“Fail Fast, Fail Often.” This is THE mantra of Silicon Valley and is the force behind many of today’s greatest innovations in technology. As a new business owner myself, I am a firm believer in this notion, for without failure there will never be innovation. And now, more than ever, is the time when diversity and inclusion are in need of innovation. Offering niche, scalable, culture-centric solutions aimed at permanently closing the diverse talent gap, my goal is to disrupt the traditional consulting space. Someday I hope to be out of business because that would in turn mean that our workplaces have finally evolved to be the diverse and inclusive ones I have been fighting for my entire career.
On the flip side of this mantra, however, is the glaring fact that Silicon Valley is currently home to one of the most homogeneous workforces in the country. In fact, while 2050 predictions speak to an overall increase in diversity, San Francisco itself is predicted to become less diverse. This prediction makes logical sense based on the current state of the economy in the area, which is becoming more and more exclusive to the echelons of society, who also happen to be less diverse. However, philosophically this prediction just doesn’t sit right with me. It begets the question of how one can live in the birthplace of innovation, but yet be headed backwards in time to a society of homogeneity. My solution-oriented self then turns this question around to a challenge: How can we, as a community of D&I professionals, advocates and champions, help turn this prediction around? My response is this:
If we are going to turn this prediction around, we first must identify the root cause of the issue.
Economics and public policy all play into the root cause for why San Francisco is outpricing itself. The uneven playing field of opportunities is yet another contributing factor. However, there is one additional factor that I think has yet to be unpacked and that is this mantra of failing fast and failing often. While it stands true for every entrepreneur and start-up across Silicon Valley, it seems to also be holding back progress in diversity recruiting efforts, which is visible every day as one walks around the city.
As someone who has worked in and outside tech in D&I roles, I have experienced the Silicon Valley mantra in companies of various sizes and felt its impact in trying to move forward large-scale diversity and inclusion efforts. What I have seen is that failing fast and often works really well with technology, but it does not work so well with people programs, especially those involving the sensitive and delicate work of diversity and inclusion. Again, there is no perfect way to solve today’s diverse talent dilemma. It’s complicated and it’s going to take time to see a change in the numbers. However, throwing lots of quick solutions at this challenge is also not a great way to approach a matter that deeply affects and impacts people’s hearts, souls and lives inside and outside the workplace. This type of work requires some warranted reflection, which takes time, and thoughtful implementation and buy-in of initiatives from employees at every level. Sounds painstakingly slow, right? Well, it definitely does take time. And, thankfully, there is already a plethora of research, best practices, think tanks and experts who can help get this work off the ground and going more quickly.
Thus, in the spirit of innovation and disruption, I propose that tech approach its diversity and inclusion efforts with a modified motto: Fail Fastidiously. This new motto takes into account the need to approach this work in a more delicate and careful way, for it truly is the only corporate work that has years of history rooted in civil rights, and the lack thereof them, in our communities and our workplaces. This work is therefore extremely personal, raw and sensitive, and needs to be approached appropriately. After all, this work is more than just about changing numbers. It is about changing history. It is about providing equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of their race, sex, religion or other dimension of difference. This is why this work requires a different approach.
What I am asking may seem contrary to every belief in the sector. However, is it truly so contrarian? If tech seeks to essentially disrupt the world by creating new technologies, then what better way to further support this notion than by approaching this work in a way that disrupts the current model? I firmly believe that tech, of all the industries, is the one best situated to innovate and lead the way to progress in this space. It has the resources and the brainpower to do so creatively and passionately. I have seen and felt this enthusiasm in the workplaces. I have felt it in meeting rooms. It is now time to see these sentiments carried through by thoughtful action and much needed results. So, let’s work together to approach this work with the speed and fastidiousness needed to make long lasting progress. I’m ready for some disruption. Are you?