Inclusion Drives Innovation

David SpearsIn last week’s blog, we introduced this year’s theme for National Disability Awareness Month (NDEAM), “Inclusion Drives Innovation.” I think most people agree with that statement. Inclusion and innovation are buzzwords we hear often and of course every organization includes similar wording within their mission statement; but what exactly does it mean?

Before unpacking the definition of inclusion and innovation, we should first note that diversity is a large part of both and is defined as the state of showing a great deal of variety or differences (Google).

Inclusion is the state of being included within a group. Inclusion is important because it provides at least one necessary ingredient for a group to be effective: diversity. Each of us has diversity in skills, viewpoints, and even culture that can be utilized within a group to facilitate knowledge, among other things. It would be impossible to realize the value of diversity without inclusion. Furthermore, inclusion is so important that the government created laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to help foster that idea.

Innovation is the act of making changes to something through new methods, ideas, or products. However, according to Barry Conchie, principle leadership consultant at Gallup, “often the term innovation gets confused with creativity.” That isn’t to say that creativity doesn’t matter, but rather creativity is the idea and innovation the action. Diversity is an important part of innovation as well because a variety of processes work together to establish new methods, ideas, or products (research and development, transportation, marketing and accounting just to name a few).

Inclusion brings diversity to the forefront, and diversity helps facilitate innovation. However, inclusion and diversity are cultural matters that are more subjective and difficult to quantify.
As a result, managers will often disregard their importance and focus on more objective matters like gross margin or net profit. But a study by Jaruzelski, Loehr, and Holman found that culture does matter. Their study showed that companies with a high degree of alignment between their culture and innovation strategy grew in value 30 percent faster over a five year period than those with a low degree of alignment. The study defines an organization’s culture as the “self-sustaining pattern of behaving, feeling, thinking, and believing” as the most crucial foundation that supports innovation.

The theme, “Inclusion Drives Innovation,” is not simply a feel good catch phrase; it is a proven fact and makes good business sense. Hopefully more company managers will begin to see the importance of considering the subjective areas of an organization’s culture as a crucial to innovation.

David Spears is a member of the Workforce Solutions Navigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.

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