How Diversity And Inclusion Can Drive Innovation
Technology is advancing at a faster pace today than it ever has before. Behind this rapid advancement, are innovators who think beyond the present, at the bigger picture and how to make life smarter, safer, and easier.
There has long been anecdotal evidence supporting the fact that creativity fosters innovation and in this current business landscape, creativity is even more crucial to generating new ideas. And driving those creative minds are a diverse and inclusive workforce bringing their own unique experiences and capabilities to the forefront, enabling better communication, collaboration, innovation, and creative thinking.
Since the pandemic hit, organizations have had to re-imagine their operations and business resiliency efforts specifically due to the new remote working models. This has brought a sharper focus on the positive impact a diverse workforce brings to all its processes. These remote/hybrid workplace models have created a plethora of opportunities to hire, include and collaborate with a variegated group of people and a higher level of talent – people who otherwise would have been unable to work under traditional structures.
An inclusive workforce is necessary to drive innovation, foster creativity, and guide business strategies. Multiple voices lead to new ideas, new services, and new products, and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. If you look at any high performing team, you will see it comprises experts in several relevant fields to successfully achieve the desired results, be it a space mission project or planning a merger.
I for an I: Inclusivity for Innovation
There is a global awareness now of the inextricable relationship between diversity and innovation. The latest PWC Diversity and Inclusion Survey states that out of the total businesses surveyed, 75% deem it a top priority to invest in D&I programs. This is in part due to the demand from organisations by customers and employers to model values of equity and inclusion. When it comes to creating solutions for the masses, it requires an impressive flow of equally great and inclusive ideas. This is where the experiences, visions, and perspectives of people of different genders, social classes, education, ethnicity, etc amalgamate to create the winning idea.
Consider, AI-driven recruitment tools that have enabled organisations to eliminate unconscious human bias from the hiring process, enabling organizations to hire a diverse workforce. Though care needs to be taken to ensure those algorithms aren’t mimicking human biases. There have been instances where the machine learning models were introducing biases favoring men as it had been trained on a male-dominated set of resumes. Ultimately, if the design is crafted in a way that is inclusive, then the fear of AI replicating human bias is not a concern.
Companies no longer view these efforts as separate from their other business operations and realize that the best way to differ from the competition is by putting together a team of unique minds. Because such niche solutions come into existence solely from individualized experiences of a diverse workforce.
D&I- The DIY Toolkit for Business Success
When you have a diverse and inclusive workplace, you can unleash an explosion of ideas in your organization. Such a workforce can provide their organization with a clearer understanding of the market it serves, identify the pain points of their target demographic, and provide opportunities to tackle those issues. Inclusion allows organizations to maximize the potential of their talent and deeply engage with diverse customers.As the value of diversity continues to grow in the business community and elsewhere, recruiting and retaining diverse employees is becoming even more important to continued organizational success.
Let’s look at an example: When airbags were introduced as a prerequisite feature in automobiles, shorter/smaller sized drivers and children were not considered in any of the design testing and simulations. The subsequent introduction of different sized models for collision simulations, though started first in the US, ended up saving lives many globally.
Constructing a diverse team can lead to better decision-making, greater innovation, and higher engagement in the workplace. This cultivates a culture that sets the tone and brand values of the organization, cementing the reputation of the company, which, in turn, helps attract and retain good talent.
For instance, Commvault follows a three-pronged approach to fortify its D&I efforts, which are Workplace Inclusion, Workforce Diversity and Accountability. This holistic approach not only elevates employee engagement but also has been pivotal in inculcating an equal opportunity culture that has directly contributed to its rapidly innovating product portfolio.
In addition, establishing opportunity pipelines to encourage cross-cultural learning, mentoring, and knowledge sharing across employees has been instrumental in building a unique inclusive workforce encompassing all dimensions of diversity at Commvault.
Innovation is about people
Ideas are generated by people, for the people. For example, companies that have won awards for their innovative social impact solutions, credit their successes to the all-encompassing missed bag of talent at the helm, who created those solutions mirroring their own life experiences. The team members were able to bring to the table perspectives required to positively impact their target audience.
Diverse teams are uniquely positioned to come up with newer ways to leverage emerging technologies—machine learning, blockchain, robotics and AI—to create the best experiences for their customers. At its best, technology can help reduce bias, diversify talent pools, and benchmark diversity and inclusion.At a time when many companies are looking to adopt AI across their operations, ensuring their technology is free of biases is of utmost priority.
Organizations are now successfully combining new technology capabilities like virtual reality and AI with their diversity and inclusion programs to teach employees about unconscious bias and cultural competence in sustainable, meaningful ways.
(Ramesh Kalanje is Vice-President of Center of Excellence at Commvault and the views expressed in this article are his own)