We wanted to speak to Mo because of her work with recently launched Brighton-based consultancy collective ‘Watch This Space‘, who are “passionate about building a more equal society. One that benefits from the individual voices and unique perspectives that make humanity so richly diverse.” They offer coaching and training to organisations who want to reimagine the way they do things – from their structures to their processes to their culture.
Mo has varied experience, spanning sales, speaking, managerial and various charity affiliations. She was keen to speak about diversity and inclusion, so we tweaked the questions to ask around these topics instead of being solely accessibility focussed.
Mo, explain what you do and what you care about.
I’m Mo Kanjilal and I’m one of the co-creators of Watch This Space. We’re a diversity and inclusion company and what we do is help people to reimagine the world of work to include everyone. That’s really what we’re all about. Why do we do this? Well, it’s the right thing to do. We want to live in a world where everyone feels included, everyone has opportunities to achieve what they want to in life, but we know that it’s not the case right now and there’s so far to go to achieve that.
We also talk to people about the amazing benefits of inclusive teams. So inclusive teams are proven to have more innovation. They have more creativity and output more ideas, better decision making; they make higher profits. People who work in organizations that are inclusive feel happier and so they’re more productive and they’re more likely to stay. So it is the right thing to do but it’s also about creating inclusive teams where everyone feels happy and creative and works at their best.
How do you personally go about explaining the importance of inclusion to someone who’d never even considered it?
I usually do this through stories and examples because I think that’s the most powerful way to do that. So there’s a story I’m going to tell which is about Apple who designed one of their earlier designs of iPhones and the team that designed it were pretty much all men. And so they designed this great phone, fantastic, but it was too big for women’s hands, and so they’d forgotten about 50% of the market. They just hadn’t considered it because they didn’t have that perspective in the team. So they then had to go away and redesign a phone that could fit in women’s hands, otherwise they weren’t going to sell it to 50% of their potential market.
That’s a great example of why you need to think about everyone. It’s not just about profits and money; there are obviously all sorts of other reasons too. But that’s an example of where, if you don’t include the right perspectives, different perspectives, you’re blinkered, and you come up with ideas that are only for certain groups of people. It happens everywhere. That’s just one example.
Events are organized at inaccessible venues that people can’t access. Things are organized at times that don’t suit all people so they forget about people that need to collect children, for example, are often forgotten when things are organized. Religious festivals are ignored often unless it’s Christmas – everything else is just forgotten.
Women are excluded from positions of power routinely; we saw it during the pandemic. In the panic at the initial stages of the pandemic, all of the teams that were organized in government and other areas were predominantly men and you could see it in the decisions that were made. We forgot about 50% of the population. Content is created which can offend people, doesn’t reach the right people. I could go on with these examples and we have to do something to change that.
How do you think the internet or the workplace or work teams will change over the next 10 years and what specific features or habits that exist now do you hope will seem really dated when we look back?
So the obvious one is, and I’m someone that used to do this, people traveling for hours to an office, commuting, to go and sit at a desk, doing tasks that they could do from anywhere. I think that’s going to look incredibly outdated. We’ve had the biggest working from home experiment that the world could have ever imagined and if we don’t learn from that and change things, we’ve missed a huge opportunity.
That change was already happening – there already were much more forward-thinking companies who were already using Zoom and tools like that that didn’t really have to do much once the pandemic hit because they were ready for it. But there were lots of organizations that absolutely weren’t ready for it that said, before the pandemic, “No, people can’t work from home, can’t work flexible hours, doesn’t work in our company.” And suddenly overnight they made it work.
What we need to see is people continuing with that change. I think those organizations that don’t (there are many) that are forcing people back to the office and back to how things were, they will be left behind. It’s going to be about changing how people work, changing what roles are about, and really looking at what a job is, what a role is. It’s about tasks that need to be completed and objectives that need to be made. Is it about sitting hours sitting at a desk or not?
I think it doesn’t mean that everyone works remotely all the time. I think it’s about thinking about what tasks need to be done by getting people together. They’re quite often collaborating on ideas if they get people together. But what tasks, actually it doesn’t matter when people do them as long as they get done. It’s about rethinking all of those things and I think that’s the biggest change we’ll see and already are seeing.
If you’re with somebody who needs to check how inclusive their organization’s organization is for example, talk us through how you go about showing them?
So when we started Watch This Space, this is one of the areas we started working on because we found that there were lots of people pointing out the problems, less giving people solutions. So we’ve developed something called an inclusion audit where we look at different elements. We look at people, culture, engagement, performance, communication, and methods.
We assess all of those different areas using lots of different things, so surveys – look at their reputation, look at their communications – how they work, their processes – know performance data; all of those different things. And then give people a score for each area and actions they can take and we break it down into short, medium, and long-term actions. That’s really what’s made the difference for us for a lot of organizations we work with, because a lot of them knew they needed to do things but they didn’t know what to do and how to address it.
In the mission for a fully inclusive diverse working world, what do you think is the biggest challenge?
There is so far to go to achieve equality. I think the biggest challenge is that a lot of people still feel defensive about it and fearful of change and are in what I call the fear zone, where they deny there are any problems or there’s anything to work on or (the best analogy I can think of) they see it as pie. So if there are more women as leaders, for example, there’s going to be less men, and so they see it as this competition and say it’s not fair.
So that’s really the challenge, getting people to see that what we’re talking about is creating a world where everyone feels included and can achieve the things they want to achieve and can solve the world’s problems together. That sounds fanciful but that’s really what it’s about. We’re in a place where so many people are still so defensive and can be very difficult about these conversations and people struggle where to start and what to change because of this. It’s really difficult, really really challenging.
It changes all the time too. Our discussions in this country have changed over the last couple of years about how we talk about these things and terminology and I think that’s the other thing, is that people think it’s going to be a fixed thing where they can do something and it’s done, and it’s not. It’s a constantly evolving discussion and constant work that needs to be done.
What is one thing that you think everybody should remember and pass on in order to progress towards an inclusive world?
Yeah that’s a great question. I think it’s that this is something that everyone has to work on together. It’s not those people over there. It’s everyone. It’s a collective mission. We’re not here to point fingers at people or push people out but we all need to work on this and that’s really the biggest thing I can say. It will be uncomfortable and that’s the point. Because these are difficult subjects to address and everyone’s going to open themselves up. We all have biases, every single one of us and we all need to be aware of that and it will be uncomfortable, but that’s part of it and part of driving the change.