By Ana Ratz, Innovation Analyst
As we’ve been diving into how diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) benefits a business, one thread of thinking has prevailed: inclusion in the workplace promotes innovation. When we prioritise diversity and we advocate for inclusion, businesses see enhanced performance figures, profitability, and more creative, dynamic ideas.
But why does diversity drive innovation and what can we learn from it?
Not just a boardroom incentive
Diversity doesn’t just matter amongst the higher ranks in an organisation – it also benefits innovation in teams across all business areas and seniority.
When teams include members from different backgrounds, each person has an alternative point of view, unique values and a perception of the world through their own understanding. This is how ideas are bred – when thinking “outside the box” is considered the norm.
However, there is a definite benefit to having diverse leadership too. With 78% of people saying they work at companies without diverse leadership, it’s estimated that women are 20% less likely than their white male counterparts to be endorsed for ideas. The same study found members of the LGBT+ community to be 21% less likely to have their ideas heard, while people of colour are 24% less likely.
Encouraging diversity across all levels of a business gives voice to those who are traditionally underrepresented, and thus allows new ideas to be explored.
When a company promotes diversity in thinking, they create a culture of transparency and honesty. This level of adaptability also encourages innovation, especially in the creative or digital sectors. It’s no surprise, therefore, that companies with high levels of digital investment also have strong levels of diversity and innovation revenue, increasing their market growth. In the report from Forbes, companies with above-average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation (45% of total) than from companies with below average diversity (26%).
Innovation through collaboration is something we’ve been encouraging at IQ-EQ. We created an ‘Ideas Channel’ for employees to suggest improvements, new services, or business approaches, which also allows colleagues to discuss the suggested ideas and vote on their favourites. Since its inception, we’ve had over 500 ideas submitted, spanning all regions and all departments. From adding pronouns into email signatures to an AI chatbot, our Ideas Channel allows for diverse collaboration across the business.
There’s value in thinking differently
A 2013 report found that teams are 150% more likely to understand a client’s needs if a team member shares ethnicity with the client. What’s more, it positively impacted the entire team and encouraged open communication. Not only does this place value in being different but provides businesses with a concrete example as to why they should diversify their networks. This is especially important for organisations like IQ-EQ, where we represent clients globally and operate across 25 jurisdictions. To understand our clients, diversity is key.
Diversity improves employee retention and builds a happier, healthier company culture. When employees are heard, they have freedom to think for themselves and, in turn, this makes them feel valued when their contributions are recognised and rewarded.
The future generations of business leaders want to work for a diverse, inclusive and supportive business, and those businesses who don’t embrace that will be left behind. To ensure your organisation is future-proofed, you must look at your workforce and how you can attract and retain people. Focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion is important to this process and will soon affect all avenues of business and community collaboration.