One of the many transformative themes reshaping our world is diversity, inclusion and equality. Personally, I am becoming more self-aware how easy it is for me to blank the day to day experiences of others who feel marginalized at many moments of opportunity in their daily lives.
In these instances, I am experientially blind to their struggle when relying on the mental short cuts and habits that provide the tramlines for living an average day as Martin Hill-Wilson. This can be reversed when I consciously connect using attention, listening and an open mind. And then choose to act differently.
And so, little by little, we make progress as individuals and societies. Evolving the status quo is seldom rapid so the journey is long.
Along the way we sometimes accelerate this progress by removing some of the rituals, symbols and visual prompts that normalise bias and prejudice. The recent focus on removing statues is one such example.
Another is heightened sensitivity to the visual stereotypes we absorb as consumers. Quaker Oats is retiring the more than 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand and logo, acknowledging its origins are based on a racial stereotype.
The US sports team Washington Redskins is renaming itself the Washington Football Team for the remainder of 2020 until a new name is chosen.
There is activist criticism of film caricatures such as Apu in the Simpsons and Lo-Pan, the Chinese villain in Big Trouble in Little China.
A lot is being held up for scrutiny right now.
Time for Customer Personas To Evolve?
In this context I wonder whether you think customer personas help, hinder or remain outside the diversity and inclusion debate. Do they risk making us experientially blind to the individual needs of actual customers? No doubt, they have value as a heuristic. Bringing to life customer behaviour and motivation in a way more two-dimensional demographic/psychographic data might not achieve.
Ideally, personas are summaries of customer research and therefore anchored to some degree in fact. But are they also misleading in persuading our minds to reduce a person’s uniqueness to yet another stereotype?
Although advances in AI fuelled personalization continue to take us closer to individual customer priorities, we remain someway adrift of that ambition. Algorithms predict based on probability. The current debate on how easy it is for AI outputs to reflect the cognitive bias of those who design them show how conscious we need to remain when we go looking for patterns.
There is a fine line between the value of categorizing our world and diminishing people as a result. Intentionally or not.
Is diversity and inclusion a topic that the CX community needs to care about? If so then I’m certainly open to reasons other than the ones provided here.