Why diversity and inclusion are essential for innovation and 3 practical ways to harness it.

Have you ever been in a situation where a single person or group had such a dominate opinion about something that no other point of view was permitted?  It was either their way or the highway!  They thought they were right.  They thought they knew it all.   

Well it is that way in a lot of business innovation teams.  Leo Denes, founder and CEO of Australiance and B2B Rocks Sydney, spent several years as a management consultant at PwC and then as a program manager on business transformation initiatives in large corporates and now working with startups and have seen firsthand how diverse points of view and innovation is quashed in business.   

Innovation is about newness.  It is about different, better ways of solving problems.  There is no newness if everything and everyone is the same/ similar.     

Many innovation teams are male dominated.  Even within innovation teams often the people at the top of the organization’s views are held in higher regard than those at the bottom of the organization.  In some innovations teams it is not safe to question things or offer an alternative view.  This is not good and healthy for innovation.  It is not good for business especially in a rapidly changing world.   

The problem is if you have any sort of monoculture in your innovation team or business that creates familiarity and familiarity breeds stagnation.  It creates an echo chamber of consensus.  If everybody thinks the same, the range of solutions to a problem are limited.  If innovative solutions are limited it means that the possibilities of positively impacting the world and the bottom line are limited.       

Leo have often wondered why certain gender, ethnic, religious, generational, LGBT etc groups of people tend to stick together.  He thinks it is because familiarity feels safer.  It is inside the comfort zone.  It is easier to communicate when you have a common understanding.  There is greater perceived risk and fear in diversity.  Maybe staying the same is riskier.        

Leo Denes thinks it is time to be courageous and embraced diversity because he believes we will have a richer and deeper appreciation for the way the world really is.  Leo, believe this diversity is what will help us change, evolve and adapt better as businesses and as a global community.  He believes this diversity will provide different points of view and allow us to create more innovative solutions and believes this is the only way to move forward with innovation and business.       

We have assembled a Rock Star panel of outstanding female entrepreneurs who have taken a female perspective to entrepreneurship and innovation at the B2B Rocks conference in Sydney on 6 &7 June 2019.    

 

 

Embracing diversity is not just the latest trendy craze in business, it has real practical benefits for business and innovation.  It has long been recognized that a diversity of views in business provide a more wholistic view of reality and better solution suggestions in innovation.  Leo Denes believes it is not good enough just to have diversity, but we need to make it safe enough for people to feel INCLUDED and for them to share their different points of view.     

 

Here are 3 practical ways you can start to harness the benefits of diversity and inclusion:

 

1. Hire Diverse Viewpoints

It all starts here.  If you don’t have diversity in your team you will not have diverse points of view.  Remember this when you are recruiting next, don’t just hire a junior clone of yourself.  Leo is not saying to hire diversity for diversity sake but saying hire qualified people from diverse backgrounds and then help them succeed in your organization. 

 

2. Encourage different opinions

As a business leader, encourage different opinions.  Don’t have a team of “Yes” men and women.  Don’t just tolerant diversity but encourage different points of view.  Leo Denes knows there is a bit of a corporate culture of “don’t rock the boat”.  Sometimes it is just not safe to do so, you might just get yourself fired.  He knows some leaders might think that it would be better if the team just shut up, listen and did what they were told to do.  That may be ok when solving simple problems but when it comes to complex problems more heads are better than one.   Notice I’m not saying we need to have a consensus; it is ok to disagree; a leader still needs to lead and make the tough decisions.  What Leo is suggesting is that we need to make our teams a safe place to express different points of view.

 

3. Facilitate Cross Pollination Experiences

It is well and good to know something at an intellectual level but to know it at an experiential level is another thing.  In businesses today people still stick to their silos sales with sales, IT with IT etc.  Even at lunch they form groups often along social lines.  Facilitate opportunities for your team to have cross pollination experiences.  This could be people spending time in another department or with customers to get a better appreciation of what it is like for others.  This empathy will leave them richer and wiser for the experience and be able to be better problem solvers or understand how their actions will impact others around them.  They will also have new and better ideas about how to do things.   

What is your business doing to embrace diversity and facilitate inclusion? How would including different points of view allow your business to be more innovative and create better products? 

Many innovation teams are male dominated.  Even when you have a diverse innovation team certain points of view, especially those higher in the organizational structure are given greater emphasis than those lower in the structure.  In some innovation teams it is not safe to express different points of view.  These are a hindrance to innovation.  

If you care about creating amazing innovative solutions to customers problems, then you must agree that diverse points of view will allow you to create a more realistic view of the problem and hence a more wholistic solution.   

If you are committed to incorporating diversity into your business innovation as we are, then you must come along to the B2B Rocks conference on June 2020 in Sydney. 

 

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