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Promoting Innovation through Diversity

Some Personal Credentials in Promoting Inclusion

It is easy to write, talk and think about Inclusion and Equality and Diversity in some kind of bubble of ideology (one way or the other) or from a comfy armchair. As a matter of fact and for what it is worth I am writing this from a comfortable office on a spring morning with the door open onto a pleasant garden with the birds singing. It is beautiful here, nd I do have a comfy armchair from which to pontificate, but let me share some credentials that, I think give me a voice.

Around 20 years ago I received a phone call at about 3am. It woke me. I rushed to pick up the phone to hear a voice I recognised. I immediately said an excited “George”. For I thought it to be my old friend who worked in the Peace and Reconciliation Movement in South Africa. There was a pause and the voice said, “No. This is Michael, George’s brother.” His tone as sombre as he went on, “I am phoning to tell you that George has been murdered.” Devastated. I couldn’t take it in. It turned out my friend had been car-jacked and shot amid lawlessness in South Africa.

Around 17 years ago, there was an frantic banging on my door around 12.45am. I happened to be working late. One of our neighbours, an agitated middle-aged man of Pakistani Muslim heritage was on the doorstep saying “get your family out. Your house is nearly on fire.” Waking our young children my wife got the children out of the house and away. I watched as my car which was parked next to the house was engulfed in flames which licked up the gable wall, melting the uPVC window frames. The house was saved. I lost my car. The real issue was a troubled community, full of tension.

Much of my work since the mid-1980s has involved working in and with and through challenged communities. The downside of much diversity has come close to me, to my friends and my family. I have some credentials. I am not an armchair commentator.

Reflecting on Experience

Around a dozen years ago, I was invited to undertake a piece of research in two very challenged communities. On the surface they were very similar. The main presenting difference was that one had a significantly higher level of entrepreneurship than the other. The research was to consider why this was. The main conclusion reached was that the diversity within the social history of the two communities had a direct impact on current levels of entrepreneurship. So, turn up the temperature in terms of levels of diversity in the heritage of a community (or organisation) and you increase the likelihood of entrepreneurship; turn down the temperature and the likelihood decreases. The conclusion drawn was that there was a direct connection between levels of diversity and levels of entrepreneurship.

Diversity & Multiple Social Identity in Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Let’s introduce innovation alongside entrepreneurship, making the assumption, developing communities and organisations want to promote both.

Our conclusions were clear: there is a direct link between levels of diversity and levels of entrepreneurship and innovation. We extend our argument further and would make the point that the potential for innovation and entrepreneurship increase not just with levels of of diversity but also with levels of multiple social identity, but which I mean: the rich mix of experience, viewpoints preferences and so on that make people who they are.

Following this conclusion, it is obvious that to reduce levels of diversity and multiple social identity is to reduce the potential for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Inclusion as a "no-brainer" for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Within nations and communities, there can be no justification for extremes that result in lives being taken. The murder of my friend George, is indefensible; as is any act to disrupt the lives of others or the stability of communities. So also the, disruption leading to the damaging of lives and property is similarly indefensible. It is so easy to dwell on the negative and the extreme. What about potential and opportunity?

It seems to me that it is an absolute no-brainer to actively promote inclusion as a means of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, whether this be in communities and nations or within businesses and other organisations. I do not mean by this, the tick-box inclusion of compliance with some imposed agenda. I mean by this, the intentional enrichment brought through inclusion and the promotion of diversity.

So how do we implement such a no-brainer?

Some years ago, my own business developed a Learning & Development programme for managers entitled “Promoting Innovation through Diversity”. We have developed the thinking within this programme to support businesses and communities to really reflect on who and what they are - their beliefs about people and their potential - and to adjust their Moral Compass to seek promoting diversity as a means of enriching and of development in oder to promote innovation and entrepreneurship through inclusion and through diversity.

For more information contact:

44 (0) 1977 611251