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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

How diversity, equity, and inclusion promote business innovation

To truly innovate and tap into your company’s full creative potential, you need a diverse workforce with equal access to opportunities.

How diversity, equity, and inclusion promote business innovation
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Innovation in business is powered by unique perspectives and new ideas. At the forefront of innovation is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Having diverse perspectives from teammates who come from different backgrounds ensures that your team approaches a problem from multiple angles and this can lead to faster resolutions. Diverse teams also adapt to changes more easily, reach more potential customers, and offer the opportunity for ground-breaking change.

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As leaders in their industries, the members of Fast Company Executive Board understand the importance of innovating and the role diversity, equity, and inclusion play in achieving it. Below, 14 of them share the most impactful ways that DEI fuels innovation.

1. INCREASED CONNECTION BETWEEN PEOPLE AND BRANDS

DEI is the foundation on which the future of innovation must be built. Having diverse thinking, collective beliefs, and different experience and perspectives, informs innovation for all and helps us connect brands with ALL people, not only the traditional digital natives. – Steven Moy, Barbarian

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2. BETTER OUTCOMES AND BROADER CUSTOMER BASES

If you’re trying to solve a problem for someone whose shoes you’ve never walked in, you’re not likely to hit the mark. Divergent thinking, based on human-centered design thinking that includes a diversity of thought, leads to better outcomes. We go beyond our own experience bubble and design solutions that can serve the needs of a broader customer base or solve problems for underserved markets. – Shannon Lucas, Catalyst Constellations

3. INNOVATION AND INSPIRATION FROM NEW PLACES

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A more diverse and inclusive team is more likely to draw inspiration from different places to create something new. The equity piece often gets overlooked. Teams that operate in an equitable environment, including equitable pay, are more likely to feel a sense of respect and trust. Those factors create better knowledge sharing and collaboration, which fuels innovation. – Leigh Dow, Identiv

4. DIFFERENT IDEAS AND THOUGHTS

Diversity is innovation. If someone doesn’t look like you, they don’t think like you, and that often means they can help you. Think different! – Duncan Wardle, iD8 & innov8

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5. CREATIVITY AND AWARENESS

The consideration of different backgrounds and perspectives sparks creativity, open-mindedness, and diligence in thought when introducing something new—whether it’s a new product, service, or internal process. Awareness and understanding of different viewpoints allows you to question the status quo, think through different possibilities, and develop new and better ideas. – Ken Thompson, AlignOrg Solutions

6. UNIQUE POINTS OF VIEW

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With a diverse team, companies can take advantage of unique viewpoints, perspectives, and experiences to push their business forward. An inclusive workplace also helps organizations address any unconscious bias that can impact recruitment, evaluations, and promotions. – Carl Oliveri, Robin

7. ELIMINATES GROUPTHINK

The more ideas and perspectives on the table, the more creative you’re going to be as a collective. Diversity creates stability; it ensures that decisions won’t be over-indexed by groupthink or personal preferences, because you’re balanced in your approach. The more diverse the room and conversation, the bigger perspective you have. – Liza Streiff, Knopman Marks Financial Training

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8. DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO A PROBLEM

We all come from different walks of life and therefore have different perspectives on the world around us. It is easy to think that you know what someone else has experienced, but more than likely you don’t. The more people from different walks of life you include on your creative team, the more likely you are to create something innovative because you’ll be approaching it from different angles. – Jason Hall, Five Channels

9. FASTER RATES OF ADAPTATION

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Diversity, equity, and inclusion allow an organization to understand and pursue innovation through multiple lenses with an open mind. This increasing perspective enables the ability to discover and discuss new innovations that are more constructive and open to rapid iteration or adaptation. – Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

10. A MORE HONEST SOUNDING BOARD

A large amount of research indicates that diverse teams are more innovative (and lead to superior revenue results stemming from innovations), such as this recent study. The wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds people bring to the table pushes thinking out of the “confirmation bias” zone. Therefore, it’s imperative for leaders to be adept at creating spaces where multiple voices are present. – Amaya Weddle, bande

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11. FURTHER UNDERSTANDING OF ALL CUSTOMERS

The most innovative ideas come from an empathetic understanding of customers and their problems. And the best way to understand and invent for customers is through the diverse lens of a diverse, global, inclusive team working to apply multiple perspectives toward crafting a solution together. That’s the kind of team everyone should get the opportunity to be a part of. – Barry Fiske, Merkle

12. MORE EMPATHETIC EMPLOYEES

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DEI fosters belonging, authenticity, and collaboration. Providing our employees a platform to elevate their voices with the larger company ensures we’re embracing intersectionality and encourages empathy. By cultivating inclusion and diversity, we provide better employee experiences, customer experiences, and achieve greater innovation in our business. – Jason VandeBoom, ActiveCampaign

13. REVISED MARKETING MESSAGES

DEI fuels innovation by helping businesses craft great marketing messages. Marketing content that works well in one country won’t necessarily make an impact elsewhere. It’s difficult to gauge your content’s reception in other cultures, but with a more diverse workforce, you’ll get input on how to craft new messages that innovate your marketing tactics. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

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14. GROUND-BREAKING CHANGES

Innovation is ground-breaking change, and in our current world diversity, equity, and inclusion are the definitions of this. As our society evolves, how we understand one another—from one human being to another—is at the forefront. The more we understand the meaning of these elements, the closer we will become with, not only our workforce but customers as well. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

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