Many of our customers have asked “what are the most important organizational values to nurture innovation?” Some of them may seem obvious or (at least) familiar: transparency, the embrace of digital solutions, the ability to celebrate failure, but we’re coming to discover that the most important value that you can embrace as part of your innovation programs is diversity.

Think about it: innovation is based on new ideas and new ways of looking at things, but we also know that ideas rely on collisions with other ideas, that the most disruptive and transformational changes come from unlikely combinations and challenges to one another’s original conceptions. This is especially true for organizations that use online platforms for ideation, because the entire community becomes a resource for both ideas, as well as connections between ideas.

And that means bottom-line results as well. Just a look at this Harvard Business Review article that reports companies with high-levels of diversity are 45% more likely to report market share growth over the pas year and 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market.

Now, if I’ve managed to convince you just a few short paragraphs that diversity is absolutely essential to your innovation program, well then you’ve improved my opinion of the world… because diversity is an oft-challenged value these days and cultivating diversity is not always easy.

The truth is that diversity in the workforce is still startlingly low. In a study of 69 Fortune 100 companies with boards of directors, they found that non-white people only represent 18.3 percent of directors. In the past ten years, women have increased their participation in senior management by only 1%. Women occupy only 21% of senior business roles in the US as of April 2016. So here are some ways that you can address that lack of progress:

Review HR Practices

Assign diversity targets and employ diversity tactics. Make sure that the make-up of your organization doesn’t look the same across racial, gender, age, or religious lines. Is this part of your HR strategy?

Launch an Online Employee Feedback Software

These platforms are ways to globally connect employees that might not otherwise be exposed to each other. It helps make disparate connections into a more organic experience at a company – especially large, distributed companies of employees.

Promote Diversity in Leadership Positions

It helps to feel empowered if you can find leaders like you at the director level. However, diversity of opinion also means listening to the people who aren’t on top – find ways to avoid just hearing the “HIPPO.”

If you’d like to learn more about how diversity fosters innovation, download our white paper on the subject.  And join IdeaScale in celebrating diversity. It’s one of our favorite values!

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.