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KJT at ISMPP 2022: Diversity and Innovation as Key Partners

This week, several KJT employees, including myself, are attending the 18th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP). The theme of this year’s meeting is ‘Future-Ready Medical Communications’ and kicking off this year’s meeting is the keynote address “Diversity drives innovation: Leading for the future, now” from Patricia Hurter, CEO of Lyndra Therapeutics on the importance of diversity in driving innovation.

Patricia’s talk discussed how diversity naturally fosters innovation. A leadership team with diversity of experiences, thoughts, and opinions can dream of a future with more possibilities than a less diverse team. To achieve this diversity, leadership teams must emphasize inclusivity. If leaders only promote others like them, with similar backgrounds and opinions, then leadership teams will naturally become homogenous. Instead, leaders must make a conscious effort to include others that are not like them, qualified individuals with diversity in education, ethnicity, gender, and life experiences.

Key takeaways from Patricia’s talk were:

  • There are multiple facets to diversity. We often reduce diversity to ethnicity, gender, age, religion, and sexual identity. However, we must also consider acquired facets of diversity such as cultural fluency, risk tolerance, language skills, and more.
  • Diversity is not an end in itself. For diversity to contribute to team success you must also have inclusivity. Every member of the team must feel safe to share their thoughts.
  • Diverse teams without psychological safety perform worse than more homogenous teams. However, diverse teams with high psychological safety perform better than more homogenous teams. To increase psychological safety, leaders should provide feedback that encourages personal growth and learning rather than feedback that punishes or reprimands team members.

Patricia shared a personal story about a sailing race that her and her family would take part in each year in her home country of South Africa. One year, a severe storm had moved in before the start of the race and windspeeds reached 40 knots. The sailors taking part in the race called a meeting to decide whether to cancel the race. Everyone quickly agreed that they were comfortable sailing in winds of 40 knots and the race went ahead. However, through the night the storm worsened, and winds exceeded 80 knots. Several boats wrecked and lives were lost. Patricia reflected that, as sailors, and residents of politically tumultuous South Africa, their group had an unusually high tolerance for risk. Her story highlights how we must all try to take a step back and recognize how our backgrounds affect our approach to life and decision making.

Diversity is a critical consideration for publications professionals. As communications professionals, we should be considering not just the majority audience, but the range of people within the audience we are seeking to share our message. Access to healthcare information is influenced by patients with health literacy, social determinants of health, and other factors. We should be considering these things as we are forming our publication strategy and plans. In the past year, KJT has implemented a recommendation across all accounts to include plain language summaries for most manuscripts. We feel this is an important initiative to help patients access the information being published and also provides a health literacy bridge for clinicians in communicating to their patients. We continue to explore and test other avenues for increasing access across audiences for accessible data.

At KJT, supporting diversity and inclusion aligns with our core values in many ways. We strive to be Ever Better as we learn about differences within our team and with our customers. Empowerment and Mutual Respect are critical in having candid conversations to address our own shortcomings and how we can improve diversity and inclusion within our company, as we are engaging clients, and as we are orchestrating communication to healthcare providers, patients, and others. Diversity is a core objective with our majority-women senior leadership team and the recent promotion of Michaela Gascon to CEO, KJT gained Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification as a woman-owned business. The rapid growth of our company has seen us add an incredibly diverse array of talented employees located all across the United States.

I greatly enjoyed Patricia’s presentation with its many enriching ideas. Check back tomorrow to learn about how including patients as authors can enhance a publication and assist in connecting with a broader audience.