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Does Diversity in the Workplace Lead to More Innovation and Creativity?

Thu, Apr 25, 2019

In an IBM survey of more than 1000 CEOs, creativity was ranked as the number one quality for leaders. Innovation and creativity are a critical resource for any company in order to grow your business and be successful. While the need for creativity is obvious, how to foster creativity is less obvious. Evidence suggests that one method of generating more creativity in the workplace is to have more diversity in your workforce.

Effects of Intercultural Relationships

A study by Jackson Lu, Paul Eastwick and others examined the effect that intercultural dating had on creativity and innovation. The results of several experiments showed that a history of intercultural dating could predict how well a person would do on a series of creativity tests. An additional experiment showed that these results were not just a correlation. Subjects performed better on the same tests when they had spent time reflecting on an intercultural relationship rather than an intercultural one.

Employer's Guide to Diversity and Inclusion

A final experiment explored the effects of intercultural friendships, rather than romantic relationships. The experiment found that more frequent contact with friends of a different culture was a predictor of whether a person would display traits of entrepreneurship and innovation in the workplace, suggesting that close intercultural relationships promotes creative thinking.

The conclusion of the authors was that this study provided “the first empirical evidence that intercultural romantic relationships and friendships can enhance creativity by facilitating cultural learning.” They suggest that the improved creativity is the result of the mental flexibility that is required when dealing with a culture that is different than one’s own.

Diversification in Teams

Individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures bring different ideas to teams. Innovation and creativity are basically the result of problem solving and people solve problems in different ways. suggests, “Teams can use personal creativity-diversity techniques in order to generate more creative ideas. In addition, team leaders and those putting together teams should strive for diversification. Bring in women and men from various departments, with various educational backgrounds and, ideally with different cultural backgrounds. Such people will provide a wider range of knowledge from which to extract information and build upon ideas.”

Diversification in Companies

Diverse teams arise from having a diverse workforce in your company. By seeking out individuals from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and even countries it is possible to shape a workforce with very different thoughts, ideas, and contributions.

In addition to a diverse workforce contributing to innovation, each of the individuals has a network of people from whom they draw inspiration, which creates a meta-network of diverse input for your organization.

A Few Final Caveats

While a diverse workforce can provide more creativity and innovation for a company, it is worthy of mentioning that there can be “too much of a good thing”. There is a difference between generating ideas and implementing ideas. The Harvard Business Review offers some cautionary advice, as studies show that the benefits of a diverse team generating ideas disappears when the team is tasked with deciding which ideas to select and implement.

The Harvard Business Review reports, “A meta-analysis of 108 studies and more than 10,000 teams indicated that the creativity gains produced by higher team diversity are disrupted by the inherent social conflict and decision-making deficits that less homogeneous teams create.”

An effective diversity program certainly has benefits for any company, from generating creativity and innovation to building a more positive employer brand. But the right balance needs to be found in order for leadership to get the ideas implemented. It is important to work with an expert staffing firm who understands how these factors affect your business growth and profitability!

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