How HR can boost innovation through diversity

Diversity can play an important role in improving innovation, and HR professionals take a number of steps to improve diversity and link this to higher levels of innovation within organisations, according to management thought leader Fons Trompenaars.

“HR leaders must try to get more out of diversity instead of minimising it. Very often we try to kill diversity by adopting one standard or approach, but reconciling diversity would be a better approach,” said Trompenaars, who spoke ahead of the marcus evans HR Summit 2015 on the Gold Coast in late March.

“People can be part of the same game and still different. Innovation is all about creating wealth by connecting diverse viewpoints.”

Trompenaars, author of Servant-Leadership Across Cultures, also said servant-leadership should be part of the overall development of leaders.

“Serving and leading is a dilemma. The reconciliation of both would be to use leadership power to serve other people, which increases your authority and power as a leader,” said Trompenaars, who shared 10 steps for HR to improve leadership development, diversity and innovation across organisations:

  1. HR’s main challenge is its name. It should not be called “human resources” but “resources for humans”. The goal is to create resourceful humans.
  2. Understand the business. Great HR people have keen business knowledge reconciled with the HR profession.
  3. Always start with leadership. Leadership development should start with business issues, strategy and vision, then how employees could support the business. Integrate hard with soft.
  4. Enable people at the grassroots level to go up and those at the top to go down. Many HR leaders do work at the grassroots level that never goes up because the leaders were disconnected. Combine bottom up and top down.
  5. Take advantage of diverse viewpoints. Innovation is about combining values that are not easily joined, therefore scarce, therefore profitable.
  6. Think about creativity and innovation qualitatively and quantitatively. Most HR instruments do not measure the combination of the two, instead measuring people on mutually exclusive scales. We developed tools and integrated questionnaires to avoid this.
  7. Know the diversity of your team members. To create a more innovative team, assess what your team roles are with a simple questionnaire like Belbin has put together.
  8. Create an organisational culture that supports innovation. Too often, HR managers do not use quantitative tools to assess where they are.
  9. Distinguish problem from dilemmas. A problem can be solved by throwing more time and money at it, while a dilemma cannot. It needs another mindset.
  10. Combine opposites. Great leaders should never make a choice when it concerns dilemmas. For example, some companies are facing the dilemma of whether they should be global or local. They should not choose between the two. A great leader would ask: What are we doing locally to make the company more global, and what are we doing globally to help our local people be more effective locally?
    The meta-leadership model we have in mind goes beyond cultures. Most leadership models include culturally-biased competencies which does not work anymore when going abroad. One of the few models that work across cultures is Servant-Leadership, where a leader enables other people to work better and gains authority by serving them. It is all about what a leader does for the people.

The marcus evans HR Summit 2015 will be held at the RACV Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast, Australia, from 23-25 March 2015.