How Does Cultural Diversity Foster Innovation?
In today’s global economy, innovation and economic development are intrinsically correlated. For the past decades, companies, big or small, have relied on innovations to compete both on regional and international markets.
But, what promotes innovation, and what blocks it? Services and products do not advance by simply introducing the latest technology, or by scouting for the top-notch experts out there; culture – in particular cultural diversity – is the true backbone of innovation.
Today, any business that wants to be successful on a global scale adopts a policy of diversity and inclusion in their business model. We are not talking simply about creating a heterogeneous workforce based on race, gender and disability; but rather to adopt a culture of inclusion by understanding first what diversity means in the region in which we operate, and then by integrating it in the daily work dynamic.
So, how does cultural diversity affect innovation on a practical level?
As anyone that has travelled extensively or that has worked in different countries will attest, being exposed to different cultures makes you more adaptable and open-minded. It allows you to see how things can be done differently from what you are used to.
The first benefits are the workforce’s ability to try different approaches when solving problems as well as its ability to take into consideration the clients’ culture, tradition and ethics when delivering a service or a product. Always regarding the clients’ needs, an excellent example of the advantages of diversity can be seen when a company’s services and products target a specific age group, for example young adults.
These two points also help your company to stand out and attract new clients. If, for instance, you are looking to hire a rebranding consulting firm for the Chinese market, you are more likely to sign a contract with a firm that has among its employees either people that have worked in China extensively or that are Chinese, so to make sure that your new brand will be culturally sensitive.
Furthermore, when the members of a team come from different nations and backgrounds, they bring to the business practice a broader set of skills and experiences that enrich the competitiveness of the company and the productivity. This has been proven very useful when competing and scouting for top talents, particularly on the global market.
Studies show that companies that have diversity and inclusion policies are more likely to retain staff and, most importantly, can have a bigger pool from which to choose their candidates. Top candidates prefer to work in an environment that can provide them with and train them on new skills and practices.
The last, but perhaps most valuable, advantage of diversity and inclusivity involves creativity and ideas. Adding different voices bring new ideas, products and services; in other words, innovation.