Driven by Difference
How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity
Author: David Livermore
Pub Date: February 2016
Print Edition: $27.95
Print ISBN: 9780814436530
Page Count: 240
e-Book ISBN: 9780814436547
Buy the book:
“Diversity leads to innovation!” That’s the mantra repeated
by many diversity proponents. I just heard it again a couple
of weeks ago from a diversity guru who spoke before me at an
international leadership conference in New York. It makes sense.
Looking at a problem from a diversity of perspectives is likely to
yield better solutions than viewing it solely from one myopic view.
But this rose-colored view of diversity doesn’t jive with reality. Just
as two newlyweds quickly discover that vastly different perspectives
on how to set up house don’t necessarily lead to better results,
the same is true for multicultural teams that are coalescing on a
I recently talked with a senior vice president from one of the
largest global banks who told me his bank cut its diversity and
inclusion budget by 90 percent because its leaders couldn’t see
any return on investment from their diversity efforts. A couple of
months ago, a group of South African executives told me, “We’re
two decades post-apartheid and we’ve made very little progress
in seeing better results from our incredibly diverse workforce.”
And many universities and governments around the world have
abandoned affirmative action–type programs, suggesting it’s time
to move on.
Meanwhile, there’s very limited diversity in many of the Silicon
Valley companies lauded as examples of innovation. Jeffrey Son-
nefeld of Yale University believes tech firms place a premium on
young white males. He says, “It’s sort of a throwback to an era we
should be long past, which is the macho world of the giggling boys,
with the hackers’ sensibility that somehow we are living in a pure
meritocratic world.” Google executive Nancy Lee agrees, at least
in part. She admits that Google’s workforce is predominantly white,
and 83 percent of its tech workers are male. Along with other
Google executives, she is on a crusade to change that.
Should tech firms, banks, and universities recruit a more diverse
workforce simply because of pressure from stakeholders that it’s
the right thing to do? Or can a more compelling case be made for
how a diverse workforce leads to greater innovation and success?
Are there economic advantages to having a more diverse team, or
is it simply a straw man argument?
There’s no question that cultural diversity provides one of
the greatest opportunities for global innovation. The potential is
enormous. But it’s a correlation, not causation. An organization
that learns how to utilize the diverse perspectives from multicultural
teams has a tremendous opportunity to come up with better
solutions. In fact, when used strategically, diversity is one of the
greatest resources for coming up with innovative solutions, which
in turn leads to economic benefits. Learning the managerial steps
for translating diversity into innovation is the primary objective of
How can you utilize diverse perspectives to come up with better
solutions? And what part of the innovation process needs
to be adjusted to leverage diversity for better innovation?
Those are the two primary questions this book will address.
Diversity by itself does not ensure innovation. Diversity combined
with high cultural intelligence (CQ) does. Cultural intelligence
is the capability to function effectively in culturally diverse
situations. It’s rooted in rigorous academic research conducted
by scholars around the world. I’ve written much about the four
capabilities required to work and lead with cultural intelligence.
But this book reflects the next stage in our research on cultural
intelligence: implementing a culturally intelligent process to drive
innovation. Getting diverse teams to function at the highest levels
of productivity requires a leader and team members with high CQ
and a plan for culturally intelligent innovation.
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