Over recent decades, social, political and moral motives have driven employers to encourage a more diverse workplace and inclusive culture. While a society in which access to opportunity is equal is a good thing, the additional effect of diversity upon creativity, the prerequisite for innovation, is a strong and often unrecognized incentive that should further bolster employers’ enthusiasm.
How does diversity ignite innovative thinking?
Diversity has been shown to be the antidote to stagnant conversations and idea generation plateaus.1–3 Given that innovation benefits from cross-functional and multidisciplinary input, having a team that is diverse in backgrounds, cultures and genders, and thus experiences, values and abilities, opens up opportunities for conversations that challenge assumptions and rigid ways of thinking.
Furthermore, if individuals are not used to working with people from different backgrounds and cultures, doing so may encourage a more open-minded attitude that is not limited to creative conversations. This can inspire a more collaborative company culture, with individuals discovering a newfound willingness to explore the unfamiliar and accept change. Essentially, diversity allows the limits of uniform experience and bias to dissolve, resulting in an improved awareness of the underlying connections between different ideas as well as enhanced idea flexibility.
This diversity of thought results in reinvigorated idea generation that can be used to maximize customer experiences. For example, if a team is tasked with developing ideas for a certain target audience, having individuals within the team who share values and attitudes like that of the audience can help to ensure that conversations remain aligned and in touch with both the client and target audiences’ needs. Motives and barriers that would otherwise be overlooked can come to light, resulting in optimally tailored end products and marketing strategies.
What is the evidence?
There is ever-growing evidence to support these ideas. One study found that ideas produced by ethnically diverse groups were more effective and feasible than ideas produced by ethnically homogenous groups.2 Another study published in Harvard Business Review found that diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets. Furthermore, researchers have found that companies that are diverse and encourage inclusion are almost twice as likely to be leaders of innovation in their respective industries.4
How can the potential of diversity be realized?
The key to unlocking the power of diversity, however, is knowledge sharing. No matter how diverse a workforce is, and regardless of the type of diversity within a team, it cannot enhance creativity without an engrained culture of knowledge sharing.
To cultivate such an environment, employers must recognize and celebrate the diversity within their teams so that individuals can feel comfortable voicing their ideas. At Scientific Group, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee plays a vital role in ensuring all staff feel appreciated, empowered and perhaps most importantly, listened to. With the EDI team’s help, our workforce’s diversity is celebrated through various means, from education about different cultures to recognition of religious holidays in internal and external company communications.
There are many reasons to celebrate diversity in the workplace, with improved creativity being just one of them. By forming inclusive working environments in which sharing knowledge and experiences is standard, employers can maximize their employees’ creative potential while contributing to the formation of a fairer, more accepting world that celebrates difference and combats ignorance.
- McLeod PL et al. Small Group Research. 1996;27(2):248–264.