Below is a living, collective document and a repository of 21st Century Leadership ideas, best practices, and mindfulness exercises

   contributed by thought-leaders across industries to inspire diversity, inclusivity, creativity, and equity.

Diversity as a Value

  1. "Diversity makes us strong." We explicitly state this as a principle so that there is no ambiguity about the fact that we welcome diversity: diversity of ideas, diversity of talents, diversity of cultures, and diversity of backgrounds. Any organization that values diversity is wise to over-communicate this to team members, management, and partners. This way, you will always be forced to live up to your words.

  2. Diversity in the workplace is critical to any type of creative endeavor, but it can come in many flavors. An employee who is the first in their family to go to college brings something very special to the table, and couldn’t be more different from most Ivy League graduates. The best teams include both kinds of experiences.

  3. Diversity is good for business. Numerous studies have demonstrated that companies that practice diversity as a value are more successful by all business metrics.

  4. Diversity is not a checklist. Diversity is not a process. Diversity is a natural outcome of of justice. Focusing on bias ignores the fact that the reward for holding on to sexism and racism is a concentration of power. Without a discussion of power, there can be no change in the status quo.

  5. Actions speak louder than words. It’s not enough to just say you’re diverse, or even have a written diversity policy. To truly function as a value, diversity must be integrated into everything you do.

  6. Diversity is the hidden catalyst for innovation. Just by honoring its potential, we create a space for our projects and our people to thrive.

Setting Strategy and Goals

  1. Make leaders responsible for changing their behavior to genuinely welcome diverse people and perspectives by linking their performance assessment and compensation to the progress of diversity initiatives. Better yet, put diverse people and diverse thinkers (linear and nonlinear) in leadership roles.

  2. Focus on making meaning and money in that order and encourage that mindset up and down the organization. One naturally follows the other.

  3. Create a diversity strategy and plan created with the participation and collective intelligence of the entire company.

  4. Create a set of quantitative and qualitative measurements of the impact of various aspects of diversity practices and creative approaches/initiatives.

HR

  1. Transform the role of Human Resources (HR) to Human Inspiration Resources (HIR). The goal of HIR is to inspire employees versus solve ‘issues’ on a daily basis.

  2. Redesign the recruiting process, job descriptions and hiring practices to attract qualified, diverse applicants for employment. Accommodate neurodiversity by providing alternatives to the traditional face-to-face interview and extra time for responses.

  3. Implement a blind box resume to view all applicants without preconceived notions.

  4. The composition of interview panels should also be diverse.

  5. Consider alternatives to traditional interview methods (such as whiteboarding for engineers) that are less biased toward more aggressive personalities. Interview tasks should resemble actual work that will be done on a daily basis for the role, creating the feel of a contextual discussion between colleagues rather than the usual firing squad sort of experience.

  6. Strive not to always make it about gender and diversity. Model equity in leadership behavior and decision-making. Hire diversity (don’t forget age, geography, favorite style of games).

  7. Internships with the purpose of increasing diversity: It's hard to hire candidates with the right skills, and most of them are white because white people are more likely to have the financial resources to study on their own to acquire the skills instead of worrying about bringing bread to the table every day. Make a point of keeping a percentage of your internships to be from low income or no college experience. At the end of the day, you may be surprised by somebody's effort vs theory acquired in school.

  8. When hiring, *do* consider the applicants with ten years' experience; but also, seriously consider those diverse candidates with seven, who are passionate and have a proven record of achievement as forward-thinkers, and who can step into a bigger role, be molded and grow. Also consider experience laterally in a related industry.

  9. Write inclusive job opening ads to attract a more diverse applicant pool. Research shows that men apply to any job they think looks cool, while women read the ad closely to see if they fulfill all requirements - and will not apply if they don’t.  

  10. Conduct exit interviews so you can also understand the reasons diverse talent is exiting your company.

Organizational Culture

  1. View the culture as a dynamic art form and a work in process. Request ideas from the entire company. Bring together a small and diverse group from within the studio to cultivate and implement these ideas on a regular basis to continually improve and enhance the company’s culture.

  2. Nurture and celebrate failure. If people feel worried about failing, they won’t take risks. But if they know that their organization actively encourages failure in order to learn from it and progress, then they will feel confident about taking risks. In this way, companies can nurture a culture of positive risk-taking, that will, in turn, yield diverse products, services, collaborations and more.

  3. Encourage team members to leave their egos at the door. Avoid a culture of one-upmanship.

  4. Create an environment that encourages everyone in your team to challenge ideas, and offer their own.

  5. Resist the gravity of homogeneous corporate culture, structure, and policy. There will be plenty of voices who will argue for streamlined, standardized policy and process. Be a voice that argues for allowances and exceptions. Do the extra work required to stop and make a mental check across each person in your team or organization when corporate events or initiatives are planned--"will this be embraced by everyone? Will it make anyone feel uncomfortable?" When in doubt, ask the person directly if it would. Use company social activities as opportunities to celebrate the cultures present in your organization.

  6. Provide a safe place for dialogue on diversity issues. Honest, open dialogue can be healthy for individuals and organizations but must be accommodated by safe, supportive environments, for sensitive dialogue.

  7. Make it safe for team members to admit mistakes before the consequences of them are discovered. Reward their honesty and make it very clear that you have their back.

  8. Amplify each other's contributions, making work a place of pride not competition.

  9. Make the discomfort facing new ideas and opinions a highly valued part of the creative process.

  10. Manage inclusion through inclusive and collaborative behaviors.

  11. Be aware of what disciplines are valued over others, such as programming over art, and what the implications are in terms of diversity.  

  12. Create regular rituals to connect and unite team members when tensions/issues/roadblocks arise in the culture.

  13. Help your employees become comfortable with the kind of cognitive dissonance that accompanies paradigm shifts so they can adapt to other viewpoints, even if it is only momentarily.

  14. Proactively cultivate shared experiences for the team that are not directly related to video games. For example, set up an art corner in the office for origami or jigsaw puzzles that the team can work on together during breaks. Set up monthly times when a team member can share a skill or teach their favorite game from childhood. Watch documentaries related to creativity in other fields. Explore ways for a diverse team to connect through shared experiences that do not rely on the preexisting homogeneous culture of gaming.

  15. Ask team members how they are doing on a regular basis, and be interested in their reply. If they see that you care, they will open up about what might be bothering them - at home or at work.

  16. Place diverse people in leadership roles; many inclusiveness issues resolve themselves when leadership is inclusive.

  17. Provide opportunities for relationship building that do not require intense interpersonal contact or prolonged exposure to environments that are highly stimulating to the senses so that neurodiverse team members can be included.   

Training

  1. Invest in “Leadership Enhancement.” Guide all leaders to become ‘diverse’ thinkers - enhance their creative, emotional and conversational intelligence to become non-linear and network thinkers, collaborators, co-creators and risk takers, comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty to gain deeper insights, sustainable and innovative solutions. Nurture people of diverse backgrounds into leadership roles.

  2. Teach listening skills. Discussions involve listening to multiple points of view where winning is generating new insights vs. arguing for a point.

  3. Regular mindfulness, creative leadership and unconscious bias (UCB) training for all.

  4. Make sure employees are aware of and trained in your diversity policy, and are aware of consequences of poor behavior, or mechanisms for resolution.

  5. Make time and opportunities to train the next generation of leaders at your hackathons, events and conferences, as well as in local schools, community centers and camps. Start a summer camp or interactive media lab program with young talent that may not have access to expensive training programs. Leverage your resources to extend capacity for new makers and producers to join your workflow as they grow!

  6. Provide alternatives for training and credentialing that accommodate multiple learning styles.

Structure and New Initiatives

  1. Create cross-disciplinary pods within your studio to foster mentoring relationships.

  2. Create “Workforce Groups” and “Awareness Initiatives.”

  3. Establish an internal diversity committee that includes diverse members. A company diversity committee can be instrumental in engaging employees to take an active role in diversity initiatives. The committee working with HIR can (1) plan diversity awareness events and activities, (2) disseminate diversity education information and materials, and (3) serve in an advisory capacity to senior leaders.

  4. Create a work from home program for specific positions which can be filled by stay-at-home parents. We have plenty of positions in game development that can be done remotely, and with the right project management, many tasks can be done by a group of partial work parents.

  5. Don't just have a mentor program, have a sponsor program. All those in leadership levels should have a portion of their time directed towards an internal sponsor program where their job is to help the employee(s) they are sponsoring achieve certain goals - get on high profile projects, get promoted, etc. By linking how well their sponsee does to their pay/performance, they will actively work towards doing well and the person sponsored benefits. It's a great way to make sure underrepresented voices get a 'seat at the table' while also passing down institutional knowledge, instilling good corporate culture, and creating great succession paths which just makes good business sense! In addition, it helps make sure those in leadership levels get a more hands-on look at what is going down at lower levels in the company and gives them access to seeing things from a new perspective, which only helps with decision making.

  6. Don’t automatically assume, if you aren’t receiving any complaints, that your company has no issues with diversity. Chances are, there are marginalized people in your employ who see things which bother them, but who are too afraid to speak up. Having a diversity council within the company is one way to address this.

  7. Rotate leadership roles in starting in meetings and small projects.

  8. People recognize and resent tokenism. Be aware of this and ready to back up your initiatives with more than lip service.

  9. Amplify each other’s strengths, and buffer each other’s weaknesses. For example, if someone is an excellent strategist and visionary but is unable to reliably set meetings and lead discussions, pair them with someone who is -- and allow both to share the leadership role.

21st Century Leadership Approaches & Practices

Marketing and Design

  1. When studying the market landscape, focus not only on the competitive landscape but also on the cooperative landscape.

  2. Make curiosity a key part of everyone’s job to view the design (of everything) as a tool for serving humanity – to connect, unite and inspire. Ask what can we all do differently to increase our product offerings, employee and customer satisfaction, identify new market opportunities and change our practices and approaches, to adapt to changing times.

  3. Being mindful of the diversity of your potential users during design makes for better products and services and reinforces to your team the value that each member brings.   

  4. Consider that users may have a completely different sensory experience than you. What if your vision, hearing, sense of smell, or sensitivity to vibration was increased hundredfold?

Personal Growth and Leadership

  1. Make an active effort to expand your personal relationships beyond those who share your socioeconomic, educational and professional backgrounds.

  2. Be actively aware of what messages you are putting into the work that you do, not just in theme and content, but in the way you include people, ideas, and cultural references. Stand behind the messages you create, and be sure they reflect your true beliefs.

  3. Hang out in the hallways and listen. You can pick up more subtle cues in the hallways than anywhere else in the company.  

  4. Use interactions, conversations and meetings as opportunities to become aware of UCB behaviors (yours and others). Openly acknowledge them when you see them in yourself and respectfully acknowledge them in others. Be curious in your interactions. Use humor.

  5. Live up to our own inner magic: Diversity equals embracing ourselves in every single aspect. Accept who we are in order to value every other being. “Be the change we would like to see in our world.” It starts with us as an individual, and that is what creates new behavioural patternings.

  6. Strive to be respectful towards each other, finding our similarities while respecting our differences.

  7. Tasks can be delegated, not responsibility.

  8. Make a habit to reinforce and credit the contribution of diverse talent to build their confidence.

  9. Seek expertise and perspectives from outside the confines of our industry.

  10. Avoid making excuses. Be willing to apologize, learn, and change.

  11. Provide opportunities for neurodiverse team members to productively contribute to discussions, for example by providing extra time, providing ideas in writing, or pairing them up with an advocate who can help them express their concerns and desires.

  12. Lead by example. Inspire others to strive for inclusivity.

How to Support Minorities and Minority Opinions

  1. Actively seek out those who are most marginalized with special attention to those who have mental and physical health challenges as they are most often overlooked by leaders.

  2. Encourage minority groups to support each other. It is important for people in minority groups to understand this, especially if they have succeeded, because that means that they need to lend a hand.

  3. Wherever you go, look for the talent in the room who is not being noticed because of the color of their hair, skin tone, age or background. Ask them about their work! Notice when your colleagues may be speaking over someone because she is female, queer or transgender and use your voice to redirect attention to those being ignored.

  4. When someone approaches the company with a concern about how it can better respond to or include marginalized people, don’t merely listen. Act. And do so without punishing the person who had the courage to talk with you about it.

  5. Be alert for hints that diverse employees are dealing with an event or interaction that makes them uncomfortable even if they don’t bring it to your attention directly. Don’t pry, but that’s the time for a reminder that you have an open door, that you can keep things confidential, and that you’re glad to help.

  6. Balance each specialty diversely (i.e. place women in engineering as well as marketing), but also be sure to value and reward specialties that already attract diverse applicants (i.e. women in art)

  7. Don’t be offended when a neurodiverse team member speaks stridently or bluntly. Instead, appreciate the honesty and directness that is being offered, and help him or her craft a message that will reach more people.

Events and Offsite Activities

  1. For planning events, request anonymous feedback on what people want to do and what they do not want to do to ensure not setting someone up for something they’d be uncomfortable with (i.e. paintball for someone with PTSD around weapons, etc.)

  2. Diversity in offsite events: If the culture of video-games is very male and white, it's because people who invest a lot of time in games are playing games and not consuming other types of culture. Take your teams to the museum, or to see a non-action non-fantasy non-sci-fi movie. Have everyone cook a foreign dish together. The more people are exposed to cultural elements beyond video games, the more they will appreciate diversity.

  3. When inviting people to an event, putting together a panel, recommending people for an advisory board, or soliciting authors for a book or journal, make the diversity question a standard question on your checklist. Am I demonstrating the diversity I want to see? Am I deliberately seeking out and representing a wide variety of voices? Don’t always rely on “the usual suspect” or the obvious “stars.” As organizers, we have the power to make people stars, and we should use that to help diversify the voices being heard.

  4. When planning teambuilding events, try to find activities that do not revolve around alcohol; this can immediately put women in an unsafe situation when they are outnumbered 11 to 1 by men, as well as inadvertently cause situations you don’t want to be liable for.

  5. Make sure to host social events outside of the office, allowing people to see each other in other arenas. Consider team-building events that do not require people to make “small talk” with each other, but rather to bond over shared interests and pursuits.

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