You must Lead the Way.
A headline on a magazine that recently caught my eye dramatically reinforced this idea for me on fostering innovation through diversity and inclusion. Here is the concept:
Improve the Person, Improve the Idea
“(Acquire a) diversity of viewpoints to make an individual smarter, and thus propose new products that radically innovate meaning.” (“Meaning” is a placeholder for whatever you offer the marketplace.) Put a more traditional way, two or more people collaborating are worth more than the sum of their parts.
Diversity is rising as the force that drives innovation
Now we’re seeing companies recognizing a missing voice in the innovation process: that of those who make the products and service they market (employees), and those who buy the products and are most intimately familiar with what needs they fulfil (consumers). Diversity is the key element here. That is, engaging a broad set of different perspectives to generate something better than one could do individually.” Well implemented, diversity can make you innovate and outperform your competitors by 35%.
“Diversity” here does not mean ethnic or cultural integration, but the energy and idea integration: Expand your employees’ ability to communicate, to trust their peers and bosses, and to feel comfortable taking the risk, and you grow each person’s ability to innovate. Then add all these fully engaged people together, and their potential to innovate expands exponentially. And you don’t add staff, reorganize any departments or change the pay scales to do it!
Amazon spent many months seeking a loyalty structure, and the solution came from the middle ranks, not some outside marketing agency. But the environment that Amazon created that fostered the innovation had some key characteristics that you could start your company emulating:
- Senior management buy-in, and involvement at all levels
- Clear communication of strategic goals
- A process that encourages idea submission (and pays attention to what is submitted) mixed with the willingness to break with tradition or protocol to support a “Big Idea”
A better decision-making process powered by diversity
Here was another headline that grabbed me on the same topic:
For Successful Collaboration, Think Outside the Box
Managers and their executive bosses have to work hard to get out of their comfort zones, mainly to solve problems that cross functional lines. It is probably the hardest thing that managers in big corporations do because they must create a collaborative team of fellow managers who must all step out of their comfort zones and “take a risk”. And, unless the organization creates an environment that encourages that collective step “out of the box”, it will never happen.
“As organizations become increasingly specialized, matrixed, and global, most senior managers — recognize that they no longer have control over all of the resources they need to achieve their goals. Instead of getting things done through direct authority, they need to influence peers, share resources, create ad hoc teams, and reset priorities. The problem is that senior executives don’t have nearly enough time to orchestrate all of these shifts singlehandedly. Instead, they need their managers to recognize the cross-functional linkages, seek out the people they need, and make things happen. It needs to be part of the culture.”
When employees with different backgrounds and perspectives come together, they come up with more solutions, which leads to the more informed and improved decision-making processes and results. Researchers found that when diverse teams made a business decision, they outperformed individual decision-makers up to 87% of the time.
It would be best if you led this cultural shift, first by establishing the mindset shift at the top, then training the staff to adopt it enthusiastically by creating the safe environment for them to propose and try new ideas. All this work will pay off because the best innovations come from the company’s front line, not the executive suite.
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About U Diverse’s founder:
Magali Toussaint is the founder of ‘U-Diverse’. She is a certified Talent Acquisition Strategist, an ICF-certified Leadership Consultant, a Career Coach, a Cross-Cultural Trainer, and a Job Search Strategist with an extensive career in Recruitment, HR, Diversity, as well as Education. She has lived and worked in over four countries and speaks French, English, and Dutch fluently. Read More...