As artists, academics, entrepreneurs, researchers, executives, and up-and-comers come to Boston to participate in HUBweek, we will repeatedly hear the mantra “Innovate or Die.” Having endured marketplace disruption after disruption, 21st-century businesses don’t need to be reminded about the importance of innovation — companies recognize the need to continually innovate inside their organizations is essential for survival. The challenge is how to create innovative corporate cultures — and that is where diversity comes in.
We have seen leading companies mobilize diversity to supercharge their innovation efforts in order to grow their bottom lines. In Boston, we have one of the most innovative corporate ecosystems on the planet. Boston has always been attractive to business because it is a place where creative thinking is supported and fostered. As the hub of a network of ideas, resources, and human capital — some of the key elements in innovation — Boston has been able to attract and retain the talent to create and sell to ever-expanding markets.
At the Partnership, our mission is to ensure the economic competitiveness of the New England region and beyond by attracting, developing, retaining, and convening professionals of color. We recognize that experts in innovation and corporate culture are offering a simple and conclusive lesson: the more diverse your company, the more innovative and successful it will be. We need to maximize this innovation super tool in order for businesses to be as successful as possible.
Diversity represents an especially promising way to enhance creative thinking. According to multiple studies, diverse corporate cultures are more productive, better at keeping companies in touch with vital markets, and better able to stimulate the profusion of ideas. McKinsey & Company, for example, reports that diverse organizations significantly outperform their industry peers, with the most diverse companies being 33 percent more likely to outperform their peers on operating income. The McKinsey analysis also finds non-financial benefits, such as “improved access to talent, enhanced decision making and depth of consumer insight, and strengthened employee engagement and license to operate.”
A company can leverage the power of diversity by following the examples set by global brand leaders such as Google, Biogen, and American Express, and local entrepreneurs such as Corey Thomas, CEO of Rapid7.
The first step is to build and nurture a pipeline of diverse talent, keeping a keen eye on innovation. Your recruitment pipeline must always be well stocked if you want your organization to stay ahead of the innovation curve.
The second step is to deliberately and consciously develop diverse talent once they are on board. The most successful companies today are those that invest resources, time, energy, and commitment into creating the next generation of leaders.
Finally, a company must exercise vigilance around diversity. This means ensuring corporate criteria by which employees are recruited, retained, and promoted are objective. It also means taking deliberate steps to guard against the trap of sameness.
Inclusion provides the bedrock of creativity and innovation in our companies. Whether it is R&D departments, innovation teams, or start-up incubators, and whether it is finance, technology, pharmaceuticals, or government bureaucracies, diversity is imperative. We must have divergent perspectives to generate new ideas. We must also have people of difference on our teams and throughout our organizations to help us reach increasingly diverse consumer markets. If you want the most vigorous, frank, and creative discussions inside your company, you need a person of difference at the table — and in my experience, more than one.
Carol Fulp is president and CEO of The Partnership, Inc., author of “Success Through Diversity,” and a panelist at HUBweek’s “Innovation, Inspiration & Inclusion” session during the HUBweek Forums on Thursday, Oct. 11.