Issue #21

'e' is for 'everything'

"Each of us is the source of the problem ... and the solution."

I said that in a different time.

I said it days before the presidential election in front of an audience assembled at the State Theater in Portland, Maine. It felt, for a while, as if I had delivered the statement in an alternate reality.

In retrospect, there were signs that day of the post-election period to come. There were the high schoolers in the audience who raised their hands above their heads in silent protest, giving voice to the Black Lives Matter movement during a talk by the Portland Chief of Police. There was the palpable tension and sadness as speakers unflinchingly addressed the critically important but painful topics of teen suicide and sex trafficking. Even the theme of the gathering, "Dissonance", now seems foreshadowing.

Looking back on that day, I believe everyone in the theater was unified in a single thought, a question that has come to define this post-election period for me and many others across the political spectrum: "How did we get here, and how do we get out?"

Amy and I may not have been able to articulate this coming shift when we started creating "Design for Worldview" -- our experiential learning opportunity and invitation that marries unconscious bias and design thinking -- but we each felt it.

Amy felt it from the world of formal dialogue, equity and inclusion. I felt it from the world of media, design and journalism. Something was missing. We knew our worlds were failing to connect and that it was critical they do so sooner rather than later.

I knew that media and design professionals needed a way to learn about unconscious bias in a language that made sense to them and in a way that gave them practical and professionally relevant actions to take. Amy knew that, in order for unconscious bias awareness to take root in companies, executives and managers would need to hear about it within the context that made sense not only to them personally but also to their business. Given the high demand for both design thinking and unconscious bias learning opportunities, we knew we were on to something if we married the two. A braided rope is, after all, stronger than a single strand.

Now, the world has changed, and everyone -- not just business leaders, designers and media professionals -- want to know not what to think about identity, equity, inclusion, media and design, but what to do.

"Design for Worldview" was created to meet precisely that need. It is an invitation to not only think differently about bias and design, but to do differently as well. So, here are three actions we invite you to take:

We invite you to prime your bits. Find an image that counteracts a stereotype you hold (if you want to learn more about your unconscious or implicit bias, take the Implicit Association Test, and then find an image that counters your results). Make it the background of your phone for two weeks.

We invite you to identify your lenses.
You can do this today during a break or at work with a team member or at home with family and friends. Grab a partner and take a moment to list the ways in which you each see the world. Try to identify as many lenses as you can. Then, compare notes. See where there may be gaps or overlaps.

Finally, we invite you to be uncomfortable.
We are often encouraged to achieve comfort even as change, innovation and progress require discomfort. If we want to design products and experiences that advance us as a society and if we want to make more equitable and inclusive places for work and play, we must be uncomfortable. The comfort of the filter bubble and rooms and teams of like-minded individuals, the comfort of giving into our digital device addictions and not questioning search results that fill in answers for us (never mind they lead us to false and harmful conclusions) are what we must push against. We must break that bond with comfort, because we know the cost if we don’t, and the potential if we do.

This talk has a companion set of materials and a full workshop plan that we hope you will download and run with friends and family. It is meant to be built upon, so, as you find things that work better for you and your team or aspects that don't resonate, change it. It is made to be built upon. Amy and I are reworking it constantly as well.

In the end, we can do something. We all have bias, but we are also all naturally and extraordinarily creative. We are, indeed, the source of the problem and the solution. Now, let's get to work.

You can watch our full TEDxDirigo talk on YouTube. <<

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