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Creating Diverse Workgroups Fosters Innovation

How to Incorporate Diversity (and Individuality) to Create a More Innovative Business

Diversity is a topic we’re all familiar with.

Everyone stresses the importance of creating a diverse workplace. The working theory proposes that different people from different backgrounds (whether it be race, gender, age, or geography) offer different perspectives that the group as a whole can benefit from. These perspectives provide unique solutions to challenges. Being armed with a collective range of knowledge and experiences produces better results.

All of this is true, but the working theory also recommends that to overcome the differences in background, employees should downplay their personal identities in order to align well with the goals of the team.

In 2003, Bill Swann, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, conducted a study to test this working theory. Swann and colleagues created diverse workgroups out of 400 MBA students. The students were split into groups of four to six members with diverse backgrounds. They were required to work together during the course of a semester, and their performance was assessed at the end of the semester.

So, did the study uphold the working theory? Partially.

Turns out, diversity in the workplace does lead to better results, but ONLY in groups with students who expressed individuality.

Diversity does indeed foster innovation–but only if that diversity was embraced by the group.

“Our research indicates that expressing personal identities in groups seems to have beneficial effects because those who express themselves are more likely to feel known and understood, because they actually are better known and understood,” Swann says. “Feeling known and understood causes people to open up, which can foster creative solutions to problems confronting the group.”

Simply put, diversity within a company can be used as a strategic advantage that creates better innovation, better products, and a better company.

Creating a Culture That Embraces Diversity

In order to reap the benefits of a diverse workplace, a company needs to set up a diverse culture. The company’s culture needs to reflect an environment where all employees feel comfortable and valued. Also, offering their opinion is encouraged. Can you imagine working in an environment where you don’t feel valued? Chances are, we’ve all been there. I guarantee you didn’t go above and beyond knowing what you did wasn’t appreciated.

By recognizing and embracing employee diversity, people interact in meaningful ways within the organization. Not only do employees connect with the organization and grow within the company, they also attract new clients. The attitude is infectious.

“Diversity gives you greater access because you’re actually a building an environment where your potential customers recognize a different element within your organization and you’re able to help them execute better,” says Stephan Reyes, CEO of Montage Companies, a diversity consulting company.

It all comes down to creating a vibe that makes employees want to be there.

This philosophy couldn’t be more true for us at our healthy vending machine business. We believe that all employees should have ownership of the company. We’ve created a culture that embraces diversity while promoting individual personalities. We have grown into a company made up of employees from across the country, with different educational and work backgrounds, and a myriad of skills. We take pride in our innovative, young culture. We’ve found that creating diverse workgroups and brainstorming sessions is monumentally more effective than sticking to a cookie-cutter workplace.

It takes all kinds to make the world go round. The same goes for leading a growing business. Promote diversity, embrace individuality, and create an innovative culture. By doing that, you’ll uncover employee genius.

 

skelly

Biomedical Engineer who earned his degree from The Johns Hopkins University & Columbia University. Named one of Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30 in 2013. Co-Founded America’s first Pure Play healthy vending company in 2003.
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