Unlocking smarter innovation begins with inclusion and diversity
‘Innovation’. It’s a word used so often and so freely that for many, it’s become another corporate buzzword. But innovation has been, and always will be, a critical ingredient for the future growth and relevance of successful businesses.
A recent study by North Carolina State University showed that companies who embrace diversity from multiple angles (e.g. geographical, educational, gender, etc.) are more successful when it comes to innovation1. And the increased pace of disruption is driving organizations to focus on ‘smarter’ innovation. Disruptors have the foresight to predict what may be coming around the corner, enabling them to capitalize on change ahead of competitors. They have the ability to recognize and make sense of the signals of change and trends that are impacting their business landscape. Most importantly, they are able to act on those signals, creating new products, services, and business models in the process.
Cultivating a diverse culture and organization isn’t easy. But it’s becoming increasingly important, given the accelerated pace of change. Diverse teams can help you spot change faster and think differently about how to respond.
One meaningful but relatively simple step companies can make on the journey to a more diverse culture is to include more employees from various backgrounds, levels and roles in the ideation process. The benefits result from different people working together, each looking at a problem though a different lens, enabling the solution to benefit from broader inputs.
Diversity is also important when applying design thinking in the innovation process. Design thinking is most effective when divergent perspectives are applied to the problem at hand. Change often appears “on the edges”, and a diverse team – including geographic, generational, fields of study – can bring a wide range of experiences and perspectives to help solve the problem. Diversity can also be achieved by bringing together design thinkers with analytics professionals. These individuals can be programmed very differently and it often takes time for each group to understand the other. But once those connections are made, really innovative ideas can begin to emerge.
A diverse environment is also a magnet for talent. Great people love working in a place where their voices are heard and valued, where they get to connect with talented people and can expand their knowledge into fields beyond their own.
The reality is that if your leadership, company or team doesn’t embrace diversity, you risk missing key disruptive signals, which could alert you to emerging risks or opportunities. More and different lenses are needed to see what’s ahead of us. A lack of diversity can create a large blind spot in your organization, particularly if the disruption is playing out first with different generations (i.e. Gen Z, Millennials) than are represented by your leadership or in different geographies (i.e. urban cities, Silicon Valley, China, India) than are on your radar Without access to diverse thinking, your organization may ultimately be at a competitive disadvantage.
The pace of change continues to rapidly accelerate and innovation in the twenty-first century is rapidly changing as well. Focusing on a diversity can give you signal advantage, to help you see what’s coming around the corner and be able to unlock smarter innovation.
1. Source: North Carolina State University: https://news.ncsu.edu/2018/01/diversity-boosts-innovation-2018/
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