London Tech Week: putting ethics at the centre of tech
Trust and inclusivity.
If you follow us, you know how important these two things are to The Honeycomb Works and last week we were thrilled to have the opportunity to share these values at London Tech Week including our very own, first-ever event, held in Pusher HQ. We went into London Tech Week with an agenda. Not to see the latest and greatest in AI or IoT but to push the conversation forward on topics that are a massive area of risk - for tech and for society.
So, what did we discover?
Leaders in Tech: Tech in a New Era of Trust
First up was a Leaders in Tech panel on the challenging issue of tech and trust. Joining me on stage were Shane Corstorphine from SkyScanner, Lord Paul Drayson, CEO at Sensyne Heath, and Darktrace’s Andrew Tsonchev with panel chair, Sir George Zambellas of Agorai discussing Tech in a New Era of Trust.
The thing that stood out for me was that as a business, you have to be prepared to make sacrifices if you wish to maintain integrity. It's critical for organisations to focus less on crafting messages about how seriously they take data privacy and more on the tough decisions that prioritise users’ privacy over revenue, even if it means, for example, walking away from an offer from Google to acquire your company.
The norms of behaviour in any organisation will be set by what is celebrated, tolerated, and punished by leadership. If they are seen to make tough decisions that cost the business money, in favour of protecting trust, then everyone will behave accordingly. HR tech, people analytics and learning tech companies need to put ethics at the heart of what they do, instead of borrowing ideas from consumer tech and social media. They have a responsibility not just to ask if they can, but if they should and to measure the impact of their interventions. When we bring surveillance tech into work to personalise user experiences, we have to be aware (and beware) of the amount of information we’re gathering. It can be used against employees, even if that wasn’t the original intention.
Earth-to-Mars: refining good work habits with Headspring
The walkways of London’s Tower Bridge provided the location for the launch of Headspring, a new joint venture between the Financial Times and IE Business School. The Honeycomb Works is providing a way for people on their programmes to diagnose strengths and development areas, understand how to make a change, and measure their progress. There was also a panel discussion, led by the Founder of London Interdisciplinary School, on the implications of AI in the business world and then, the fun bit, playing around with VR headsets.
We were able to demo the Honeycomb that supports Headspring’s award-winning VR game, Earth-to-Mars. This serious game - meaning a game designed for other than pure entertainment - explores leadership and communication issues, thus refining good work habits. Having Honeycomb built into it solves one of the most challenging issues in executive learning - the measurement of true impact after the completion of a programme. Our diagnostics identify strengths and development areas, providing ways to change and measure progress.
We received very positive feedback - particularly on how the Honeycomb allows for repeated, longitudinal assessment of progress against behaviours, which in turn is more likely to lead to long term habit change.
Future of Work Summit: Using Evidence and Data to Create Inclusive Cultures
The Future of Work is a strange thing...you never quite get there do you? But it is something that we have a responsibility to shape.
Data and Culture, Evidence and Inclusivity…. I like to think the theme behind this discussion is an aspiration of how we want the world of work to evolve, to improve the environment and activity of what takes up such a huge chunk of our lives. We must take advantage of technology and scientific progress to understand the human brain and social ecosystems. If we don’t, some of the trends we see can lead to exploitation, bias/discrimination and misery for the more vulnerable members of our society. But too much of the work on inclusivity is not based on solid evidence.
And we are seeing a rather shocking lack of progress despite an awful lot of talking. In fact, in some ways it’s getting worse. According to Sarah Chowdhury, “the stats speak for themselves... the odds are stacked against the BAME community and all of those in minority groups.”
If you want an organisation that is fit for the future, it HAS to be inclusive and have diverse perspectives.
So, I wanted to put together this panel of experts - people who are doing solid research in this area and are pushing for change. Once they all said yes, my only challenge would be keeping to time. Some of the topics we discussed included shifting away from fixing or protecting people (towards fixing work culture and developing out-groups), how you can use data to push leadership to act, the danger of focusing solely on gender, and the various impacts daily discrimination at work can have.
‘Future of Work’ is not an endpoint but a guide to how we can evolve, so that work is more rewarding, fairer, and delivers more back to society. Thank you to my panel for helping us get there.
There is simply too much to cover in one summit, but we want to continue the conversation. And you can join in - send your questions to email@example.com and we’ll address them in a webinar.
The Honeycomb Works event: How to be an Ally for Diversity and Inclusion
Finally, our own event on ‘How to be an Ally for Diversity and Inclusion’ held at Pusher HQ was a sell out. Our mission is to take the burden off underrepresented groups and give people who want to help the tools to do so. To achieve this, we created and delivered an interactive workshop.
Preaching to the converted is a redundant effort to make a change, so we encouraged people to bring someone they believed would really benefit from the workshop.
We started with Dr Evelyn Carter, who explained what it means to be an ally - challenging us, in a nice way, to understand that it’s not enough to simply be aware that something is wrong and show sympathy, you have to pick up some of the burden for the people living with discrimination.
Caroline Marsh followed up with a talk on how to be an ally within your organisation. She highlighted some common mistakes she sees including focusing on trying to 'fix' the underrepresented groups - rather than looking at structural issues or helping those with power to learn how to spot bias and discrimination and most importantly, to challenge it.
Rounding off the session, our Director of Product and Marketing, Ben Waldman, guided people through an implementation intention plan, to ensure that everyone left with a solid plan of how they're going to implement their chosen actions back at work...rather than just good intentions.
We had excellent feedback. One person I spoke to said that they and their colleagues found it exceptionally thought provoking and made them realise they need to completely rethink their approach to inclusion. Another said they left with a clear plan of action as to how they’ll challenge bias at work - starting the very next day!
Many thanks to our client Pusher for hosting us - they have been brilliant partners who are taking a proactive approach to inclusivity, carving out time and attention as they navigate their way through rapid growth.
The daily habits of everyone in your organisation is what will drive trust and inclusivity which in turn helps people feel they belong and can bring their best to work. Get in touch if you’d like to see our Ally Honeycomb and the value it can deliver for your business.