Incorporating diversity and inclusion in UX research

Temitayo Olasimbo discusses the good and difficult work of DE&I and how it impacts research and larger strategy design and business decisions at Best Buy.

Temitayo Olasimbo is instrumental in advocating for measured Inclusion and Diversity goals with Best Buy's research platforms, as well as leading the work on exploring inclusive terminology to implement in Best Buy's I&D roadmap. In this episode, we talk with Temmy about doing the good and difficult work of DE&I and how it impacts research and larger strategy design and business decisions.

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Alfonso de la Nuez: Welcome to UXpeditious! A show that shares quick and efficient insights from product, User Experience, and design leaders across the tech industry.
Dana Bishop: Each interview we dive into how UX research impacts user insight; shaping the design and business strategy of some of our favorite tech tools and products. 

Alfonso de la Nuez: I’m Alfonso de la Nuez, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of UserZoom.

Dana Bishop: and I’m Dana Bishop, VP of Strategic Research Partners at UserZoom.

Alfonso de la Nuez:  And we’re your hosts.

There is a systemic diversity and inclusivity problem across society and this extends to user research. Too many groups are underrepresented in user research studies. And this is why we need to cast wider nets to better understand and serve all our users. 

Dana Bishop: On today's episode - Temitayo Olasimbo, Research Operations Manager at Best Buy, joins us to talk about her Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work at one of North America’s largest consumer electronics retailers.

Alfonso de la Nuez: Hey Temmy, how are you doing?

Temitayo Olasimbo: I am doing well. I am doing well. Thank you for having me.

Alfonso de la Nuez: We're honored to have you. If you could please just spend a minute introducing yourself.

Temitayo Olasimbo: My full name is actually Temitayo Olasimbo, and it's Nigerian. My parents are both Nigerian immigrants, and I was born here in St. Paul, Minnesota, while my dad was attending University of St. Thomas College. My name means my happiness. I always like to tell people that, because a lot of the energy that I bring is of positivity in everything that I do. Anybody that knows the equity work, if you are not positive, it would be something that would literally basically break you down. And we don't want that to happen.

Alfonso de la Nuez: That's awesome. So Temmy, UX Research Operations are also known as research ops, is a fairly new role, as we all know. We'd love to hear you tell us more about it and kind of explain how it impacts the larger UX research efforts and strategy at Best Buy.

Temitayo Olasimbo: One of the things that was really fundamental, was how do I make the work of my researchers more efficient and my designers more efficient so that they can really, really intently and intentionally focus on the work of getting research done properly? It means sourcing the right platforms, being very forward thinking and looking at what's going to happen in the future so that we are not reactive, but more progressive in the way that we do research.

My work and the people that are now supporting me is how do we make that happen? How do I make you come to work and you enjoy doing research? How do I do that with you concentrating on that and me basically doing what it is? A lot of strategic vendor management is what we now do at Best Buy. Also a lot of training and also a little bit of change management.

I think because people have had designers and researchers had had to scrape in the past with basically wearing all the different hats. When things aren't working properly, they would have to kind of put the research to the side and try to figure out why this isn't working. What's going on with the platform?

While now having a sole dedicated person and my team in charge, they don't have to focus on that. They don't have to worry about that. I'm that middle person that coordinates and facilitates whatever issue, whether it be technical or even getting those educational offerings in place so that researchers can learn more about the tools that they're using in a way that is going to be real life for them.

Dana Bishop: I know one area that you're really active in is DE and I efforts. Can you tell us more about the importance of incorporating DE and I into UX research practice?

Temitayo Olasimbo: Absolutely, thank you. You are speaking to my heart. Well, in support of Best Buy's commitment to expand, I think about 1.2 billion dollars with diverse suppliers by 2025. That's a bold statement and a bold goal. I was part of an internal stakeholder panel and we were really responsible for evaluating and selecting minority vendors that would primarily help us enrich in not only our financial commitment, but would also help us really dig in deep to learn about the many diverse demographic that's shop with us.

Temitayo Olasimbo: Another one of the things that is really, really important to me is the power of storytelling. When you are able to really tell a good story, what you're going to be able to do is invoke people to care about a particular subject. You can talk about technical things all day. We all are well versed in like you do this to do this, and you can use this tool to do that.

But, if you are not very intentional, what I refer to as intentional inclusive research, if you are not really passionate about it from the onset, that would affect basically what kind of research your researchers or your designers are designing experience, right, they're conducting.

For me, it starts from the onset of even before you do the intake of research. Research manifesto, if you are telling people that you want folks to be intentionally diverse and to seek that out when they are actually conducting their studies, what set of all guidelines have you in place for them? What's going to empower them to maybe challenge, let's say an executive that is just really set in their views of like this is the kind of research and here's what we're looking for. We just did validation.

When you have an able-bodied person, are we doing things intentionally to make sure that they feel seen and included in the way that we conduct our research? Then it goes through the whole stages of research, right, Dana? When you do all of those things, when you're now synthesizing and analyzing those reports, are you making sure of all of those implicit biases that we might have is not playing front and center? When we are sharing those results out, are we making sure that self-identifying things that we did not ask or have participant consent to, that we are not including it in those reports? Just being very intentional and thoughtful in every stages of your research projects I think is really paramount.

Dana Bishop: With that focus on participant panel diversity, obviously it's very important. That was great insight into the importance of it. What methods are you using to ensure diversity when you're running research?

Temitayo Olasimbo: My last leader, one of the things she did, her name is Jen Talbots. When she came and led this group was, she said, "We're going to do things a little bit differently." All of those studies that we used to do before, where people just automatically assumed that the majority experience was what everybody else needed to adapt to. We'll just go in there and we'll recruit participants. We don't really look for like able-bodied. We don't look for gender, we don't look for race. We just always created this experiences, just using that one broad stroke. She then mandated and said, "What is not non-negotiable is she needed 50% BIPOC representation on all studies.

Temitayo Olasimbo: She wanted to be sure that we had 20% for accessibility, making sure that we were also going to be targeting those folks that had disability, and also people that are gender non-binary. When you're creating an experience and intimately wanting to know each consumer and what matters to them, those are the kind of tangible things that you have to put on the table, goals. You can't only just deal with the sentimental, oh, I know everybody wants to be diverse. No, there is a clear goal that was put on the table that this is what is expected of all of the researchers when we are conducting our studies.

Also including in screeners where there's a general question that relates to diversity using those diversity panel that we had talked about earlier and also contracting sometimes with external organizations that maybe have gotten this right so that they can help us when we need something really focused.

Temitayo Olasimbo: Even when you're talking about senior ... Some of the things that we do on our consumer health deals primarily with seniors. That's also us doing inclusive, intentional research. The way that you talk to an older population is very different from the way that you talk to Gen Z. Right?

Dana Bishop: Right.

Temitayo Olasimbo: So again, it's just that whole intentionality around the kind of research that we conduct and how we make sure that we are setting ourselves up for success for lack of a better term. Those sort of things I would say are the other things that we use to help us. For me, I was like, how do you hold vendors accountable when you have not really set goals from the onset? I don't want it to be when I'm negotiating at the end of the contract and then I'm like, "Oh, surprise, you didn't perform well."

Temitayo Olasimbo: I don't like gotchas. I don’t think it’s fair. That's not being equitable. When I got enrolled, one of the first things was like, I needed to establish goals, and it has to be attainable goals and fair goals. I wasn't going to come into my vendors and say, "Guess what? You should have a benchmark that has, do-do-do-do." No, no, no, I'm being realistic. And knew that prior to a few years ago, people really didn’t talk very much about diversity. For me, I'm like, okay, we can start a benchmark. So long as we are progressing together and there's progress being made, that's good. That's good enough for me.

Dana Bishop: We do an annual survey of the UX industry and it’s called “The state of the UX survey”. We ran it in January. We found out that only about half of the people who participated said that D E and I considerations are standard practice. The other half said it's not standard practice. Why do you think that is? What can be done to change that? I mean, obviously you've got it at Best Buy and it's not standard other places. Those mandates don't exist in more than half of companies.

Temitayo Olasimbo: To be really frank, if industries and businesses do not start taking this seriously, they are going to be caught, for lack of a better term, with their pants down when all of these consumers that are asking for more, that are asking for all of this tailored experiences. That also includes a population that is getting more diverse as we speak.

Soon enough in the future, I think is it 2050? We're thinking that the white population might be a minority in America. When you have a big fact data out there and you are not responding to said demographic change, that's on you. The onus is on the organizations to really deem this important.

I don't understand how much more you can say that. It's like leaving money on the table, for lack of a better term. We all know that the consumers nowadays are not only shopping about just, oh yeah, this looks good. They're also shopping based on social justice issues. They're shopping based on what is the company doing in the community? Is the company doing anything that I'm aligned with?

The industry is a little bit lagging behind, but if they don't catch up soon, We're going to find ourselves being reactionary sometimes when it's a little bit too late.

Alfonso de la Nuez: It's good business. I honestly feel like being inclusive is good business and is going to help with your bottom line. Everybody should care about this. Can you tell us from your experience, how has importing DE and I efforts in research actually impacted business strategy and outcomes?

Temitayo Olasimbo: When you're creating a strategy, you have to think holistically about the people that are consuming whatever experience or products that you are offering.

Alfonso de la Nuez: That's right.

Temitayo Olasimbo: The world is getting smaller and smaller daily. If you are not taking advantage of the insights that you gain from research, and you're not designing those products to fit those insights, then your strategy is all for naught. Of course, then that means your execution is definitely out the window too.

I think one of the reasons too, why this is really important, is a lot of times when you make strategies and you then create those tactics, you no longer have to work the way we used to work back in the day where it's like, oh, it's a gut reaction. Your gut reaction, the success rate might be a 50-50. Well, how about you have insights that clearly, if we do our job well, it's telling you that this is what those people that are going in the stores to buy your products are saying they need. It gives your success rate and chance and probability a lot higher.

For me, it's a, win-win. Why wouldn't you want to use those sort of insights to make informed decisions so that, for the most part, we can demand those return investments to be a little bit higher.

Alfonso de la Nuez: Exactly. Totally agree. 

Dana Bishop: It has been truly a pleasure meeting you today. Really enjoyed the conversation.

Temitayo Olasimbo: Yes, likewise.

Alfonso de la Nuez: That's the wonderful Temitayo Olasimbo, Research Operations Manager at Best Buy and a tireless advocate for Diversity and Inclusion practices as we iterate on design. 

Dana Bishop: Thanks for listening to UXpeditious. Make sure to continue listening to our new episodes each week for quality insights from UX industry leaders. If you like what you heard, help us out by rating and reviewing the show on your favorite podcast platform.

Alfonso de la Nuez: UXpeditious is produced by UserZoom in partnership with Pod People. Special thanks to our production team: Christopher Ratcliff from UserZoom; and the team at Pod People: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Aimee Machado, Hannah Pedersen, Colleen Pellissier and Jason Mack.