R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Let’s game the way to more diverse, inclusive and productive teams

Image by Guillame Flament from Flickr with thanks
Man shrugging

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is not enough.

If you are not making an effort to ensure your team is inclusive and diverse, you’re costing your company money. Simple.

Games and simulations are a great way to achieve diversity & inclusion (D&I) in corporations. And to increase ROI along the way.

Is respect enough? Recently I was confronted with that question, and I could not (did not want to) answer it on the stop -partially due to the fact that I was on my third glass of wine. But also, just like the pigs, in the pigs and chicken fable, I’m too committed to this subject to argue it rationally with someone who was just involved.

I appreciate that without background that questions doesn’t really say much, so let me put it this way: “Is respect for members of minorities enough to ensure multicultural and diverse teams deliver kick-ass products and solutions?”

My gut instinct told me no. respect is simply not enough. And so I did some research: Diverse and inclusive (D&I) companies (made of D&I leaders and teams), outperform their non-D&I counterparts by 25% according to McKinsey; and by 24% according to PMI. In other words, D&I has a high ROI.

Although, as I’m sure you have experienced yourself, achieving and sustaining D&I is not a task for the faint-hearted. As a matter of fact, according to the two organisations mentioned above, to become a D&I organisation requires bold actions.

Brain diagram

And what can be bolder than building D&I right at the core of your company’s learning and development strategy and delivering this via games and simulations? For instance, at Play Learn Develop we created a framework that turns leadership training into role playing simulations.

Biases affect us all, they highly influence our decision making. Yet, we all believe this is not happening to us (one of such biases). Working with your teams, providing them with a safe environment where mistakes equal learning opportunities, showing them how biases affect their decision making, sharing best practices, and having a debriefing and retrospective session, are some of the key elements of this framework.

Wizard of RiskWizard of the scopeWizard of the budgetwizard of time
Sample of playing cards used in the training game: Thinking Hats. Characters were carefully created to represent various ethnicities and cultures. Gender balance was also considered in the design process –The wizard of risk is represented as gender neutral.

Games and simulations can influence leaders’ and decision-makers’ minds. This in turn translates into D&I policies and strategies that shape teams’ performance and increase the company’s ROI. But we all deserve good games. In the Learning and Development Transformation Ecosystem, games and simulations (Active Learning) are also implemented in a bottom-up fashion.

Toolbox for creativity

The Toolbox 4 Creativity guides participants of the training to create their own games. The learning outcome vary depending on the ‘burning’ business-issue the organisation is dealing with at the time of implementation. Yet, game-design, and diversity are constant themes of this learning activity. Let me try to explain this further with a quote I find extremely inspirational:

“… a child who can consider the perspective of someone with a disability or someone with non-binary gender identity may be able to innovate new products, approaches and services that are more inclusive of all segments of society” (WEF).

Now imagine this. Your leadership team takes various training and development courses and games on the subject of D&I. This impacts policy, strategy and hiring practices. Team leaders and managers also take these courses and learn how to maximise the potential of their newly diverse and inclusive teams. These teams now create products with features and characteristics that up until now had been ignored. These products can be sold to larger demographics and geographies. Revenue increases. All thanks to well-designed D&I Games.

Going back to the tough question at the start of this article, is respect enough? Now I have to reconsider my answer. If we are talking about respect (with small ‘r’), the answer is still no. People who consider that simply not insulting a member of a minority is enough will not become productive members of a multicultural team -at best they will complete the tasks they are assigned to and pray for 5pm. But even for people who think this way, games and D&I training can help. The following quote from Rainia L. Washington (vice president of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Lockheed Martin) summarises my point:

“We’re not trying to change people’s beliefs—but we are trying to change behavior, so that when they walk through the doors our people know how we expect them to behave.”

On the other hand, if we are talking about Respect (with capital ‘R’), then I believe we are on the ideal track to ensuring your organisation is made of kick-ass, multicultural and diverse teams, that will deliver innovative products that will help your organisation survive, and thrive in, the uncertain future.

I’ll leave you with one more quote by Rainia L. Washington:

“Our values to do what’s right, respect others, and perform with excellence guide everything we do. Respecting others means creating an environment where our employees feel welcomed and encouraged to bring their whole selves to work.”

Thanks for reading. And don’t forget, let’s game our way to a better, more diverse & inclusive future.

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Learning Game Developer at Play Learn Develop
Erik Agudelo is based in Krakow and Dublin and is the Founder of Play Learn Develop, where he creates serious games for training and development in the areas of 21st century skills, project management, risk management and leadership. He is also an author, conference speaker (PMIEMEA 2019) and a volunteer lecturer. (University of Economics Krakow). He was a finalist at the 2019 ICOBLG conference for his serious game development.
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