Creativity, innovation products of diversity (Web sight)

Gaining an advantage in a competitive market

Companies that encourage workplace diversity initiatives have an easier time attracting and retaining top talent and reaching out to diverse markets. But organizations are also finding a diverse workforce can boost innovation and creativity — giving them a considerable advantage in a highly competitive market.

Diversity attracts creativity

This Ivey Business Journal article “Achieving results through diversity: A strategy for success” was written by Senator Donald Oliver, who led a study examining the effect of visible minorities on Canada’s economy and businesses. Oliver outlines the business case for diversity and emphasizes the urgency for companies to take action. Enhanced innovation in the workplace is one reason he cites for hiring a diverse workforce: “Groups composed of people from a variety of cultures bring more perspectives to the table and generate more ideas.” Oliver refers to economist Richard Florida who “has shown that the number of creative occupations is growing and that, to be successful, companies and regions need to embrace diversity.” He adds that since creative people seek tolerance, they tend to look to organizations that are diverse and inclusive.

Creativity vital to economy

“Toronto studies strategies to boost creativity” is an article on the CBC site about a report led by Meric Gertler, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies. Strategies for a Creative City: Imagine a Toronto is the result of Gertler’s research on strategies that foster creativity in major urban centres. The report says “attracting and keeping creative people in Toronto is vital to the local economy” and “their value extends beyond the traditional arts and cultural sector to industries as diverse as biotechnology, furniture design, games development and new media.”

Integrate initiatives throughout firm for success

This report from Ireland’s National Workplace Strategy, The Business Impact of Equality and Diversity — The International Evidence, highlights the business case for equality and diversity and reviews their relationship with organizational performance. “There are positive employee-performance outcomes arising from the implementation of equality and diversity initiatives, such as reductions in absenteeism and staff turnover, improved employee relations and workplace innovation and creativity.” The report finds that if equality and diversity initiatives are to be successful, they cannot be introduced as stand-alone policies and practices left to HR departments or line managers to implement. Instead, their success depends on the integration of initiatives into an organization’s strategy and culture, so they shape the way in which the organization’s business is conducted and how employees work. Scroll down the page and click on the link to access the full report.

Diversity leads to new products

This PDF details a study by the European Commission. The Business Case for Diversity — Good Practices in the Workplace examines how European firms are acknowledging changing demographics and looking to a wider talent pool. More than one-quarter (26 per cent) of the companies surveyed rated innovation and creativity, which lead to new products and services, as benefits of workplace diversity. “It is evident that internal diversity is leading to marketing and product developments that cater to new market segments and traditionally excluded groups (such as the elderly, gays and lesbians, and ethnic minorities) as well as existing companies.” The study examines several companies that have successfully implemented diversity programs. One example is IBM and its diversity strategy, which led to the development of innovative products for people who have disabilities, including a talking web browser for the visually impaired.

Ann Macaulay is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

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