Building an inclusive culture is the key to creativity and innovation

Earlier this year, I blogged about my 6 hopes for the world of work in 2016. One of my hopes centered around focusing on inclusion because, frankly, I’m tired of talking about diversity.  And I’m frustrated with the evidence that keeps hinting to us that our focus on diversity is creating more significant divides. Want proof? If you’ve been paying close attention to our global world, we see the impacts of what I call, the “diversity divide” in the outcomes of Brexit and the latest US election.

Being an American, myself, I dare call the US a diverse country, with its multi-cultural population. As a Queens, NY resident, which is the third most ethnically diverse county in the US, I was consistently astounded at how different ethnic groups did not tend to interact with other ethnic groups, rather, they gathered and segregated themselves in specific neighborhoods. Diverse, yes. Inclusive, not really.

Profound change demands inclusion

In hindsight of the US election outcomes, it dawned on me that the diversity divide is greater than we thought. So great that the country has been searching for profound change at any cost. Accepting the outcome of the election, the work of the country and the work of the world now becomes even more important to foster inclusion, which is the work I hope to do. Veldhoen + Company’s mission to create a better world of work gives me a greater conviction and resolve to help our clients to do this work in their own backyards,  to make our work communities better, safer, more accepting, and dare I say, more loving.

Diversity in our economy, diversity in the workplace

What is happening in the world is indicative of how our organisations operate; the two are inextricably connected. As diversity of our economies became more important, so too did diversity in the workplace. However, diversity quickly became another buzz word in our corporate environment, a box ticking activity for those who were tracking metrics that never told a full or compelling story. In our increasingly global world, we can no longer ignore the conversation and choose to focus on simplistic diversity metrics. What I’m more interested in is expanding what we typically mean by diversity to include not just gender or ethnic or generational diversity, but diversity of experience, thought, and working styles.

Design your workplace to light on inclusion

As a workplace strategist, the spaces we design can help inspire and enable a culture of diversity that also shines on a light on the importance of inclusion. Leaders talk a lot about collaboration and innovation these days. Well, the only path to achieve both is through creating a culture of inclusion. How is your organisation really hiring for, harnessing, and unlocking the diversity in a way that is contributing to an inclusive culture that can unlock innovation and creativity?  Some indications that you may not be approaching diversity and inclusion in the best way include:

  1. How new hires are brought into the organisation – are you asking your new hires questions about their previous experiences or are you more focused on onboarding them into your organisational culture and helping them navigate “the way things work around here”?
  2. Nature of meetings – are the nature of your meetings centered around sharing information and gaining consensus or alignment? Then you’re probably leaving little space for new ideas and different points of view. If participants don’t feel comfortable having constructive debates, then you have some work to do.
  3. Hierarchy and power structures – do people tend to defer to the most senior person in the room? Or the loudest/most vocal person in the room? Or person with the most tenure? Think about how you might start to break obsolete power structures to enable all voices to contribute to discussions, regardless of status, title, age, tenure, or even perceived competence. Creative ideas come from diverging first.
  4. Being conscious of marginalised populations – there are tons of unconscious biases we hold and apply in our day to day interactions and how they relate to traditionally marginalised populations. Marginalised populations come in many different forms, they could include women, certain ethnic backgrounds, young or old employees, amongst many others. What does it mean to identify with a marginalised population? Take the very definition of the word “marginalise”: to treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant or peripheral. Enough said.

Resolve to do it differently, and the results will follow

Now, there’s no blame or shame in having contributed to any of the above. The systems in our society are stronger than any one individual, which is why they’ve been kept in place for so long. However, where there is awareness, there is accountability. Be aware of these scenarios in your organisation and resolve to respond differently. Welcome other voices to contribute, seek to understand differences, and challenge your own way of operating. Create a workplace where inclusion is the norm, and the results will follow. I guarantee it.

Other stories and blogs of Allison:

Allison Tsao
Australia & New Zealand Want to know more? Contact
+61 431 847 327 allison@veldhoencompany.com