Why Inclusion is Necessary to Innovate
Every organization looks to innovate to maintain relevance, but not every organization can do so. But why? While there is no concrete formula for innovation, many organizations lack one link: inclusion.
Look around your workplace. Yes, now. Would you say your organization is inclusive? This question can spark controversy. While some see inclusion as non-negotiable for a workplace, others still view the concept as being too politically correct. However, there is an undeniable link between properly implemented inclusion and the output of organizations across different industries.
Difference Between Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are two concepts that are often conflated. This is understandable as both terms carry similar meanings. However, understanding the difference between the two is important when creating a truly inclusive workplace. The goal for every work environment should be becoming inclusive from a personnel standpoint.
Simply having people from different ethnic backgrounds or hiring more women is what many consider to be diversity. Which it is – at least in part. It is true that organizations in the U.S. do not always reflect the diversity of the country’s demographics and need to do a better job of correcting this lack in workplaces countrywide.
Workplaces that hire this way don’t always see the results that they desire. One clear reason for this is failing to realize one of the true benefits of diversity, which is answering the question: now that all these people are here, how do we leverage what makes them unique?
The answer to this question is inclusion. Integrating a diverse range of ideas, life experiences and perspectives is the true meaning of this concept and explains why diversity alone does not go far enough. Not every work environment does a good job of utilizing diversity. Outdated policies, close-minded leadership and a culture of conforming means that the varied backgrounds of your organization can be stifled and are left to sticking to the status quo.
Link Between Inclusion and Innovation
When looking at the modern-day innovators across different disciplines, you’ll see an interesting trend. Medical doctors are working in advertising. Professionals of different backgrounds are consulting on marketing campaigns with little to no knowledge on the subject. Why is this happening?
Diverse minds offer fresh perspectives. Because a doctor’s skillset is in the medical field, their thought process varies greatly from that of a career marketer. Many companies that are adopting this inclusive approach credit the casting of a wider net in hiring to their novel ideas.
Organizations dealing in creative spaces and consumer packaged goods (CPG) have started to see the benefits of inclusion. In a recent Forbes article, Kathy Delaney of Publicis Health/Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness attributes the innovative quality of their output to the extreme level of diversity found in their creative teams. What Delaney talks about in this article holds water. Communicating ideas to people of many different walks of life effectively is the bread and butter of her field, it makes sense to work with a pool of creative thinkers from across multiple personal and professional backgrounds. Instead of guessing how certain demographics think, bring in insiders that are already in the know.
Delaney’s argument of diverse people and minds being beneficial holds true outside of the world of advertising agencies as well. A 2011 Forbes Insights article discusses the development of Mizani, a L’Oréal brand developed to create hair care products for women of color. Without properly including the diverse minds in the room, the beauty company would continue to miss out on a market they were failing at tapping into.
Inclusion is More Than a Buzzword
Due to overuse, inclusion is starting to sound less like a useful strategy and more like another cliché term waiting to fall by the wayside (synergy anyone?). This is probably not the first blog post or article you have read about the subject and it may sound like beating a dead horse. But it is a point that should be repeated as the above examples are not just anecdotal. A 2017 Deloitte study found that organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative than those that are not. Results such as these cannot be dismissed.
Despite this, not as many workplaces apply this knowledge as they should. The same study found that only 12 percent of surveyed organizations worldwide are what Deloitte would describe as fully mature. In a globalized world that is communicating faster and further by the day, not taking diversity and inclusion initiatives seriously could be the beginning of the end for a lot of companies.
Focus on Inclusion
So, let’s as the question again: Would you say your organization is inclusive? Is your workplace diverse — not just ethnically or by gender — but regarding those that have disabilities, are LGBTQ+ and capable of bringing diverse thought to the table? Are these diverse voices comfortable sharing their unique perspectives because they are properly included?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, figure out how these different people can be included. At the end of the day, every business needs to figure out how to innovate to stay competitive. Organizations worldwide should address the strongest advantage in doing so.