Diversity + inclusion = innovation

Innovation is fresh thinking that leads to valuable products and services. Innovation is not limited to invention that generally is visualized as made by people in white lab coats with a high IQ. Innovation is a special culture that businesses cultivate. It is a culture of creation. Central to the innovation culture in our present connected world is diversity, inclusion and a work environment which fosters creative thinking.

People exposed to diverse backgrounds and imbued with the spirit of teaming will produce an unexpected solution to a problem. They tend to analyze the problem differently and through brainstorming will come up with a blend, leading to a brand new idea.

Innovation starts with curiosity – a burning desire to experiment and explore new things that contribute to success in what we do. It requires passion to pull together one’s strength and energy toward success. The willingness to take a chance early on while addressing a problem is what leads to innovation. More important, innovation requires relationship building or teaming. Teaming provides a moral and intellectual platform that allows one to connect, organize, accelerate and succeed. Sometimes cross-pollination in a team environment is potent to create entirely new ways to innovate, particularly if the members have a diverse cultural and educational background.

Tesla Motors is classic example of cross pollination of people having diverse educational backgrounds. Rather than starting his automobile company siloed in Detroit, Elan Musk founded it in the heart of Silicon Valley where cross pollination of ideas from the information technology, mobile communications, artificial intelligence and robotics are integrated to innovate a new, versatile and desirable electric car.

Innovation has no boundaries. It can happen in almost every aspect of business. For example, reducing unnecessary steps in a routine process to achieve the end result is innovation, as such reduction could make the process more efficient, reduce waste and save costs. In fact, such a new process with reduced number of process steps is considered as an invention that can be patented.

Today the common complaint is too much information. The trick is not to get bogged down in details, but harness the patterns behind the information and apply them in a meaningful way to build new products and services that makes life better. That is true innovation.

Innovation happens all around us. It sometime seems obvious. When you see innovation, you wonder “why didn’t I think of it?”

T. Rao Coca, Ph.D., J.D. is an Intellectual Property Consultant, a former senior executive at IBM and IGT and now also a Score volunteer.

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