Diversity and inclusion are good ideas on many levels, but they can also drive your innovation strategy. Here’s why a diverse innovation team leads to better products.
Diversity Drives Performance
The most basic answer is right there in the data. In study after study, companies with more diverse workforces, from the C-suite and board down to the interns, show more growth, productivity, and efficiency. Why?
- Diversity increases collective intelligence, that is, the overall skill and talent base from which the companies draw.
- Diverse teams are more willing to experiment and discuss ideas.
- Diverse teams are better at dividing work and more accountable to each other, keeping everyone on task.
- Diversity and inclusion allow companies to clear the day-to-day more effectively, allowing them to focus on the bigger picture.
Diversity Challenges Assumptions
Ask any left-handed person struggling with a pair of scissors. Whenever everyone at a company makes assumptions, those assumptions lead to products some of your potential customers can’t use. Take that lefty: 10 percent of the world’s people are left-handed. Imagine cutting off 10 percent of your customer base right off the bat, and you can see the value of diversity.
Sometimes, though, these assumptions can be more subtle. For instance, voice activation isn’t an interesting feature for people who can’t speak loud enough to trigger it, or who can’t hear a response.
Diversity Spots Problems
Nikon is a crown jewel of Japanese engineering and imaging technology, and yet a lack of diversity resulted in a camera Japanese people couldn’t use. Nikon’s blink-detection software was originally engineered with mostly non-Asian faces, leading the camera to inform people of Asian descent they were blinking when they weren’t. Leaving aside the embarrassment, Nikon cut itself off from over a billion customers, all thanks to a simple lack of diversity in the product design concept.
Diversity Stops Embarrassment
In 2009, HSBC launched a campaign with the slogan “Assume Nothing.” The problem was HSBC didn’t sit down and check to see if the word “Assume” had any analog in all the countries in which it worked. The result was a wide variety of translations, including “Do Nothing.” These are worth a chuckle, of course, but stop and ask yourself if you’re not falling into the same trap without even realizing it.
Diversity Keeps Your Best Employees
Being heard and respected is a fundamental need in the workplace, and diversity and inclusion in the innovation team makes that much easier to achieve. One of the fundamental issues with which many people struggle is being heard and seen in their daily lives, and this is a struggle in the workplace as well. If there’s a place employees can go to drive the direction of the company, to push it away from accidental slights and toward a better, more effective strategy or product, that’s a welcomed change for many employees.
A diverse and talented innovation team will keep your company not just innovative, but thriving, as the world becomes more complex and demands more of all of us. To learn more about diversity in innovation, download our Crowdsourcing to Innovate Products white paper.