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A lot of executives say they believe in diversity and creativity, but they don’t always know how to promote it inside their companies. At our GamesBeat 2016 conference, a panel of game industry veterans talked about how creativity can foster diversity, and vice versa.
The panel included Megan Gaiser, co-CEO of Spiral Media Ltd. and principal at Contagious Creativity. For many years, Gaiser ran Her Interactive, the maker of Nancy Drew video games, which sold more than 9 million copies over time.
Also speaking was Ru Weerasuriya, creative director at Ready At Dawn Studios, maker of The Order: 1886, Daxter, and God of War: Chains of Olympus. Weerasuriya’s 100-person studio recently took a left turn and came up with the zany De-Formers title, an expression of creativity that emerged from a small team.
And the panel included Michael Condrey, cofounder of Sledgehammer Games, a 300-person studio (owned by Activision) that created Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Condrey is in a position to create a more diverse staff at his studio, and he has done so, as 40 percent of the staff is diverse. The panel was moderated by Nicole Lazzaro, CEO of XEO Design, a creator of a wide range of games from The Sims to the VR game Follow the White Rabbit.
They came up with a bunch of best practices for how top management can implement a vision of creativity and diversity throughout an organization. Gaiser said that diversity is more than a moral imperative; it is a business opportunity. Diversity must become integrated as an organizational priority.
Here are the ideas the panel came up with to inspire employees, products, and the audiences they serve:
1. 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.
2. Highlight diversity on website, public channels.
3. Create player personas (diversity here too).
4. Balance each specialty diversely (i.e. place women in engineering as well as marketing).
5. Teach listening skills. Discussions involve listening to multiple points of view where winning is generating new insights vs. arguing for a point together a small and diverse group from within the studio to cultivate and grow your company’s culture.
6. 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.
7. Create cross-disciplinary pods within your studio to foster mentoring relationships.
8. Implement a blind box resume to view all applicants without preconceived notions.
9. Encourage team members to leave their ego at the door.
10. Model diversity in your leadership style.
11. Create an environment that encourages everyone in your team to challenge ideas and offer their own.
12. Create hiring and recruitment targets.
13. Seek expertise and perspectives from outside the confines of our industry.
14. Create “Workforce Groups” and “Awareness Initiatives.”
15. Rotate leadership roles starting in meetings and small projects.
16. Create a diversity strategy and plan created with the participation and collective intelligence of the entire company.
17. Invest in “Leadership Enhancement.” Guide leaders to enhance their creative and emotional intelligence to become non-linear and network thinkers, collaborators and risk takers, comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty to gain deeper insights.
18. 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.
19. Redesign the recruiting process, job descriptions and hiring practices to attract qualified, diverse applicants for employment.
20. Create a set of quantitative and qualitative measurements of the impact of various aspects of diversity practices and creative approaches/initiatives.
21. 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.
22. Seek expertise and perspectives from outside the confines the industry.
23. Frequent and regular mindfulness, creative leadership and unconscious bias (UCB) training for all.
24. 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.
25. Manage inclusion through inclusive and collaborative behaviors.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. Hire diversity (don’t forget age, geography, favorite style of games).
29. Make a habit to reinforce and credit the contribution of diverse talent to build their confidence.
30. Make the discomfort facing new ideas and opinions a highly valued part of the creative process.
31. Regularly hold player tests and recruit diversity here too. Let developers talk to people they’d never meet otherwise. Hear their stories. Eat pizza together. Even play games together.
32. Create regular rituals to connect and unite team members when tensions/issues/roadblocks arise in the culture. Examples:
Step 1: Flip the tension into a question. For example: “How might we design a ritual that amplifies collaboration to solve this together?”
Step 2: Brainstorm different ways to answer the question.
Step 3: Reflect on ways to improve the situation.
Step 4: Try and test other ideas to gain knowledge.
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