscape.
- Make curiosity a key part of everyone’s job to view the design (of everything) as a tool for serving humanity – to connect, unite, and inspire. Ask what can we all do differently to increase our product offerings, employee and customer satisfaction, identify new market opportunities, and change our practices and approaches to adapt to changing times.
- Being mindful of the diversity of your potential users during design makes for better products and services and reinforces to your team the value that each member brings.
Events and offsite activities
- For planning events, request anonymous feedback on what people want to do and what they do not want to do to ensure not setting someone up for something they’d be uncomfortable with (i.e., paintball for someone with PTSD around weapons).
- Diversity in offsite events: If the culture of video games is very male and white, it’s because people who invest a lot of time in games are playing games and not consuming other types of culture. Take your teams to the museum or to see a non-action, non-fantasy, non-sci-fi movie. Have everyone cook a foreign dish together. The more people are exposed to cultural elements beyond video games, the more they will appreciate diversity.
- When inviting people to an event, when putting together a panel, when recommending people for an advisory board, when soliciting authors for a book or journal, make the diversity question a standard question on your checklist. Am I demonstrating the diversity I want to see? Am I deliberately seeking out and representing a wide variety of voices?
- When planning team-building events, try to find activities that do not revolve around alcohol; this can immediately put women in an unsafe situation when they are outnumbered 11-to-1 by men, as well as inadvertently cause situations you don’t want to be liable for.
- Make sure to host social events outside of the office, enabling people to see each other in other arenas, and avoid the feeling of being at work.
21st-century leadership book and reading recommendations
- Presence, Peter Senge: Presence is not a typical business book. It is both a guide and a challenge to leaders to transform their institutions into powerful agents of change using our wisdom and creativity.
- “Switch On” – Nick Seneca Jankel – A ground-breaking fusion of the latest neuroscience, creativity and practical philosophy and tools for making transformation happen through the art of thriving in Leadership.
- “Insight Out” – Tina Seelig – As a leading expert on creativity, Seelig unlocks the pathway from imagination to implementation.
- “Creative Chaos” – Drew Davidson, Carnegie Melon University, professor, producer and player of entertainment technology and media.
- “Doughnut Economics” – Kate Raworth – The best emergent ideas—from ecological, behavioral, feminist, and institutional economics to complexity thinking and Earth-systems science—to address this question: How can we create economies that make us thrive.
- “Lead From The Heart” – Mark C Crowley – Mark directly refutes conventional thinking and proves that leading with a balance of both mind and heart has become essential to organizational success.
- “Thinking, Fast and Slow” – Daniel Kahneman – Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his pioneering work on decision making.
- “Power and Love” – Adam Kahane – This profound book offers us a wise way to negotiate our toughest group, community, and societal changes.
- “Making Meaning”: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences – Steve Killer, Nathan Shedroff and Darrel Rhea.
- “The UnDoing Project” – Michael Lewis – How a Nobel Prize–winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality.
- “HardWiring Happiness” – Rick Hanson, – The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence
- Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All – Tom Kelley, IDEO Partner, David Kelley, IDEO Founder
- The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization – Tom Kelley, Jonathan Littman
- The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Pencil Can Create Extraordinary Change – Adam Braun
- “Creativity Inc.” – Ed Catmull, co-founder Pixar – Achieving enormous success while holding fast to the highest artistic standards is a nice trick—and Pixar, with its creative leadership and persistent commitment to innovation, has pulled it off.
- “Predictably Irrational” – Dan Ariely – According to Ariely, our understanding of economics, now based on the assumption of a rational subject, should, in fact, be based on our systematic, unsurprising irrationality. Ariely argues that greater understanding of previously ignored or misunderstood forces (emotions, relativity and social norms) that influence our economic behavior brings a variety of opportunities for reexamining individual motivation and consumer choice, as well as economic and educational policy.
- “Enchantment“ – Guy Kawasaki – Kawasaki argues that in business and personal interactions, your goal is not merely to get what you want but to bring about a voluntary, enduring, and delightful change in other people.
- “Kingonomics” – Rodney Simpson – Kingonomics challenges individualistic and profit-focused business mentality in favor of collaboration, diversity and equal opportunity and explains why and how this approach can create abundant success for all.
- “Creativity” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Author of “Flow”.
- “Quantum Creativity” – Amit Goswami
- “Reinhabiting the Future – Co-Creating our Future” – 60 authors
- “Narrative Generation ” – Ann Badillo, Tim Donovan, Tobin Trevarthen
- “The Collective Journey” – Maya Zuckerman
- “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” Buckminster Fuller
- “Innovating Women” a collection of stories from women in tech
- “Exponential Organizations” by Salim Ismail to understand how to empower deeper engagement, social collaboration, community play and experimentation to grow healthier disruptive endeavors
- “Leaders Eat Last” – Simon Sinek focuses on why some teams gel and others fall apart. “Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort–even their own survival–for the good of those in their care.”
· The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t – Robert I. Sutton, Business Plus
- “Redesigning Leadership” – John Maeda discovers that the best way for a leader to leverage the collective power of a team is to reveal their own humanity.
21st-century leadership and mindfulness recommendations on YouTube
- The Surprising Neuroscience of Unconscious Bias and Gender Inequality: Janet Crawford
- Pope Francis Gave a TED Talk and Asked Tech Companies to Do Better
- Insaei – The Power of Intuition documentary
- The Sexy Lie – Ted Talk: Carolyn Heldman, Ph.D. How objectification of women is equally damaging to both men and women
- Diversity is Normal: Lisa Stone
- GDC MicroTalks: Playing With Our Hearts, Brie Code
- Creative Advice to Leaders: Cindy Gallop and more
- Deep Blissful Meditation: Thich Nhat Hanh
- Women At Work: A Guide for Men: Joanne Lipman (audio interview), chief content officer of Gannet and the first female deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal
What it takes to be a Great Leader, Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action: Roselinde Torres
- “Collaboration for Inclusive Games”: Elizabeth LaPensée
- Women in Leadership: “Why do ambitious women have flat heads?” Dame Stephanie Shirley
- ‘Soundtrack’ 21th Century Leadership for Diversity: Skin Deep, Buddy Guy
- Strategy, Leadership and the Soul: Jennifer Sertl, Koby Huberman
- Neurodiversity as a competitive Advantage: Robert Austin, Gary Pisano