Include and seek input from people with a wide variety of backgrounds

Executive working on laptop

KenSci, an AI-powered platform, knew they couldn’t solve some of the world’s toughest healthcare challenges by themselves. Questions like who in the population might get sick and how to treat those patients across various healthcare providers. To power innovation, our partner built a diverse team of doctors, data scientists, and developers to create a solution that tackled the challenge from a variety of viewpoints.

KenSci’s platform can deliver predictive insights and return on investment (ROI) in 12 weeks, and better risk prediction and care provision for a variety of health conditions. KenSci is a great example of why one of Microsoft’s 10 inclusive behaviors is “Include and seek input from people with a wide variety of backgrounds.” We simply can’t get to the best outcome without including people who bring their own unique backgrounds to the challenge.

Often, personal experience and time pressures can lead us to believe we know it all and we can become too insular in our thinking. So we need to go out of our way to seek diverse perspectives from people who are different from us.

Research shows that diversity of thought is central to success. Teams made up of employees from different backgrounds, cultures, educational experiences, languages, and more, are more innovative than homogenous teams. The natural friction that comes from working with people different from us can be channeled positively. In fact, we’re likely to come better prepared to meetings when we know we are going to be among a diverse group of people.

So, how can we go out of our way to include and seek diverse perspectives in our work? Below are some actions we recommend.

  1. Take a critical look at the composition of your team. Which different backgrounds and perspectives does your team represent? Seek to answer these questions: does the diversity of my team reflect the diversity of the population we serve? When we make decisions, do many different people weigh in, or do we always go with the opinions of a select few? Gain clarity on where you are now and set goals for where you need to go next.
  2. Whose perspective isn’t represented? It’s important to question exactly which perspectives aren’t being considered in your decision-making. Naming them is an important step to resolving this challenge. When we’re working on tight deadlines it’s easy to let this slip, but without getting clarity on whose input you’re lacking, you won’t be able to make the necessary changes.
  3. Who would be most impacted by this outcome? It’s always easier to default to the views of the in-group; in fact, we often default to them even if they don’t always make the best decisions. To truly seek input from a wide variety of people, start your work by asking “who would be most impacted by the problems we need to solve?” If KenSci had built their platform only with one team of specialists – say data scientists – it may not have been as relatable to the healthcare providers most impacted by the services they provide. Who stands to benefit and lose the most from what you are trying to achieve? Are they represented in your decision-making?
  4. How can we expand our network to be more diverse? Once you name the perspectives missing from your team, be strategic and diligent in expanding your network. This means casting a wider net that you normally do when working on a project, especially reaching out beyond your traditional networks. Build-in critical touch points when team members from a variety of backgrounds have an opportunity to provide input.
  5. Avoid rushing to deadline without including and seeking input from people with a wide variety of backgrounds. Don’t mark a task as “complete” until it has input from a diverse set of individuals. It’s even better if you can build the feedback stage in as a necessary requirement to get the project to completion.