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Why Diversity is a Crucial Step Towards Innovation

Posted on July 14, 2014

Innovation is what our economy thrives off of and what every company strives to have in their culture. It’s something that we all talk about frequently, yet many organizations fall short in achieving it.

If you have a successful innovation community in your organization, then most of your creative ideas are going to be coming from your employees. We’ve already talked about why it is important to get ideas from your team but now we need to talk about how to do so. One of the most overlooked factors in innovation is team member diversity.

It's important to hire the best person for the role, that’s a given. But are you hiring the same person over and over again? Having a team that thinks too similarly could be a detrimental flaw that hinders innovation. There is a fine line with this: you don’t want a team that can’t agree on anything. However, there are a few key factors when it comes to team member diversity that are often overlooked.

Diversity of Thought

Sometimes there is one person who comes up with a great idea and runs with it. But more often than not, two (or however many you would like) heads is better than one. Collaboration is crucial to innovation—you want as many ideas bouncing around as possible when you are in the beginning of the innovation process.

A group of diverse thinkers will procure many different ideas. Once you target the problem that needs to be solved you want to explore all practices of solving it. Finding the best option requires various visions. Encourage team members to explore all ideas and embrace the ideas of those who think differently than them.

Example: Many people say that there are two types of people: right-brained and left-brained. Right-brained people are more creative, intuitive and subjective while left-brained people are analytical, logical and objective. It can be beneficial to have both types of people on your team. Right-brain dominants can come up with ideas a mile a minute and left-brain dominants can take these ideas and break them down into realistic goals. The two enhance each other because analysts jump straight into numbers and goals while creatives keep the inspiration coming.

Diversity of Personality

There are many different personality types in the world. Some people are more structured and others prefer an organized mess. Some people lean towards the extroverted side while others are introverts. All of these personalities belong in your office because they complement each other well.

Innovative thinking needs both creativity and structure—different types of personalities can highlight these efforts. Where one person lacks in organization, the other person makes up for it by paying attention to detail. And vice versa. Each person can jump in where their skill set matches best. It’s all a balance.

Example: Adelaide Lancaster, Introvert and Amy Abrams, Extrovert. “I love that Amy excels in areas that I don’t enjoy and I generally feel apprehensive or anxious about. It can make things a lot easier when your partner gets jazzed up about things that make you cringe. It is really astounding to try something and perform well and then have your partner try it and really shine. And vice versa: some tasks or parts of the process really overwhelm Amy, and they fit right within my natural inclinations.”

Diversity of Background

This type of diversity can come from anywhere. It includes: age, gender, career path, culture—the list goes on. Team members from diverse backgrounds will bring different perspectives to the table. If you have one team member from a sales background and another from a design background they will both have unique skill sets and sources of information.

Example: The generational gap. While many managers dread leading a team with a large age range, you can use it to your advantage. A millennial will have a fresh perspective on the industry while a baby boomer can balance this out with their years of experience.

Diverse teams can work harmoniously in the work force. When a team works well together they will be focused on a common goal while developing and agreeing upon the best method to get there. Your team can be innovative when all of their skill sets and backgrounds are combined to come up with the best possible solution.

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