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Why Empathy Isn’t Enough: Katie Schlott on Tapping the Power of Inclusive Design

Client Growth Partner Katie Schlott has been published in Fast Company, championing inclusive design principles as the timely and necessary pathway for business leaders to build affirming workplaces that work for all.

The article, titled “Empathy isn’t enough. Why inclusive design principles unlock what leaders need,” invites business leaders to think beyond empathy and instead implement inclusive design principles in their organization.

Extending the possible uses and needs of products and environments to the widest variety of people is not only the right thing to do; it’s the only way we’ll create a fair, just, and ethical world. It’s also the best way to uncover new opportunities for growth innovation.

— Katie Schlott, Partner, IA Collaborative

Whereas empathy runs the risk of serving as an imaginative exercise only, inclusive design gives leaders the frameworks they need to affirm and strengthen their teams. As Schlott writes, leveraging inclusive design helps leaders to challenge unintentional exclusion, center diverse experiences, and design for all.

Challenge unintentional exclusion

Build spaces intentionally designed for collaboration and knowledge-sharing among those who have been historically excluded or minimized at work.

At IA Collaborative, we emphatically believe in the strategic business value of inclusive design. To this end, we created a Design for Women capability: A roundtable series and connector network serving to illuminate topics and situations that are acutely experienced by women but under-addressed by design. Attendees of the inaugural roundtable event included more than 25 executives from high-impact brands such as Airbnb, Johnson & Johnson, Google, USAA, Microsoft, Nike, and more. 

Put people at the center of the experience

Apply a “human-centered observational approach to fact-finding.” As Schlott writes: “You can apply it at work by observing and listening with your colleagues serving as the experts. This approach allows you to better understand their day-to-day realities and challenges they need help solving.”

Solve or one, expand to many

Consider the different abilities of your workforce. Ask who traditional work structures support—and who they leave out.

In Schlott’s words: “Inclusive design applied to leadership is essential for designing solutions and creating workplaces that affirm everyone on [y]our team. ”

For business leaders, designing more equitable futures is intrinsic to strategic growth and innovation. When all voices are heard, impact is greatest.

Read the full article HERE.

Design for Women: Katie Schlott Talks Inclusive Design

To celebrate International Women’s Day, IA Collaborative Partner Katie Schlott sat down with Bill Staikos of the Be Customer Led podcast. In the conversation, Katie explains why inclusive design is so important today. She talks about why she started a Design for Women capability at IA. She talks about ways that companies can innovate to meet women’s needs now and in the future.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day…think about, how are you integrating your various products, services or solutions to solve bigger, more systemic challenges facing women?

Katie Schlott, Partner, IA Collaborative

During the podcast, Katie explains what inclusive design is more broadly. She talks about what inclusive design means for women. She emphasizes the importance of including the perspective of all women when designing new products and services.

Katie mentions statistics from the book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. This book illustrates the many opportunities we have create new and better products and services for women.

When you’re designing for and marketing to the same homogeneous demographics time and time again, you’re missing out on huge areas of opportunity for equity and innovation.

Design for Women: Learn More and Connect with Us

If you’re interested in learning more about IA Collaborative’s Design for Women capability, visit

To listen to the podcast, visit Katie’s Be Customer Led show page:

You can also watch, download, or listen to the episode here:

Design for Women: Katie Schlott Honored by She Runs It “Changing the Game” Awards

Katie Schlott, Partner of Client Growth Strategies at IA Collaborative, is a winner in the 2021 She Runs It Changing the Game Awards, which are dedicated to “recognizing women who are true catalysts of innovation – fearlessly making bold moves and reinventing their organizations and those of their clients.”

A winner in the ‘No Apologies’ category, Katie is a transformational leader driving high profile innovation initiatives for IA’s Fortune 100 clients. Last year, Katie launched IA Collaborative’s latest offering, network and knowledge-sharing platform, Design for Women, which aims to infuse gender equity into the design process and put women at the forefront of new product and service innovation.

Katie is a champion for women’s professional development inside and outside of IA. She is committed to showcasing what women in innovation leadership can look like through mentoring budding female entrepreneurs at organizations like 1871, She Runs It, and the Business Incubator program at Oak Park and River Forest high schools, where she resides with her family.

On the Executive Board of Friends of Prentice, which funds research at Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern University in Chicago, Katie is an outspoken champion of women’s health and funding research grants to design better healthcare experiences and outcomes for women. 

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