Visions of the Future: Driving Diversity, Inspiring Innovation
November 6th, 2018: A day for, and of, history, perhaps. A day of historic firsts for the United States government: a moment at which its Congress began to look, in however ostensibly imperceptible ways, a little more like the country it claims to represent.
A day when Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first Native American women to be elected to Congress; a day in which Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar joined them as America’s first female Muslim representatives; a day in which Jared Polis became America’s first openly homosexual male governor in Colorado; a day when, at the age of 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez becomes perhaps the most prominent millennial in American politics as the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives.
A day, then, when diversity of gender wasn’t enough for the American electorate, and they opted – in some corners of the country, if nothing else – to try and ensure that the country’s decision-makers weren’t just a little more diverse in their gender, but also in their age, religion, sexuality, and class.
Imagine these midterm moments not as fodder for pub quizzes and episodes of Pointless– the catalyst for momentary scratching of heads and groans – but as watershed moments – moments at which the American people, collectively, chose to start washing away the social detritus left by past inequities.
Imagine these midterm moments as not, in fact, moments – but part of movements. Moments when we remove the glass ceilings and build elevators in their place, requiring not so much violent smashes as vibrant steps to conquer.
Imagine that those glass ceilings weren’t just removed in the political sphere – that ‘diversity’ wasn’t just restricted to those few individuals fortunate enough to have the right electorate and the right face at the right time. Imagine if our businesses and parliaments took similar leads, and replaced barriers with opportunities; uniformity with diversity.
November 6th, 2022: Less history, perhaps, on this day. Fewer firsts. Fewer headlines. But imagine that below the surface – behind the headlines and away from the spotlight – diversity had become a norm, not an exception.
Imagine, then, a world where companies weren’t forgoing crucial growth opportunities because they weren’t misunderstanding or missing new markets.
Imagine a world where the UK economy was boosted by £24 billion each year or more – an extra one percent or so of its current GDP.
Imagine a Parliament, or a House of Representatives, or a boardroom that was more diverse and inclusive – intellectually as well as interpersonally – where new ideas were more likely to take shape, be heard, and be implemented.
Imagine those new ideas forming the cornerstone of transformational innovation, then, with individuals from disparate backgrounds and experiences bringing new modes of thinking and new ways of interacting to your organisation.
Imagine missing fewer opportunities, making fewer strategic mistakes – giving your company the competitive edge, or giving our society the optimal conditions, it needs to succeed in a world driven by the capacity to innovate effectively.
What if it all starts by smashing a ceiling and building an elevator?
What if it all starts with a gay governor or a millennial Congresswoman?
Currently, the uppermost echelons of our society don’t look particularly diverse. For all the noise garnered by the success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, fewer than one in four US House Representatives are female. Fewer than one in three members of the UK parliament are.
In the corporate world, where ossified (and ossifying) modes of operation and prejudices still prevail, the rooms where it happens look even more homogeneous: only 9.7 percent of Executives at FTSE 100 companies are female, and only 6 percent of top management positions are held by BAME individuals.
The price of this lack of diversity isn’t just ethical – there is good evidence that it is also economic. Research repeatedly suggests that companies that have greater gender diversity in the boardroom receive greater innovation revenue. Other research reports that companies with 2-D diversity out-innovate and out-perform others, are 45 percent more likely to report a growth in market share over the previous year, and 70 percent more likely to report that the firm captured a new market.
However, with a majority of companies – 78 percent – reporting that they do not possess diverse leadership, and the figures in the political sphere broadly similar, it could hardly be clearer that most organizations are still ill-placed to derive the economic and social benefits of diversity.
Innovation occurs in environments where new ideas can be raised, heard, and enacted with as little friction as possible – and research also suggests that diverse workplaces are more likely to create those conditions. For example, in environments where leadership is homogeneous,women are 20% less likely than straight white men to win endorsement for their ideas; people of colour are 24 percent less likely; and LGBTs are 21 percent less likely.
This isn’t just a loss for the individuals who see their capacity for innovation trammelled. It’s also a loss for companies, voters, and society – who all benefit from outstanding innovation.
Imagine turning this loss into an opportunity, and opportunity into outcome. Imagine replacing exclusivity with inclusivity, and stagnation with innovation.
We think that’s a vision of the future worth creating.
We are The Storytellers. We exist to move more people to do great things through the power and influence of storytelling.
Which story will move you and the people around you to do great things in 2018? Share your story with us.