Diversity Drives Innovation


Posted on: November 24, 2014 by Philippe Mareine

Businesses are becoming increasingly tech-led and innovation is being hailed as the fuel for Europe’s next growth spurt. The pace of innovation is dictating whether firms win or lose as they transform into digital businesses. Forward-thinking companies are recognising the importance of diversity in driving their creative and operational processes.

It might be tempting to create teams of like-minded employees, with similar ages, education and experiences, but without diversity, the team will be missing out on new ideas and efficiency. Diversity sparks innovation. By bringing together people from different cultural backgrounds, with different expertise and skill sets, age groups and gender, it will unlock different dynamics and viewpoints that are essential for creativity and innovation. While there’s a sense of satisfaction in quickly reaching a mutual consensus on decisions in like-minded teams, you will not always achieve the best outcome. Constructive conflict and challenge often leads to a more thorough development of ideas.

Why diversity drives innovation

One of the key goals for business leaders is innovation-fuelled market growth. A mixed team of baby-boomers, trend-setting millennials and digital natives from diverse nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds will provide a blend of completely different skill sets and will be able to identify and address new opportunities that others might not even see. This rings true when looking at recent research from McKinsey & Co, which found that US public companies with diversity on their board achieved a 95% higher return on equity than those without. Equally, a report from Talent Innovation found that employers that encourage diversity are 45% likelier to report market share growth and 70% more likely to capture new markets. In summary, diversity is crucial for successful boards, positively impacting board performance and also share price. It impacts not just start-ups or creative agencies but large enterprises too.

Enabling diversity in the workforce

Hiring employees from different backgrounds is one way to encourage diversity but introducing an internal social business network will further drive creativity and innovation in the workplace. A corporate social network, spanning country borders and organisational siloes, will encourage novel suggestions and compelling “outside of the box” ideas to be shared and discussed freely, unlocking the full potential of each individual. We have over 8,000 active communities on our internal social network, blueKiwi, and it’s an incredibly powerful tool for solving our clients’ business challenges and harnessing the collective mind power of over 85.000 employees at any given time.

Leaders to drive diversity

Diversity in the workplace needs to start at the top. Recent research found that certain leadership styles unlock innovation across the board. For instance, encouraging environments where everyone can be heard, making it easy for employees to speak up and propose new ideas, giving teams decision-making authority and crediting successful individuals.

A “speak-up culture” is critical to driving innovation within the workforce, and often solicits the quietest voices in the room who might previously have held back valuable insights. Empowering team members to take risks and make decisions can make them feel valued and motivated, which in turn, encourages them to work to their full potential.

Organisations that embrace diversity in the workplace will be the ones to foster a culture of innovation and creativity to develop new products and services, and better serve their customers, and ultimately, grow their top line revenues.

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About Philippe Mareine

Senior Executive Vice President, Head of Group Human Resources, CSR, Chief Digital & Transformation Officer
Prior to his current position, he was Deputy Manager in the French Treasury department’s Inspection Générale des Finances unit and, previously, he was in charge of Human Resources in the Public Accounts department of the French Ministry for the Budget. From 2005 to 2007, he was technical adviser in charge of employee relations and reform in the office of the French Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry. He held several managerial positions at the French Tax Administration. He joined Atos in 2009 as General Secretary of the Board of Directors in charge of legal functions, compliance, audit, security and social responsibility policy. He is today Head of Human Resources, Head of Siemens Global Alliance and Chief Digital & Transformation Officer. Mr Mareine is also in charge of Group CSR. He is a graduate from the Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale d’Administration.