What the Sony Walkman, Google and Ford taught me about building a Social Mobility Network

Context: I founded and chair an employee network at KPMG focussed on social mobility within the inclusion and diversity agenda. I lead 500 members of staff from all grades/roles/UK locations.

To kick off, I want to follow the opposite of Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” framework.

What: It is a space for employees to come together and collaborate from a similar background. A social mobility network.

How: By creating digital messaging channels (teams, distribution lists, newsletters) and events exclusive to those who have joined.

Why: To increase the awareness of social mobility

This is not very sexy is it. Let me flip it.

Why: Socioeconomic background is a invisible characteristic that requires visibility to solve
How: We will create a network and a platform for employees to embrace being their authentic selves in order to promote visible, respresentative and authentic role modelling coupled with a mentoring programme.
What: We have developed an employee network – do you want to join?

Much better:

So what change are we designing to make in our customer. Well assuming the network members are our customer, we are trying to make them authentic, true and bold. We are not trying to make them communicative by opening channels, we arent trying to make them more engaged in the overall corporate strategy and we arent typically designing more productive employees.

But, by choosing to change values (encouraging employees to be TRANSPARENT, VULNERABLE, SELF AWARE) and not add value (giving them formal mentoring programmes/ digital platforms) we will MAKE THEM MORE COMMUNICATIVE, MORE ENGAGED and MORE PRODUCTIVE. See what I solved there?

But WHY is it for those effected by social immobility ONLY? Surely other demographics and characteristics face problems and prejudices too. WHY NOT SOCIAL MOBILITY and GENDER. WHY NOT SOCIAL MOBILITY and MENTAL HEALTH. WHY NOT JUST DIVERSITY.

Well, let me reflect on Nobutoshi Kihara who was the designer of the most iconic mp3 player – Sony Walkman (I know I am 23 but I know what they are).

Nobutoshi was posed by his team when developing the Wallkman. We should build in a recorder?

They said “Do you know easily we could do that?” “Do you know how many more people would be inclined to buy this” “People can listen to music and record themselves on the same device”. The rationalist would say “sign me up”

Nobutoshi said no.

Because if walkman implemented the recorder then what is it? it is a music player? Is it a recorder? Well then what the heck is it, how does it work and most importantly WHY does it exist?

And as you know – the walkman didnt have a recorder.

So this is what Sony taught me about the network and it’s WHY.