10 ways to foster innovation through diversity leadership
Wednesday, November 01, 2017
In this business era of speed, competition and globalization, innovation rules all. You never know where the next great product, process or profit builder will originate.
Good diversity management and culturally intelligent leadership can make the difference between repeatedly hearing mediocre ideas from the same people, or mining the hidden genius in your organization for breakthrough ideas.
Conversely, not knowing how to access that genius or motivate employees to be creative will eventually make you and your products commodities, competing for lower prices.
Here are 10 ways a culturally intelligent leader who practices good diversity management can plant the seeds of self-leadership and accelerate employee innovation.
1. Be conscious of the way you communicate with employees. Ask yourself, "Are they comfortable talking to me about their work, asking questions and giving me suggestions?" If the answer is no, you need to find out why. If it's yes, then keep getting better at it.
Innovation can often come from the lower levels, but if you don't know how to communicate with everyone, they won't share ideas, nor will they feel invested in the organization.
Make a habit of interacting with the people on your team whom you may not know well or with whom you are least comfortable. Identify the reasons for your discomfort, so you can move through it.
2. Be informed about your employees, but don't micromanage. Acknowledge the progress — no matter how small — made by people on your team.
3. Research by Theresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer shows that employees are motivated when their managers are aware of and acknowledge even their small wins.
4. Be introspective and get real about your biases and assumptions. Your behavior that results from those biases and assumptions can impede participation and innovation.
Ask yourself, "Whom am I not seeing? Do I greet all of my employees or just the ones who are like me? Do I walk past any employees without saying hello? Who am I not hearing from in team meetings, and whose opinions am I minimizing, due to bias about work level, function or salary?"
Your bias and assumptions about people different from you mean that you give credibility to people most like you and minimize the contributions of others. When employees feel unacknowledged and invisible, they lose their motivation and feel alienated from the organization.
5. Learn and recognize the different ways in which people are intelligent and contribute to the organization. Stop being stuck in recognizing and respecting only one type of intelligence (yours).
6. Let other people share their expertise, talent and experience, even when their ideas differ from yours. You may find their idea is better.
7. Let go of old parameters, limits and processes for innovation. Open your mind, expand your vision and allow for limitless possibilities when people who think differently start thinking together.
8. Create opportunities for employees from different functions, departments, levels of experience and talents to work together as equals. Managers who expect employees to "go along with the program" and just follow orders discourage creativity and innovation. When creative employees feel stifled, they will take their genius to another organization — possibly your competition — where they can flourish.
9. Welcome the excitement that comes from the synergy of ideas flowing from all directions, as employees with diverse viewpoints continue to build on each other's brilliance to develop "the next big thing" that will set you far above everyone else in your industry.
10. Be a cheerleader for other people's intelligence when they know more about a subject or work area than you. Give them the independence and tools they need to create a product or process that astounds you
Who better to develop a process that makes their work faster, easier and more productive than the people actually doing the work? Who better to suggest a new product that changes lives than the people who will use it?
Cheer yourself for being the kind of leader who is brave enough to let others shine and stays out of the way of oncoming breakthrough innovation.
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