Innovation comes from diversity

Innovation comes from diversity

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 08.58.35Today the BBC is reporting a survey by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission that says elite firms (lawyers, accountants, financiers, etc) are recruiting graduates who probably went to selective state or private schools.  Despite decades of talk of social inclusion these firms are still recruiting mirror images of themselves.

It doesn’t surprise me but I don’t understand why.

I am working for an engineering business on a project designed to showcase the female role models in their business. I asked a senior engineer why it mattered and he said there’s no innovation without creativity and no creativity without diversity.

Encouraging women is obvious for such a traditionally male dominated world, but they’re also driving forward social and racial diversity.

But surely professional and financial services firms want to innovate too? Surely they will benefit from the creative tension of diversity?

The focus of a dinner in Birmingham last week was employability. The goal was to find ways to encourage a relationship between Birmingham’s young people and the city’s employers, many of which in the city centre are professional and financial services firms typical of the Commission’s report.

The dinner was constructive and those present shared good practice. But change will be small scale and piecemeal until and unless businesses understand the benefits.

Driving forward this type of culture is not easy. People are often frightened of change and there is a commercial risk, after all the firm has been successful so far.  But be clear about why and how and support the change process with a strong internal communication programme and the results could be significant.

Standing out from the crowd is difficult in sectors where professional qualifications underpin the service; everyone should have the technical expertise and lay people don’t have the knowledge to work it out anyway. An innovative culture built on a diverse cohort of talented individuals could really set the firm apart.

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