By Neeti Jain, Content Consultant
In today’s unpredictable business environment, organisations that harness differences are the ones to excel. Ideas are not generated in the air; they are created by people and are more likely to draw inspiration from seemingly unrelated places. These ideas and combinations lead to more unlikely and innovative outcomes.
Innovation depends on harnessing creativity, but like-minded people usually produce like-minded results. Inclusion in the workplace can however help companies to break this mould and in doing so, set them free to discover new products, markets, and ways of doing or leading business.
Innovation requires the ability to look at things differently, bring unique viewpoints together leading to breakthrough thinking, and this is where diversity and inclusion are needed. They are key drivers of innovation and critical components of being successful on a global scale.
Innovation is equivalent to survival in today’s world. It is well documented that in the current age of widespread disruption, companies that do not innovate continuously cannot survive. It’s more than recruiting the greatest minds, it’s about creating a culture that fosters creativity. A culture where everyone is allowed to advance to higher positions is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth.
So how exactly is innovation related to inclusion?
One of the major outcomes of increasing workplace inclusion is that more people are involved in workplace processes, such as the innovation process. An inclusive innovation process requires co-creation, which strengthens collaboration among employees in an organisation. This inclusive shift towards co-creation increases innovation success and it changes the behavioural attitude towards communication and builds on a feeling of trust and acceptance. When Employees have a sense of belongingness in the organisation, are more likely to take risks and share ideas without the fear of being judged and this accelerates the innovation process.
An inclusive workplace works on three cultures: Representation, Receptivity, and Fairness.
- Representation – Presence of marginalised groups across a range of job roles and leadership positions.
- Receptivity – Respect for different working styles and flexibility in tailoring positions.
- Fairness – Equitable access to all resources, opportunities, networks, and decision-making processes.
Innovation is not the result of a highly creative genius. Rather, it requires multiple roles beyond the idea creator. Individuals have their own unique needs, values, preferences, and beliefs. When it comes to devising solutions to problems or devising innovative solutions to problems, debating distinct viewpoints is essential to the process. Innovation is about creating the best ideas for maximum impact.
The power of an inclusive workplace culture is to drive innovative mindsets – the ability and willingness of employees to innovate and work towards it. But the question remains, how do we create an innovative mindset? Let’s find out:
- Be open to change: To be open to change requires admitting and embracing the notion that the world is in constant transformation and all areas of society are challenged by this change. It also means to be aware of where this transforming world is heading and to curiously keep track of change and new phenomena. For an organisation to keep up with changes, it is extremely necessary to have an open culture to change. Identify the concerns faced by employees at each level, permit each and everyone to share their ideas and perspectives. Innovation does not come with a hierarchy.
- Embrace Creativity: The other aspect of an innovative mindset is to truly embrace creativity. An innovator’s attitude is that creativity is the solution to problems, rather than a traditional scientific method. Diversity is closely linked to creativity but empowering an inclusive environment is necessary to embrace creativity.
- Think Big: Innovation is about more than just incremental improvements to existing products or product extensions. This leads to the point that innovation requires the ability and the courage to think bigger and beyond the current norms and truths in the market. Inclusive organisational culture has emerged as a key prerequisite for innovation: diverse groups that combine skills and capabilities can accomplish big thinking more easily than homogenous groups that are likely to reproduce versions of similar thinking repeatedly.
Innovation requires an environment in which ideas can be considered regardless of the source. This can be as simple as making sure that members of a team have equitable time to share ideas. Having multiple voices in the workforce can lead to new ideas, new services, and new products and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. It also helps organisations understand the diverse groups which make up their customer base. A diverse and inclusive workplace fosters innovation, leads to better teamwork and collaboration, creates a climate of trust and reinforces cultural competence.
This article is adapted from our programme “Inclusion drives innovation” which is available on our learning platform Include LXPTM. This programme contains insights, examples and knowledge to explore behaviours that are essential in teams to achieve innovation. To find out more about how this and other programmes can be made available to employees in your organisation, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
Photo by Canva
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