Chapter 11. Diversity is Essential

There are times, usually when I’m in a room full of white men who look and think in the same ways, that the idea I’ll discuss in this chapter is the most controversial opinion I can state in the innovation setting. However, it’s my core belief.

Diversity, in and of itself, is not only a good thing in innovation efforts, it’s essential to success.

Really, it is.

And I don’t mean paying lip service to diversity by saying we all might look the same and come from similar backgrounds or all have legal educations, but we have “diversity of perspectives.” Ask someone outside that narrow band of perspectives how diverse that band is. It’s almost always a narrow slice.

I spent many years at Mastercard, by any definition a global company. I was in conversations and meetings with people from all over the world. I always gained fresh insights from new perspectives and approaches other than my own. It always surprised my how quickly the assumptions you made about how a successful product in one country would be just as successful in another country would be brought into question when you included people from the second country. It’s great to get a challenging dose of reality.

PRO TIP: Take a look around the room at your next meeting. And the one after that. And the one after that.

I’ve lately been recommending Caroline Criado Perez’s book, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, which among many other things, points out the actual physical dangers of not including women in design and scientific research, all based on actual data.

The risk of taking a non-diverse approach is groupthink. Groupthink has given a long history of bad results, including ill-conceived wars. Looking to avoid it by design is a great way to move innovation efforts toward success.

No need to just take my opinion. There are many studies that support the proposition that simply diversify your team by gender, race, nationality, and other factors leads to better results.

I now like a team where the mix of people makes me feel just a little bit at unease because it creates more energy, forces me to listen and learn, and helps me feel what it’s like to be different. All of these things stimulate creativity and innovation.

Are you checking on a regular basis how diverse your formal and informal teams are? Is someone missing from the table who could give you real-world feedback on your assumptions? Are you hearing all the voices that need to be heard?

PRO TIP: Take a look around the room at your next meeting. And the one after that. And the one after that.

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[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

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