Topics like workplace diversity should come with accompanying crickets. Concepts like workplace diversity, affirmative action, and equal employment opportunity, mean next-to-nothing today in corporate America.
Seemingly no matter a company’s intentions, characteristics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliations, personal ideas, thoughts, and opinions are still subjugated to the existing corporate culture—which always tends to mirror more dominant cultural norms.
Despite the failings of the current system, more and more research is showing that workplace diversity is key to innovation. Recently, Bloomberg News published an article describing Why workplace diversity diminishes groupthink and how millennials are helping.
In another report, Fortune’s online magazine shows How The Best Companies Do Diversity Right.
The evidence is in. Workplace diversity is a new strategic differentiator. Here are 3 no-nonsense reasons workplace diversity is key to innovation.
1. Diversity-in-Mass Transforms Culture
Workplace diversity isn’t just about numbers. Workplace diversity is a commitment from corporate leadership to be surrounded by people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences and to use the diversity of thought within the organization to reshape everything about it.
Everything from when and where people work to how decisions are made can be reconsidered to promote a culture of high performance and outcomes.
Once organizational leaders take an active role to support a continued employment of diverse team members, the workplace culture will broaden to accommodate the varying opinions, work preferences, and perspectives. Workplace diversity also demands a shift in culture to encourage creativity, independent thought, and healthy dissent.
2. Ends Groupthink
When there are enough people in a group from varying backgrounds and no individual group can dominate, there are bound to be moments of dissent. Anna Johansson mentioned in her Bloomberg article, Why Workplace Diversity Diminishes Groupthink,
“If only one person in a crowd feels they have a different opinion, they’ll censor themselves, but all it takes is one other voice of dissent for them to speak their mind. With a diverse enough group of people, dissent will be more common, destroying the structures that feed the illusion of unanimity.”
But with the right leadership, the dissent created in this group can be harnessed to identify and approach problems from new perspectives and to generate ideas faster.
Widens Perspectives & Generates Ideas Faster
Why would a company’s leadership waste man hours and resources to bid on a contract they know they can’t win?
Generally, no one is brave enough to dissent to leadership’s decision and second, there aren’t enough ideas in the room to widen the perspective in the room to give leadership a compelling reason to make a different decision.
When the workplace is diverse and the culture promotes dissent, employees have an incentive to use the dissent in the room to see problems from different perspectives so that they can suggest amazing ideas.
3. Creates an Outcome-based Performance Culture
When done right, workplace diversity puts an employee’s ability to think independently and generate innovative ideas — even at the risk of deviating from the team— ahead of all else.
Within a company’s culture, that translates into employee performance evaluations based on both an individual’s outcomes and their outcomes within a team.
That gives employees the ability to work from anywhere and at any time as long as they achieve satisfactory outcomes.
For companies that truly understand the significance of workplace diversity and seek to create programs that not only encourage it— in thought, culture, race, and gender— but also use it to transform all levels of their corporate culture, they will become their industry’s thought leaders. Innovation will come from companies that diversify not only their workplace but also their culture.