Blog Q&A - Diversity is the New Superfood



For the third year in a row, CI&T is bringing together a day of interactive panels, networking & fun at SXSW. Come hear experts from the world’s leading brands on how they scale innovation to drive competitive differentiation.

As we approach SXSW, we will be sharing perspectives on innovation from our speakers so you can get a sneak peek into our panels.

In our upcoming panel, “Diversity is the New Superfood”, Kimmy Paluch, Founder and Managing Partner at Beta Boom, Sian Morson, CEO at Kollective Mobile, and Adriana Knackfuss, Group Digital Director – LATAM at Coca-Cola will discuss how companies with diverse forces are improving their market share and accelerating their ability to deliver innovative products and services. We’ll hear how they are outperforming the competition by building diverse teams beyond hiring based on gender or “culture fit”, while also exploring how they create a culture where diverse thinking and ideas can flourish. 

What do you feel are the greatest obstacles in building diverse teams?

Overcoming systemic cultural precedents in existing companies can often be the biggest hurdle to building diverse teams. Oftentimes, companies have been built without diversity in mind so it requires re-working existing processes and ways of thinking, which is hard but not impossible. Fostering diversity relies on building a culture that welcomes, listens to and responds to a diverse set of people and ideas. Management and persons responsible for hiring or assembling teams need to avoid the “checking the box” mentality and instead aim to create an environment that enables people with differing opinions and unique perspectives to speak up, and also be receptive to listening to others.
Kimmy Paluch, Founder and Managing Partner at Beta Boom

For me, the greatest obstacles in building diverse teams are so-called unconscious biases. Personally, I don't believe they are unconscious. To some degree, we all have them and know what they are. It is incumbent on us to recognize them and ensure that we address them.
Sian Morson, CEO at Kollective Mobile

In the hiring process:
Lack of tools and processes in place to reduce unconscious bias:“Technical barriers” like the lack of neutral language tools in most of the companies;
Hiring processes that are not “blind”, and show gender, educational institutes etc. early in the process
Lack of awareness from the managers that tend to hire the “mini-me’s”, meaning people that think and act like them. This seems to speed up the work in the short term, but it doesn’t build a stronger team in the mid and long term;
In the day-by-day work (when you do have a diverse team that needs to work together):
Lack of “openness” to unlearn how to operate the usual way and embrace diverse thinking and diverse backgrounds
Adriana Knackfuss, Group Digital Director – LATAM at Coca-Cola

How do you ensure a team structure that considers both inherent diversity (traits people are born with) and acquired diversity (traits people gain from experience)?

Building a strong foundation is the only way to ensure attracting and keeping diverse talent with both inherent and acquired diversity. The only way to build this foundation is to do so with purpose. Every decision counts: what are the titles offered to each person and how diverse are their traits and experiences they bring? How will the teams interact with other teams? Who is the final decision maker? Enabling people to feel comfortable with sharing their ideas, and being confident that they will be listened to is one of the cornerstone elements needed to build these diverse teams. This can be brought forward through process: how are meetings run and how do we ensure that ideas are gleaned from all voices and not just the loudest in the room? It can also be built through structure: what is the balance of inherent power and is it spread across a diverse set of thinking and backgrounds? 
In hiring, it is important to examine experiences that people bring and not just skills. I think the biggest thing to avoid is hiring for ‘culture fit’; it immediately excludes diversity of thought as you look for people who all think the same. I once heard one CEO describe 'hiring for potential' rather than skills or culture fit and I think this gets at it best. Examine how the person thinks and the range of experiences they may have with the motivation behind each, and the diversity you get will be wide. 
– Kimmy Paluch, Founder and Managing Partner at Beta Boom

I think that timely check-ins (1:1) and group conversations are key to ensure team structure is inclusive.
– Sian Morson, CEO at Kollective Mobile
From a mindset perspective: managers need to create an environment where diversity is seen as a competitive advantage, as a capability. They need also to create a safe environment, where different/new ideas are welcomed.
From a structural perspective: more and more, companies are evolving their structures to cross-functional teams working around consumers’ pain points. The ability to immerse and empathize with consumers is highly dependent on how diverse teams are. 
– Adriana Knackfuss, Group Digital Director – LATAM at Coca-Cola

How do you enable emotional diversity on teams and sustain an environment where many voices and perspectives can be heard?

Emotional diversity often requires training and consciously bringing it to the forefront. Providing an understanding environment needs to permeate from management down to the lowest role. I’ve been in organizations where the CEO shouted at and humiliated people in large conferences; that anger made a fearful organization and one in which people (and their emotions) were not as valued. We need to examine the way people speak to one another and ensure that support networks are there to facilitate/overcome challenges that may inevitably arise. If they go unchecked, they can build negative morale and unfriendly environments. 

Many things are built from the beginning, so for the founders out there, they need to be aware of their own emotional capacities and inefficiencies, and ensure that they round these out with the other leaders to create environments where all team members believe in the power of their own voice. It requires being responsive when people voice opinions in both public and private settings, and also perceptive to know when voices are being silenced in either of those settings.
– Kimmy Paluch, Founder and Managing Partner at Beta Boom

It's important to ensure that team members bring their whole selves to work and allow them different ways to express themselves. It's important to encourage various modes of expression, too.
–Sian Morson, CEO at Kollective Mobile

Managers need to create a safe environment, and it is their responsibility to set their team up for success. They need to be the role model in supporting different ideas and not tolerating bad behavior towards this topic.
In order for this to work, the company needs to value the individual’s behaviors as much as the tangible business deliverables (whats + hows).

The entire team needs to be aware of the difference between diversity and inclusion: diversity is inviting someone to a party. Inclusion is asking someone to dance. 
– Adriana Knackfuss, Group Digital Director – LATAM at Coca-Cola