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Innovation Management

3 Actions To Make Your Diverse Organization More Inclusive

Published By Doug Williams

Diversity and inclusion have become prominent topics for organizations of all sizes over the past 12 months. While the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent conversations, debates, and arguments certainly didn’t start the discussion, they have highlighted the importance of Diversity and Inclusion efforts on a global scale – leading many organizations to recognize where they fall short, and how they need to improve.

Diversity Broadens an Organization’s Perspective

Diverse organizations are not automatically better than non-diverse organizations.

The value of being diverse lies in taking advantage of that diversity.

Renowned speaker and author, Simon Sinek, recently published a video that captures the essence of how diversity is beneficial. You can view the video here – and I encourage you to do so. Here are some of the key points Mr. Sinek makes, upon which I have extrapolated:

Individuals have unconscious bias

Each of our lives is molded by our own individual experiences and background. Because of that, each person has unconscious bias that limits their ability to recognize and understand how circumstances affect other people.

While we all can, and should, take steps to reduce our own unconscious biases, eliminating them completely may be a long journey. Rather than waiting for that to come, we must look for opportunities and methods for eliminating the effect of those biases within our organizations.

Diversifying a group creates broader overall perspective

A team of people with similar profiles may have similar biases, which then causes the group itself to maintain those biases. Diversifying the group creates broader perspective for the group, which diminishes the effect of the group’s collective biases.

Perspective creates opportunity

Homogeneous groups have gaps in vision, understanding, or knowledge. Smart organizations eliminate those gaps by diversifying groups with people of different backgrounds, knowledge, education, personal relationships, life experiences, and work experiences.

A broader perspective on how we work, how we live, and how we serve our customers creates opportunity for the business to grow and mature in numerous ways: creating new products, identifying new markets, engaging more employees, raising productivity, improving work/life balance – and the list goes on.

Inclusion Enables Diversity Initiatives to Pay Dividends

A diversity program itself is insufficient. According to a recent McKinsey research report entitled, “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters,” overall employee sentiment about diversity was relatively positive, sentiment on inclusion was “markedly worse.” That’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

As Mr. Sinek notes, “[When you have] a diverse group of people with diverse experiences, magic happens, if there is a shared set of values and shared vision. Without the shared values and the shared vision, then all that diversity will subdivide into their little tribes, and they’ll go and eat at the lunch tables completely separately.”

What he means is: A diverse workforce must also be inclusive for it to have any real benefit. Without also being inclusive, a diversity initiative is at best “checking the box” and at worse simply virtue signaling, and the inherent value of diversity will be left unclaimed.

Crowdsourcing is What Nurtures Inclusivity

Crowdsourcing initiatives give companies an incredible opportunity to create the inclusivity needed to benefit from their diversity programs.

Employee engagement is a critically important business objective – and one that crowdsourcing challenges can help foster. The McKinsey report authors noted that “[h]iring diverse talent isn’t enough — it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive.”

When you include a diverse crowd in a challenge, not only are the outcomes potentially magical (as noted by Mr. Sinek), but the participants can clearly see and feel connected to what matters most to the business.

3 Actions You Can Take

Here are three simple actions you can take to drive inclusion in your diverse organization and make some of that magic happen for yourself.

1. Engage employees in a campaign focused on improving diversity and inclusivity in the workplace

Take a look at the people who are currently in a position to define your program in 2021 and ask yourself, “How might we broaden our perspective and remove unconscious bias in order to meet our organization’s D&I objectives?”

Engaging employees on this topic is a growing trend for our customers: According to yet-to-be-published data from our 2021 State of Crowdsourced Innovation survey, 20% of our customers reported having run a diversity and inclusion challenge in 2020, and 53% indicate they are likely to run such challenges in 2021.

Read next: Diversity and Innovation: 5 Tips for Crowdsourcing Tough Topics

2. Expand your challenge audiences to include diverse groups of employees

We strongly encourage our customers to leverage the collective intelligence of their employees rather than limit challenge participants to those individuals within the line of business or area of expertise most closely aligned to the challenge question. The very act of inviting diverse groups to participate creates inclusion!

Organizations that embrace diverse crowds in the innovation process create the opportunity for fresh perspectives and new thinking that can lead to breakthrough ideas. Our customers regularly tell us how top ideas come from people outside the department sponsoring the challenge, which helps prove the old adage, “a good idea can come from anywhere.”

Read next: Top 5 Criteria for Selecting Winning Innovation Ideas

3. Identify and address blind spots created by pre-existing unconscious bias

What products, services, internal processes, or customer experiences currently exist that have been influenced by the unconscious bias of a non-diversified organization? Leverage the “voice of the employee” through challenges that target colleagues with diverse backgrounds to identify gaps, problem areas, or opportunities, and then to ideate on potential actions that can remedy the issue and create value for the organization.

Read next: Crowdsourcing Ideas with a Virtual Workforce

Bringing it all Together

Leaders at organizations around the world have taken steps to make their companies more diverse. But being a diverse organization isn’t enough – you also need to instill a culture of inclusivity. Crowdsourcing furthers both diversity and inclusivity by engaging employees, surfacing unique perspectives, and empowering organizations to identify and address tough topics.

Learn how Planview’s innovation management solution can support your crowdsourcing efforts.

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Written by Doug Williams Innovation Architect

Doug Williams is an Innovation Consultant at Planview who provides strategic guidance and implementation services to innovation leaders at some of Planview Spigit’s most respected Fortune 500 customers. He designs programs to raise innovation competency throughout the company while delivering measurable business outcomes and increasing employee engagement. Prior to joining Spigit 4.5 years ago, Doug was an analyst at Forrester Research where he launched and led Forrester’s coverage of open innovation and co-creation, with a focus on how technology enables collaboration among diverse groups. He also served as Chief Research Officer at Innovation Excellence .