Facilitating for Diversity

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At IGNiTE, we are often asked about the value of bringing diverse groups to the table for innovation and ideation sessions. Clients are often concerned about the length of the conversation, the different levels of participant understanding of the issues and the seeming lack of control over a highly diverse group.  In almost every case, I would argue for the diverse group. 

Diverse groups allow for more divergent thinking. Divergent thinking ultimately leads to more potential and more creative solutions. Diversity is critical to broaden thinking, particularly when innovation is sought.  Control is not a goal in the divergent thinking process; while the convergence process is designed with controls built into the process to allow groups to come together and build solutions from the divergent ideas.

One group that we facilitated in Spain for a multi-national pharmaceutical company based on the US was comprised of managers from all over the world.  English was the common language, although with varying degrees of fluency. We used many small group and pairs exercises to build the divergent ideas in order to allow everyone to be heard regardless of their English communication skills. Ultimately, everyone was surprised and pleased with the broad range of innovative ideas and concepts that emerged from this multi-national group. This result would have been much different with a homogenous group. Another benefit for this multi-national company is the ideas that were built in this diverse group have a higher likelihood of having global appeal.

Of course, diversity can come in many forms and doesn’t have to be nationality focused. Diverse groups can be simply cross-functional, cross-purpose or even include outside stakeholders.  We recommend that groups consider diversifying their teams beyond the core members when seeking to expand their thinking and develop true innovation.

— submitted by Cindy Diamond, Principal Diamond Marketing Solutions & IGNiTE

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