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Building Equitable Products: Strategies for Inclusive Product Development and Innovation


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Building Equitable Products: Strategies for Inclusive Product Innovation

Historically, product innovation has left many behind

Timothy Bardlavens, the director of product equity at Adobe, highlights the issue of product innovation historically focusing on the majority, leaving many marginalized communities behind. This approach has created challenges for individuals unable to access digital products due to various reasons. However, recent data shows that consumers are now demanding products that work for everyone, holding companies to a higher standard.

Building a pathway to product equity

In order to improve the way products are built and make them more inclusive, organizations need to intentionally create products that consider the full spectrum of human difference. Product equity teams partner, support, and educate others throughout the product development process, ensuring that gender, race, age, ethnicity, ability, culture, and all other human variabilities are considered.

Prioritizing equity across the organization

Organizations must make equity a priority across every aspect of their products, services, and company culture. This involves assessing goals and principles to ensure that teams are building equitable products and experiences. By restructuring principles and creating frameworks, organizations can guide their teams towards prioritizing equity in the product development lifecycle.

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Build reciprocal, co-creative community relationships

To truly understand the needs of marginalized communities, product teams must establish co-creative relationships with them. This involves partnering with communities and experts to leverage their lived experiences and ensure representation in the product development process.

Reassess success

Reassessing success means questioning the power dynamics within organizations and being willing to take risks for societal gain. Leaders must consider the long-term impact of building digital products with overlooked communities in terms of increased brand trust and legitimacy, market penetration, and cost reduction.

Build for one, expand to many

While most digital product teams focus on building for the majority, true innovation lies in building for marginalized groups. Targeted universalism, a concept developed by john a. powell, focuses on developing strategies that cater to the intersectional identities of marginalized communities. By understanding their needs and limitations, product teams can co-create strategies to achieve a universal goal.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can drive inclusive product innovation and build products that work for everyone. The goal is to set a new standard for the tech industry and create more equitable processes in product research, design, and development.

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