Innovation is long past being a “nice-to-have” in business. A recent study shows that more than 90% of executives believe the long-term success of their organization depends on the ability to develop new ideas. Unfortunately, research also shows that most employees don’t feel that their company is doing enough to foster these new ideas.
One source of this disconnect may be that many companies focus on hiring “innovators”. They find one or two key individuals that they believe are innovative, give them a role in management, and rely on them to create new ideas and push them through the organization. However, that doesn’t create innovation. You may be surprised at what does.
The Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace
Building companies with high levels of diversity also just makes good business sense. Companies with more women are more likely to introduce radical new innovations into the market over a two year period. Companies that report high levels of diversity are 45% more likely to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market. Additionally, firms with more ethnic and racial diversity report 2x the innovation revenue.
Workplace Diversity: The Real Source of Innovation
A study performed by the Center for Talent Innovation found that companies with inherently diverse employees and leaders that foster inclusivity were much more likely to innovate by bringing new products to market or by expanding their existing share of the market (as stated above). It turns out that having overall diversity is much more important than having one or two key “innovators” on staff, pushing new ideas. Why?
There are several reasons. First, people are much more receptive to ideas when they come up with them, rather than when they are expected to adopt them. A more diverse workplace creates more innovation from every department and every angle, making people more receptive to the changes.
Secondly, people are more receptive to creating and implementing new ideas when the ideas come from someone with similar experiences to them. As a result, a new idea or concept coming from a peer or a similar person in another department is far more palatable than something that is introduced from above and pushed down the chain.
Finally, having diversity in the workplace discourages the formation of groupthink. Groupthink is when everyone in a group agrees with an idea simply because it’s the way it’s always been done, or because dissenters are afraid to speak up and break the unity of the group. When your workforce is diverse, it’s more common to have differing opinions and dialogue happens more naturally.
How to Foster and Use Workplace Diversity
Workplace diversity goes beyond hiring an ethnically diverse staff, although that is an important step. There are two kinds of workplace diversity that are vital.
- Inherent diversity focuses on traits you were born with, such as ethnicity and gender.
- Acquired diversity focuses on having diverse personal experiences. These can include different levels of wealth, different family situations, different geographical backgrounds, and more.
Both are important to a company who wants to be effective in innovation. Once you foster that kind of diversity, it’s important to create an inclusive culture that honors that diversity. This helps you actualize the rewards. Here are some important ways to unlock the benefits of diversity:
- Listen to different ideas without judgment
- Provide a safe environment for expressing ideas and taking risks
- Give teams the ability to make their own decisions
- Share credit when a team gains an accomplishment
- Give feedback on all initiatives, including those that fail
- Implement changes promptly, rather than letting new ideas languish
Being innovative isn’t about having “innovators” on staff. It’s about having a widely diverse workforce that can bring different perspectives, ideas, and thought processes to the table. But it’s not all serious; it’s also about having fun. If you’re interested in fostering fun innovation in your organization, download the Creative Rewards to Incentivize Engagement guide today!