Five Diversity & Inclusion “Aha” Moments at Lenovo Accelerate

At Lenovo Accelerate, we took a break from pushing the frontiers of technology to examine the critical role diversity plays not only within an organization but also within the products and services we make. Five experts, including leaders from Microsoft, Intel and Lenovo, joined the panel. Check out these five bold takeaways from the 60-minute discussion that left an audience of 120 saying, “Aha.”

There is a major threat to your bottom line and brand if you fail to innovate with every type of customer in mind.

For Microsoft, this notion really hit home when designing game controllers. “It all started with the Xbox 360 controller, designers were trying to create something that would work for everybody. However, our definition of “everybody” was somebody that had two hands and two eyes, and we were not thinking about the bigger picture,” said Tom Blankenhorn, Senior Director of Channel Sales at Microsoft. “Then Microsoft went on a journey where we started to open our eyes and ears to what the community of gamers looked like and realized we were excluding people with limited mobility from being able to play the game. That’s where Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller comes in. When we all play, we all win.”

You cannot innovate with diversity in mind – without diverse minds.

To innovate with diversity in mind, you need to have diverse minds. “It is critical to have people with diverse backgrounds and experiences at the table when innovating a new product or service. Otherwise, months and months of work could be derailed simply by a factor someone did not think about,” explained Lily Zheng, consultant and author of “Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace.”

Building the diversity pipeline in STEM starts as early as 5 years old.

“Gender roles that we assign to little kids. Little girls are still playing with baby dolls and are still the ones that are teachers while little boys are still the ones playing with Lego sets. If you think about STEM, who is more likely to become an engineer in that scenario?” said Kristi Kirby Director of Endpoint Solutions from TechData.

“It starts with us to ensure early education is there, and we’re encouraging of gender roles that are inclusive of all people,” said Kirby.

Without diversity accountability, it’s just lip service.

It’s important to understand the need for diversity, but in order to drive change within an organization, it’s imperative to know the role you play. “Before I would tell companies that diversity lives with everyone, it is everyone’s responsibility to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. Companies agreed with that notion, but then I realized they made it accountable to no one and did nothing,” said Zheng. “Now I tell companies yes, it is everyone’s responsibility and in order to drive change, everyone needs to know the part their team and division plays into their company’s D&I strategy.”

Take a good, hard look at job descriptions.

“What I hear all the time is we are not getting the right applicants. Though it is good to recruit in different places, look at the job descriptions. They are probably written in ways that exclude 90 percent of the applicants you are looking to recruit,” said Kirby. “As people managers, we need to take more of an active role in the recruiting and not just rely on HR and recruiters.”

Watch the full panel below, and check out Lenovo’s full D&I report here.


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