How to spark innovation by doing diversity and inclusion right

Diversity and inclusion

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written on March 1, 2017

Many Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives focus so strongly on demographic elements – gender, race, disability and age – that they often fail to account for unique differences across individuals. You’ll only see the full benefits of Diversity and Inclusion when you can maximise the output from each person.

You know you’ve done diversity and inclusion right when every person brings their ‘whole self’ to work, feels valued and motivated to utilise their distinctive strengths and your business leverages the differences. But achieving this is not done with a single leap – it takes effort and an understanding of best practice. Here is a five-step process that works.

1. Awareness

We’ve observed the same thing to be true across many organisations in nearly every industry: self-understanding and the acceptance of self have a huge impact on people and businesses.

At any level of seniority, that realisation of self – being valued for who we are and the contribution we make – enhances the richness and quality of output from that individual or team. When people can readily identify their strengths and the value that they bring to their organisation, and likewise recognise their weaknesses, they can truly ‘bring their whole self to work’.

Give your employees the time and tools to reflect and grow personally and professionally. With huge workloads and deadlines it may seem impossible but in the long run investing a small amount of time to help your people understand themselves will pay off tremendously.

2. Understanding

Your personal perspective is formed by your own perceptions and beliefs. If you can understand where these perceptions and beliefs come from, you can then begin to understand why other people see things differently, appreciate who they truly are and improve your relationships with them. Organisations have a responsibility to assist in this process.

Part of implementing diversity and inclusion is to ensure the individuals in your team or organisation understand its value. It’s also equally vital that they have the ability to question and discuss the implications of it.

3. Adapting and connecting

Once individuals understand themselves and others, it’s much easier for them to find the similarities that will allow them to interact positively and productively with people who may on the surface appear very different. In many instances people will need to adapt in order to fully connect with someone else. This adaptation will be different for each situation and person, ranging from varying their communication style and problem solving strategies to altering their perspectives and outlook on certain things.

As long as the adaptation does not conflict with an individual’s values or beliefs, it will help facilitate growth, team bonding and add substantial value to the organisation as a whole.

4. Valuing

With every individual bringing their own ideas, innovation and knowledge to an organisation, it’s critical to show appreciation for their input and its unique value. When differences are celebrated, individuals feel more comfortable being themselves and bringing forth ideas that may be new or different. Realising that they are valued for their contribution provides a great incentive for increased performance in individuals; the effort and energy that is often channeled into trying to fit in can be focused on actions and activities where they shine the most.

Part of valuing each person is knowing how to motivate and reward them. Just as every person brings something different to the table, each individual will want to be valued and appreciated differently.

5. Leveraging diversity

Inclusion and diversity implementation works best when it has a real voice with C-level commitment and has a culture and forum to enable innovation.

Once each person has a sound understanding of themselves and each other, can adapt and connect and value the differences, it’s time to step back and let the team innovate. Great things happen when people come together, and a truly inclusive culture helps ensure you get the very best from every individual.

Go beyond diversity and inclusion compliance to spark innovation

Every person brings different styles, needs, motivations and expectations, and in these differences lie great strengths. Diversity and inclusion can bring about a unique mix of perspectives which can serve as an effective driver of bottom-line success. It is only in an inclusive environment, where people feel that they can bring their whole self to work, that we can truly value and leverage the capabilities of every individual.

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