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Diversity as a driver of innovation and business success

Diversity of thought leads to revolutionary innovation. It enhances problem-solving because people use different perspectives shaped by their unique life experiences.  Those who grow up in the North Pole have a much richer vocabulary and perspective on cold weather and snow and see the world through those lenses. On the other hand, those who grow up in a thatch-roofed house on a river in Venezuela have a completely different perspective on rivers, boats, fish, and swimming and see the world through those lenses. Life experiences from different environments provide different mechanisms to handle daily challenges in life. When two engineers from two different environments team up to solve a problem about how to design a product, the resulting output will be much richer than if the two engineers had both grown up in Milano.

Homogeneity in an organization increases chances of failure. On the other hand, diversity of viewpoints protects from narrow-mindedness and bias. People from different backgrounds see the world differently and these differences of perspective generate insights that can’t be taught. At workplace, these differences are able to create a broader perspective that is extremely valuable. Revolutionary innovation is an output of the synergy of failures and diversity of thought, which comes a result of the diversity of race, gender, religion and culture.

Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is an essential prerequisite of being successful on a global scale. Executives are aware that a wide array of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is central to innovation and the development of new ideas. Multiple and varied voices have a wide range of experiences, and this can help generate new ideas about products and practices. The respondents of a Forbes survey mostly agreed that diverse and inclusive employees bring the different perspectives that a company needs to implement its innovation strategy. This is particularly true for the largest companies. According to the Forbes survey, due to diverse workforce, large companies have experienced a boost in productivity and success on a global stage.

Respondents in Asia were more likely to associate diversity and innovation. In Asia Pacific, the companies are focused on leveraging diverse skills and having better gender representation in senior management. Many companies have the so-called Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that help them define products that work for different regions or demographics. Moreover, these diverse employee groups have saved the companies from making some embarrassing and potentially costly mistakes, due to cultural differences of various markets.

Companies have different strategies to attract diverse populations to their teams. They reach and recruit talents by attending external job fairs, conferences, and community events. In addition to the employee outreach efforts, some companies maintain long-standing relationships with universities to tap into talent, while many others also rely on other outsourcing channels to reach a broad range of candidates.

Interestingly, while gender diversity and ethnicity programs are common around the globe, there are significant regional differences. This is mostly due to different ethnic configurations and distinct cultural preferences. For instance, Asia-Pacific companies are much more likely to have diversity programs related to age or nationality. European companies are more likely to look at disability or sexual orientation.

For instance, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, one area of diversity that Deutsche Bank paid particular attention to was getting more women into senior positions. Internal company research revealed that female managing directors who had left the firm did so because they were offered better positions elsewhere. In response, Deutsche created a sponsorship program aimed at assigning women to critical posts. Moreover, few women and minorities pursue STEM careers, making it harder for tech companies to attract diverse talent. In order to address some of these issues, Intel created the “Rotation Engineers Program” (REP). In REP, recent college graduates hired as engineers at Intel move through three, six-month-long rotations that allow them to gain deep technical knowledge from multiple areas within the company. The program allows engineers to forge their own career paths and build networks across a variety of groups and teams within Intel.

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