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Building a culture of Inclusion at Gensler 

Unmute is a simulation game that encourages participants to critically consider normative assumptions and cross-cultural communication

Timeline: 7 Weeks

Team: Jinanshi Shah, Saumya Goel

Parsons School of Design X Gensler


Although DEI frameworks primarily focus on race, gender, and sexual orientation, our increasingly globalized workforce requires that social dynamics like CASTE be equally recognized and integrated into this work.

The Brief:

'Stress-test' the culture of inclusion in its current format through researching tactics for and case stories about the intangible aspects and facilitating a culture of inclusion with an organisation. 


We are solving for Social Connectedness by developing effective and accessible means of communication that allow individuals to maintain social connection, access necessary support, and combat the negative effects of isolation.

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Problem Definition

Explore Opportunities

Concept Development 


Observations & Feedback


Over the course of multiple years, Gensler’s Culture Strategy Team conducted extensive research to explore the factors contributing to a culture of inclusion within organizations. Utilizing a variety of research methods including surveys, literature reviews, and interviews with individuals from diverse industries, job positions, and lengths of tenure, the team sought to gain comprehensive insights into the dynamics of inclusive workplace cultures.



Six conditions of inclusivity were led out by Gensler







Six organizational components of Culture







Studio was tasked with researching case studies of companies that have established models of inclusivity and support. These case studies showcase companies that excel in creating inclusive environments and align perfectly with the components and conditions necessary to build a Culture of Inclusion for Gensler.













Problem Definition

How might we build a culture of inclusion at Gensler keeping in mind the conditions and components laid out by them

Ideation Strategies

Crazy 8's

Mind Mapping

Prototype Storm

Fair Wage

Fair trade 

DEI Training

DEI performance indicator 

Pay Equity Analysis

Promote Career Advancement analysis and if certain groups are under presented in leadership position, it may lack of opportunity for advancement.

Dei Training programs mandate for all levels of staff & executives


Dei performance indicator (like a game which can track performance for managers & executives and rewards for achieving goals.

(Role Play activities?)

To understand & ensure there are no disparities in pay based on gender, race, etc

Multi Faceted Approach

Turnover rates among certain groups means lack of inclusivity

Discovery Audit

Competitive Analysis

  • access current practices

  • set goals

  • foster the inclusive culture framework

  • regular training

  • fair wages, fair practices

  • Conduct investigations to address issues

Keep a track of turnover rates & compare to different demographic groups.

Audit to understand the demographics & culture of workforce. 
Probably a Equity Impact Assessment 

Comparison & Competition of frameworks using surveys 

Mind Mapping


For Americans, for example, this means that DEI primarily focuses on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Yet as our world continues to shrink and as companies continue to globalize and diversify, it is increasingly important that we are attentive to other social dynamics at play within our companies and among our communities. Caste is one of them.

While India’s affirmative action policy has helped create opportunities for those at the bottom of the hierarchy, caste-based inequities are drastic, both historically and presently. For instance, even today, we see an occupational segregation inextricably tied to caste: While Brahmins are overrepresented among the educated class, and therefore among organizational and political leadership even in the Indian diaspora, Dalits make up a disproportionate amount of Indian labor, including domestic workers, daily wage laborers, and sanitation workers who handle human waste directly.

Given global companies’ interest in South Asia, as well as how much talent comes from that region, companies and leaders should understand what caste is, how it manifests at work, and how to integrate education about caste-based discrimination into their DEI workstreams.

Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste, makes the connection: A caste system is an artificial construction, a fixed and embedded ranking of human value that sets the presumed supremacy of one group against the presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and often immutable traits, traits that would be neutral in the abstract but are ascribed life-and-death meaning in a hierarchy favoring the dominant caste, whose forebears designed it. A caste system uses rigid, often arbitrary boundaries to keep the ranks apart, distinct from one another and in their assigned places.

Prototype Storm


Explore Opportunities

Exploring opportunities to include caste as a topic of conversation in the DEI frameworks to bring inclusion .


Framing opportunities around Caste inclusion

The Problem

Although DEI Frameworks primarily focus on race, gender, and sexual orientation, our increasingly globalized workforce requires that social dynamics like CASTE be equally recognized and integrated into this work.

Defining Caste

Caste is a structure of social stratification that is characterized by hereditary transmission of a set of practices, often including occupation, ritual practice and social interaction.


Caste and race are both social constructs used to categorize people into groups based on certain characteristics. While caste is primarily based on social and economic position, race is primarily based on physical characteristics.

A survey on caste discrimination conducted by Equality Labs found 67% of Indian Dalits living in the US reporting that they faced caste-based harassment at the workplace, and 27% reporting verbal or physical assault based on their caste.

Concept Development

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To visualize the hierarchical pyramid of the caste system as a dispersion of puzzle pieces that form an integrated framework. Each piece holds equal value and contributes to the complete picture when placed together. approach highlights the significance of treating every piece equally, just as every individual deserves equal treatment in society, irrespective of their caste.

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Games provide a level of abstraction that can walk us through aspects of ourselves and our world that we don’t otherwise want to deal with. Through games we want to create a learning opportunity for participants to explore the role that our assumptions play in understanding and interacting with the world around us. The way we act and react in an environment around us and how we deal with uncertainty and change. Aim is to recognise everyone regardless of their background, culture, and individual traits.

The game is designed by Jinanshi Shah & Saumya Goel

A simulation game that encourages participants to critically consider normative assumptions and cross cultural communication


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User Testing

The goal was to Understand, Interrogate, Communicate and Analyze.

The goal of interrogating assumptions about group norms and critically analyzing where those norms come from is particularly relevant to caste. Many of the norms associated with caste are based on long-held beliefs about the inherent superiority of certain castes over others. By questioning these assumptions, we can begin to break down the barriers that keep different castes from communicating effectively and working together.Ultimately, this game is to help people develop a greater understanding and appreciation for cultural diversity.

The Result

After observing the participants, we found out how this game had its own challenges, and limitations


UNMUTE was an amazing game that really helped the participants! They gained a deep understanding of the importance of effective communication and listening skills, and learned how to navigate cross-cultural interactions like pros! The hands-on experience they got was invaluable and gave them a real taste of the challenges that can arise when communicating with people from different cultural backgrounds.


Although the game was played without verbal communication, it is clear that it did not fully capture the complexities of cross-cultural communication that occur in real-life situations. Moreover, since the game was played in groups of three, it is evident that it did not accurately represent the nuances and dynamics of communication in larger groups or in one-on-one interactions.


The main difficulty of the game was to communicate without using words, which made players depend on nonverbal signals and behaviors. Additionally, the game's structure made it hard for players to comprehend the actions of others and to sympathize with them, resulting in possible caste prejudices.  We were struck by a participant's feedback that they felt uncomfortable because their teammate was unwilling to engage in discussion and appeared disinterested in their input. This highlighted the significance of empathy in such situations.

Way Ahead

Iterating this concept



Gaining Feedback

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