How To Increase Innovation? Consider Acquired Diversity.

diversity innovation

In today’s environment, it is easy to forget about a trend that had started long before COVID-19, and that was a call for new leadership. Organizations have continuously struggled to cultivate a diverse and inclusive environment for their employees, but now, more than ever, diverse environments are needed to stimulate creativity, growth, and profitability.

When people think of diversity, they usually think of inherent diversity. Most legal definitions tend to refer to inherent diversity, which involves traits with which we are born, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. We often do not think of the second kind of diversity – acquired. Acquired diversity refers to perspectives, ideas, and traits we gain from our life experiences. Acquired diversity is also known as cognitive diversity.

A diverse organization is a much stronger organization because it has variety. Diverse ideas are the foundation of creative and innovative solutions. If everyone has the same ideas, organizations are not able to spot gaps, opportunities, and solutions. They are unable to prevent groupthink and avoid destructive decisions.

Diversity drives innovation and market growth. It is a natural system of checks and balances. Diverse perspectives provide an organization with a range of insights and opinions, enabling it to be more innovative in how it approaches problems.

Companies that have leaders who exhibit at least three inherent and three acquired diversity traits are described as having two-dimensional diversity. These organizations out-innovate and out-perform others according to a study published in Harvard Business Review. Companies are 45% more likely to grow their market share year over year and 70% more likely to expand into a new market. The same study showed that 78% of companies need to work on their leadership skills to better listen to all their employees. When too many employees form a clique, those who are not members of the group will be heard 20% less. It can be hard for people to speak out from the position of the minority.

Given all the benefits of diversity, it is not as impactful by itself. Organizations also need inclusion. Leith Mitchell, Director of Diversity, Culture and Engagement at Queensland Department of Education, defines inclusion as “the support for a collaborative environment that values open participation from individuals with different ideas and perspectives that has a positive impact on business.”

When people work at inclusive companies, they are more committed to contributing ideas and creating innovation throughout the organization. A report from Deloitte highlights how critical it is for leaders to model a behavior of inclusivity: their actions lead to a 70% difference between those employees who feel included and those who do not. Leaders should view inclusion as a distinct leadership skillset they ought to develop and prioritize.

Deloitte has conducted multiple studies in this area and has identified six traits of inclusive leadership, and six behaviors leaders should practice to produce greater innovation at their organizations.

Six inclusive leadership traits are:

  1. Commitment: Foster environments where employees can be themselves. Model authenticity.
  2. Courage: Have respectful but tough conversations when necessary
  3. Cognizance of bias: Make decisions in a transparent, informed, and consistent way paying close attention to unconscious biases
  4. Curiosity: Listen to others and value their viewpoints
  5. Cultural intelligence: Learn about other cultures and understand cultural contexts
  6. Collaboration: Build teams with diverse thinking

The six behaviors that lead to greater innovation are:

  1. Making sure that everyone’s voices are heard
  2. Creating a safe environment to propose novel ideas
  3. Giving employees decision-making authority
  4. Sharing credit for the success
  5. Providing actionable feedback
  6. Listening and implementing feedback from the employees

Today’s employees desire a workplace that values them for who they are, allows them to bring their true selves to work, and rewards authenticity. They are looking for leaders who prioritize the humanity of leadership, demonstrate hard and soft power, and cultivate open, transparent, and inclusive work environments. This type of leader is called the “Human CEO.” Human CEOs help their employees reach their full potential, which, in turn, contributes to the overall growth of their organizations.

Leave a Comment