Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne) www.gobblynne.com

Diversity in development teams is very important to achieve better solutions. Especially when we are dealing with innovation or open-ended projects. Merging different views from different perspectives is fundamental to avoid bias and improve decision-making.

But here goes one point. Multidisciplinarity is not the same as diversity. Putting up a group with one designer, one engineer, one programmer and one marine-biologist does not necessarily imply diversity. If they all come from similar backgrounds, with similar life-styles and ways of thinking, the team may not be able to widely explore options and engage in valuable discussions. Above all, there is the risk of not being able to relate on deeper levels with users’ contexts and be unable to generate empathy, just sympathy [1].

On the same note, a group of 5 designers can be very diverse, though not necessarily multidisciplinary. If we add women, asian, men, black, straight, LGBTQI+, white, people with disability and many other powerful combinations to the team, there arises diversity. This is particularly important if we are designing for such groups (and we should always consider all of them in our designs to promote inclusion). The solution has much to gain when we include people in our team who suffered similar hardships or experienced the problem we are tackling at first-hand, even if in different levels.

A diverse and inclusive team is more likely to create real empathy towards the group we are designing for, meaning that the chances of at least one person connecting on a deeper level to the problem increases a lot. We can’t be really empathetic if we don’t understand or relate to the users reasons through our own experiences. We can get familiar with the problem, be sympathetic, try to feel the way users do when facing a problem, but not experience in-depth empathy.

[1] this video was recommended by Renato Guimarães, Head of Software Engineering at PicPay, during a webinar on Leadership and Employee Experience promoted by the Service Design Network — Florianópolis Chapter

I work as an interdisciplinary Service/UX designer & manager specialized in service management for data-driven business and digital transformation.