J.E.D.I. mindtricks to build better products by Lisa Mo Wagner

Automatic Summary


With the impending release of the new Obi-Wan series, it feels like the perfect opportunity to delve into how Jedi mind tricks from this beloved universe can guide us towards building better products. While we won't be delving into the mystical, there's an important truth to be found in applying our interpretation of 'JEDI': Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

The JEDI Approach to Product Development

Let's first clarify the key components of our JEDI approach for building better products:

Diversity encapsulates all of our differences, which can either offer advantages or pose barriers to opportunities. Some distinctions are immediately noticeable, like race - but many other important aspects of diversity aren't as readily apparent.

Inclusion emphasizes fostering a sense of belonging by centering, valuing, and amplifying the voices, perspectives, and styles of those who typically encounter more barriers due to their identities.

Equity underscores allocating resources so everyone can access the same opportunities. Recognizing that advantages and barriers exist enables us to strive toward more equitable outcomes.

Justice revolves around dismantling barriers, paving the way for broader access to resources and opportunities.

Including a Diverse Range of Perspectives

Our consumer base brims with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. As such, it's pivotal we approach product development inclusively, ensuring our creations cater to this diversity. Even simple diversity awareness helps us better predict the potential impacts of our offerings.

The Dimensions of Diversity

Many dimensions of diversity that impact product success lie 'below the waterline of visibility.' This metaphor serves to highlight the diversity facets outside of the easily noticeable ones like gender, race, or ethnicity.

Overcoming Bias

In the world of tech, it's easy to slip into the mindset that we have extensive knowledge about our customers' needs. However, we need to remember one crucial point: "we're experts in technology, but our customers are experts in their own lives."

Several examples litter tech history where developers failed to design with their customers in mind. This lead to disastrous product launches that lacked inclusivity and displayed surprising bias.

Addressing Privilege

It's important to understand the privileges your team has and the perspectives that are missing. This understanding allows the team to actively seek out this missing input and ensure they're creating a more inclusive product. An excellent tool for navigating this process is the 'Privilege Canvas'.

But, inclusion doesn't stop at the brainstorming phase. We need to consider inclusivity and work on addressing bias throughout the product development lifecycle. The questions we continuously need to ask ourselves in this process could include:

- Will our product impact small local businesses?
- Who are we excluding with this product?
- What assumptions are we making?
- Can we compensate our interviewees better for their time?

Conclusion: The Force of Inclusion

The force of inclusion should not be an afterthought in product development - it has to be at the core. As product developers and managers, it should fall on us to make sure everyone is heard, considered, and catered to because everyone deserves a chance to live a full and dignified life - the ultimate goal of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion- truly a Jedi mind trick worth mastering.

Video Transcription

Thank you all for coming. My name is Lisa. I'm a product coach, um in Germany and I'm gonna talk to you about, um, Jedi mind tricks to build better products and what better time to talk about Star Wars related stuff.Um, now that Obiwan is coming out, um, but yeah, don't tell me anything about it because I, I, I'm just about to watch it. Um All right. So Jedi Mind Tricks sounds, you know, kind of mystical like an old order. But, um, it's actually an acronym and, um, let's see. So what it stands for is justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. And, um, these are a few things that you've probably heard of before, I would guess, um, since especially diversity and inclusion are being talked about quite a bit.

Um, so just to make sure that we're all on the same page, I wanna just very quickly, um, go through the, um, definitions that I use. So, you know what I refer to when I talk about these things. Um, let's go like from the, a bit in like a weird order, I guess. So let's start with diversity because most of us have heard this before. Um Diversity describes all of the differences um between us based on um which we might experience advantages or encounter barriers to opportunities. Um It's not just about racial differences, but we'll talk a little bit more about that in a second as well. Then we have inclusion which you've probably also heard about. Um which means something like fostering a sense of belonging by actually centering valuing and amplifying the voices and perspectives and styles of those who usually experience more barriers based on their identities.

Now, something that has been brought up more and more lately is equity, which basically means to allocate resources to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities. So um equity basically recognizes that advantages and barriers do exist like all the the ISMs um in, in our daily lives and then justice um that one might be kind of new to you in this, in this um kind of topic and area um means really dismantling barriers to resources and opportunities in society so that actually all individuals and communities can live a full and dignified life.

So it just takes it one step further, which I personally, I have been um into this topic for a long time. I have um had the opportunity to learn from some great people. Um and, and listen to people share their experiences in their daily lives. Um which kind of got me into thinking about. OK, so how can we can we do this in product, you know, because long term hiring a more diverse team is, is a great strategy. But most of us in product, um especially as product managers, we usually don't do the hiring part. Um And it's a more long term approach. So what, what are the things that we can do now? Right, because our goal as product managers is to build products that our customers love. And now chances are that your customer base is actually quite diverse. And while we don't want to build for just everyone, um we should be aware of the impact our products can have. And since we can't just hire a completely new team, I kind of want to give you some tools that you can start using straight away. Um, like right after this talk, basically, um in your Discover and Delivery, um to make it just overall more inclusive. All right. So, of course, I have all, all of the good Star Wars quotes in here. Um And I think one that is actually makes a lot of sense is something that Yoda said where he says DCU eyes can and the four is very different. Each of you is.

So, um that's actually quite true when we think of diversity. You know, we usually kind of the first thought is oh, gender, of course, men and women, especially in tech, we still have like women are still quite underrepresented. Not here today. Luckily, which is amazing. Um But overall, um then maybe we think about race um or ethnicity, skin color, those kinds of things um that are easy to see, right? Um And for me, for example, I'm, I'm a white woman. I have uh a, a university degree. So there's already a lot of privilege in there. Um And, and, but there are also things and dimensions that are not just easy to see. Um So it's always good to think about those as well. I hope you can kind of see, see this. It's not really important in particular what each of these say, but just know that there is something that um has been called the waterline of visibility. There's, there are lots of dimensions of diversity, diversity. Um These are just some examples and you can probably maybe kind of um challenge some of these, for example, gender, I feel like um especially non binary people, gender fluid people. Um for them, it might actually be something that's not easily visible if you're a cis woman or cis man, that might be something that's visible about you. But in other cases, it might not be, but generally just be aware that there are tons and tons of um differences.

So I um I'm German, I've worked in Canada. So something that is, is cultural that nobody could see. But that made me a bit more diverse in one way was um the way we communicate um especially when it is about, yeah, more, more direct and negative things like in Germany, you just like say them and that's it. But then in Canada you don't. So even cultural differences um kind of made it difficult sometimes just something to keep in mind. Um So now that we've kind of talked about like the baseline of diversity here and inclusion, let's talk about something else. Um Because a lot of the time we all think we know everything right. We're these like people in tech, we build fancy products. Um We design fancy products, code them um depending on your role. And it's very easy to think that we know what's up and what our customers need. And that means we're bringing a lot of bias and the more privilege we have, the more bias we usually bring. So um one thing to keep in mind is that we want to design with the people and not for them.

Um I've, I think it is from a book called Design Justice and I've heard it um at one of Teresa Tori's talks and something that she pointed out that just went like kind of was like mind blowing for me in that moment was, yeah, we're expert in technology, but our customers are actually experts in their own lives and it's so simple, right?

Um Like they know their own needs, they know their pain points and they know their own desires. It's it, it's so straightforward when you hear it but when you think about your day to day work, that might not be as straightforward, right? Like I, I've definitely done these things where I was like, no, I know what the users need because um one way to think about is also just like you're not your user, which is true in any case. Um But generally, you know, remember you, you know, the possibilities of technology but they know their lives or their business if you're in the B to B space. Um I mean, there are tons and tons of examples of uh moments when people did not design with the other people of mind. Um Yeah. Um maybe you remember that when, when um face id first came out on iphones, uh that some Chinese users claimed that their iphones um couldn't tell them apart. Not great. Um There was uh some faulty facial recognition um that got a black man arrested for a crime in Michigan that he did not commit.

Um There was a measuring, a blood measuring device that um I don't know you just like put it on your finger or something and it didn't work on black skin. Um fitbits and other wearables might not accurately track heart rates and people of color. That was something that happened. Um There used to be Facebook targeting that let people exclude Hispanic and Black people, et cetera. Um but not white people. And also it was um based on like likes and stuff like that, not something that someone had put upon themselves onto their profile. So it was an algorithm kind of making that part up. Um And it was used by credit comp like loan companies and universities and stuff to exclude certain people really not great. Like that was like intentionally, even some of the other ones were maybe unintentionally but still had a negative impact. Um But yeah, so there's tons and tons of examples of people just not thinking of the impact of their products and what they were building. Um So, you know, there are things that we can do within our teams that we work in right now that can at least help a little bit with this, right? As I said, hiring is not a short term plan and you can't just also fire everyone.

So what you gotta do is you must unlearn all you have learned, maybe not all of it, keep some of the stuff, but overall, um definitely rethink. Um and, and kind of be aware, I think that's, that's the most important first step. You wanna be aware of the privilege that you have within your team and also understand which um which perspectives you do not have yet so that you can try to seek them out actively. So I, I wanna show you a tool that some friends of mine um from an agency created quite a while ago um that I've found very, very helpful now, I wanna preface this with um you cannot ask all of these questions in, in like every country because sometimes there are um rules around that.

So, you know, check in with your legal team or like local regulations and those kinds of things before running a workshop like this. Um And uh yeah, but I wanna just like quickly show you the privilege canvas. That's what they called it. Um It's, it's a quick, I think one hour, 1.5 hours kind of exercise or workshop that you can be doing with your team that you work with. And I just wanna zoom in on one part of it. Um And my experience running this is that a lot of the time people are quite surprised about the dimensions of privilege that you point out here. Um And you can either do it openly so people can see like who put stickies where, which that's the one that can get a bit tricky. Um Depending on the loss and the country you're in. Um But you can also do it anonymously, which I've done before. Um And we then had just an open conversation about it afterwards and people said they were quite surprised because they only thought, well, being white and being a man might be privileged, um like you might be privileged um from those things, but there are other things in there like being addiction free.

Um You know, being able to eat good and healthy and there's a bunch of different dimensions here and ideas that kind of help us to take a step back and look at our own privilege. Um And I felt most of the time in this specific workshop that people did actually build up empathy for people that don't have the same privileges as they do. Um And less so have um kind of these fights where people are like, well, just because I'm privileged or you say I'm privileged doesn't mean like I've worked really hard for this. I don't know if you've ever um discuss privilege with a white sis man. Um But they tend to kind of feel like you're pointing a finger at them and you're saying you've had it easy all your life, which is absolutely not, this is not what I'm trying to say. It's just, you know, you being a man, make your life not even harder than it might have been and you being white makes my life, for example, um just not harder on that dimension because there are just experiences that I don't have and um privilege and with that advantages that I do have.

So um but yeah, it, it needs good facilitation if you do want to run something like this, but it really helps to just bring everything out into the open. And if you have a team that has um good communication and that is really like a team and people trust each other and their psychological safety. This can be so eye opening. All right. So, now I've really said a lot of things that you can't do exactly right now, but let's go into what you can do. Exactly. Right. Now, like you can run this workshop, that's like a really good way to get started. But even if you don't have the opportunity or the option to run this type of workshop or it might just not work in your team. Um You can just use it in your product building. So this is just very, very quickly, you know, we kind of do some sort of discovery work. Um We come up with a bunch of ideas if things go well, we have the chance to prototype and validate our ideas and we build something, we ship it and we learn from it, right? Like that's very roughly how product development works.

Um Different, different roles are more or less involved in different steps of this. Um But let's look at the things which steps can we actually kind of look at to see what we can do. And since I'm not a techie type person, I will not be talking about algorithms. Um Other very smart people can tell you more about bias and algorithms. Um We're gonna look more into the Discover ID and prototype parts. Um You know, your focus determines your reality. I'm telling you Star Wars is full of really good product quotes. Um All right? So you can just ask yourself a bunch of questions. Basically, that's, that's all I'm asking you to do. Um in short. So what can you do right now, you can evaluate which steps are not being inclusive in your product development, um cycle and take some time and think about the impact that your product might have on different dimensions, right? Um Maybe something like market research, will my product have an impact on small local businesses? Um or maybe is it for small local businesses? Make sure you include, let's say black owned or queer owned businesses, you know, have representation or think about, you know, who are you like actually talking to? And also it feels really uncomfortable but ask yourself, who am I excluding, right?

When you do user research, it's the same, you know, have wide representation in your interviewees. Um It might make recruiting a little bit harder and I know sometimes, especially like, for example, in A B to B space um getting interviews for your user research can be already kind of hard. Um But I guarantee you and I promise it's worth it to put in that extra effort also if you do, which I guess lately most of us haven't. But if you do in person um interviews are the facilities accessible for wheelchairs. For example, there's like lots and lots of small things um that you can think about. What about the compensation for interviews? Um That one gets overlooked quite a bit, but we're getting a lot of value from those interviews and it might make us millions in the long run. To be very honest. If we like work for a big company and whatnot is a $25 Amazon voucher really fair, maybe we can, you know, compensate them a bit better for their time. Um And also when, when you're creating personas, for example, do they represent the majority or, or maybe fall back on stereotypes even when you're coming up with ideas who's in the room and who are we listening to?

You know, um It's not always easy, but you can always kind of try to do a little bit better than you do right now, validating assumptions. Um I don't know if you know Marty Kagan. Um but he's been talking a lot about, you know, is something feasible, usable, viable and valuable, like valuable to whom also? Is it ethical? Maybe you wanna add that one too um For your for validating assumptions. Um Prototype testing again, is the prototype accessible? What about the contrast?

What about the language? Do people really have to like be able to read really well, all of those things, it's just something to think about. It doesn't mean you have to apply all of these every single time. Um But maybe start thinking about them. General accessibility, wheelchair accessibility of facilities. Um Contrast, do videos have closed captions um for people that are hard of hearing. What about people with dyslexia? Um Do you want your product to be exclusive? So it's like a luxury thing and scars and like IOS only or whatnot like that has an impact. Do you need internet access? All those things? So, um there's just a bunch of things that you can think about and um oh Marty Kagan, I, I can put it, I, I can even share um a link to the presentation later. It has references in the back as well. Um So these are all things you can just think about and um do it while you're working on your product, right? Because if it's just an afterthought, it feels like it's extra work and it's an extra burden and you don't want to be doing it. But if you kind of try to incorporate these like all the time, it gets easier and easier and at some point you, it, it might become second nature. So um that's it. Help me, Obiwan Kenobi, you're my only hope all of you are Obiwan Kenobi in this scenario.

Um It takes everyone to do a little bit so that we can actually make things better for everyone. So I'm really, really happy that you were here um with me and listened to me and um yeah, maybe you can use a thing or two that we've been talking about if you have any questions. Um Let me know. Um other than that, I think uh the time's up anyways. So yeah, also, um if you wanna know more, reach out to me on linkedin or Twitter, I'm Lisa A Wagner everywhere. So find me. Um If you'd like, thank you so, so much for your time.