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If everyone is different, different is not on the agenda… THE GREAT BRITISH DIVERSITY EXPERIMENT

June 03 2016

The #GBDE was founded in July 2015 with the ambition to prove that diversity leads to better solutions, experiences and ultimately a better world.

The design of the experiment was practical and brought together a diverse group of 140 participants who were divided into 20 teams, each supported by a mentor.

Experiments have traditionally been the domain of specialists and happen in controlled environments, generally break new ground and inevitably attract an amount of risk.

So when five leaders from within the creative industry decided to hack-diversity, the stakes were high.  We caught up with two of the founders at the launch of the experiment’s findings to ask what’s the problem with diversity in creative industry?

Not known for holding back her opinion or sugaring the delivery, (for which, we love her) Nadya Powell, MD of Sunshine, said: “The creative industries, agencies and their teams have a huge duty to society.  They are responsible for brand campaigns including adverts, posters, artwork and creativity which sets the mainstream agenda.  So how can agencies do this when they are all too often inhabited by a homogeneous group of people who look the same, have similar educational, social and personal backgrounds? They answer is they can’t, agencies need to take action and it starts at the top.”

The #GBDE was founded in July 2015 with the ambition to prove that diversity leads to better solutions, experiences and ultimately a better world.

The design of the experiment was practical and brought together a diverse group of 140 participants who were divided into 20 teams, each supported by a mentor.

The teams were briefed on a world changing challenge by Tesco – to solve food wastage in the home. Not much then!

The teams spent six weeks working with the support of their mentors to develop a solution to the problem.  During this period the teams were ethnographically studied by research partner Flamingo to examine what was different, difficult and advantageous when diversity is in action.

How do you stop everyone arguing?

We chatted with Laura Jordan-Bambach who talked about the challenges diversity brings to working in creative teams: “Rich, broad and diverse experience brings with it a challenge to consensus.  This was seen first-hand as it created friction around ideas and thinking.  All the teams had to work hard to overcome, or rather, embrace the differing views and opinions of their team members.  When this was achieved the outcomes and ideas were just better and much fresher.”

Concluding the session, Nadya Powell highlighted a manifesto for change – a set of practical steps for agencies to implement:

Change the creative process

Don’t fixate on speed and ease, embrace messiness and accept that cultural consensus can damage the creative process.  Let divergence, difference and merit win through.

Retrain your leaders

This is a leadership issue.  If leaders cannot provide ‘clear enablement’ they will not get the benefit of diversity.  We need action at the upper echelons of the industry to demonstrate clear intent.

Implement the Rooney rule

Bringing in diverse talent is not a CSR thing it is critical to business success.  Demand every new role has a diverse short list – the Rooney Rule.

Accept new tribes

You need teams of super heroes in order to compete.  It is not about tokenism. Diversity is one the things that makes Britain great.

Total diversity

More than 10m people in the UK identify as having limitation in daily activities due to physical and mental reasons, yet how many people from your company are from these communities? This is an issue that isn’t receiving the attention is deserves.  It’s time to start the debate and inspire change.

We want to thank the whole team for inviting us to be a part of the event and to hear the findings.  The experiment is a critical first step for the creative industries.  A huge amount of work now needs to be done to start to bring about change. 

Every agency needs to read and absorb the full report [www.thegreatbritishdiversityexperiment.com] – it’s then up to them how large or small a step change they are willing to make.

Huge congratulations to everyone involved in the experiment. We think you are amazing and have started something very inspiring.