Huddle 2018 - Content Hub

Always right? Stop- get close, create empathy & drive innovation

By MJ DePalma, Senior Global Multicultural & Inclusive Marketing Lead, Microsoft

 Having empathy and understanding diversity isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s critical to growth. And why wouldn’t it be? To not just communicate with any audience but to innovate for them, you need to understand how they are being excluded from an experience, product or service you might be providing the world. And the discovery of exclusions are rooted in empathizing. It’s critical to know how your message will be received by each recipient as well, and if it’s resonating. Ignoring your audience, making assumptions and not getting close to them to drive clear understanding of their needs is the death-knell of business growth. 

That’s why, at Microsoft, we place a strong emphasis on moving from the fixed mindset, being a “know-it-all” to a “learn-it-all”. We challenge you to look at the “road to success” with the greatest business impact as a road paved with failure and informed by a diverse set of input and perspectives. We celebrate failure, and if we’re not failing enough, we question if we are trying hard enough to get to the heart of the matter 

The key to innovating through empathy is found in the principles of Inclusive Design. It’s a critical concept for any company and is a methodology born out of digital environments, that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. The question is, how do you ensure you provide experiences that are open to everyone? That means going well beyond compliance standards, to understanding how all people interact with your business, products and services. Most importantly, this means including, learning, and getting close to people from a wide range of perspectives. 

This is particularly applicable to the one billion people on the planet who have disabilities in some form or other. Many of these people are unable to participate in aspects of society and the reasons are multifarious. Inclusive Design is about understanding the full extent of human diversity and building solutions to match their needs and expectations.  

Remember the old excuse that you can’t be all things to all people? Well, with technology, that’s changed. You can develop different experiences for different people but the key is designing for the edge of ability and in doing so you design for one but end up designing for all. The Inclusive Design approach provides a means of meeting the needs of all sections of society, providing a new opportunity for growth.  

At Microsoft the Inclusive Design approach has required a fundamental shift in thinking. Let’s be honest, many of us had the “know-it-all” fixed mindset. Today, we’re much more open; most of us have got on board with the “learn-it-all” mentality. It’s a startling transformation for any business, broadening horizons, exploring new markets and stepping up our contribution to society. It’s a journey we’re all on together striving to empower everyone with inclusivity and accessibility.