Creative diversity leads to innovation

The democratisation of technology means what’s possible is being realised – not just by the big corporations, or those coming out of Silicon Valley – but by people with a passion for exploration and an imagination to push boundaries. The bar for creativity in the technology space is set so high, that the need for businesses to think outside the box has never been more important.

Creative diversity leads to innovation

The creative industries generate £10 million every hour for the UK economy and creative jobs have increased three times faster than the country’s average. Creative industries need to accept that in a rapidly growing landscape, it is essential to ensure businesses are working with the best team to perform the best jobs for innovative and creative results.

Diversity was first introduced as a business initiative in 1987 in the “Workforce 2000” study by the Hudson Institute, foreseeing diverse work styles of the future. Today one in five Fortune 1000 companies have chief diversity officers or diversity managers whose responsibility it is to promote and implement this initiative into the workforce.

Forbes recently conducted a survey to discover what role diversity plays in businesses today. The research found that diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale. Therefore, it’s apparent that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of creative ideas that will ultimately foster innovation. However, despite the recognised importance of diversity in the workplace, this was only a priority to 35% of the respondents, whereas retention and development of talent was cited as priority to 43%.

Retaining creative talent is a leading problem for many technology companies, due to the competitive nature of the industry. Rather than looking for “experts only”, companies should look for applicants that are “expert and flexible”, not yet filtered into one art or skill but flexible to change and so more creatively inclined.

It can be easy to focus on the short-term hiring fix, but companies should actively look to recruit for the long term. If a company needs to suddenly pivot or shift direction, its employees need to be flexible enough to pivot with it. This will automatically lead to a more diverse mindset and workforce to stimulate more innovative and groundbreaking work.

Hiring a diverse team is not only advantageous from a business perspective – in terms of the quality of work and the strength of the team – but businesses must also be aware of what their team says about their brand. How outsiders perceive a business is far more authentic than how a business would like to be perceived. If there are areas where the organisation is clearly lacking, be it in gender or cultural representations, or even the number of fixed-term employees, these absences can be perceived by clients and prospects alike as areas that the business does not stand for or value.

It’s clear more needs to be done to encourage women to pursue careers in technology, and Women Who Code is a great example of an organisation striving to encourage more women into the space from a young age. This becomes all the more imperative when you consider the fact that millennials will account for 75% of the workforce by 2025.

From a business perspective, we’re experiencing a huge number of younger applicants prioritising company values and ethos over job titles and salaries. Research from Monster, for instance, has shown that younger generations are the least motivated by money, and are more motivated to work for employers that share similar values to themselves. People now want to stand for values and do things differently rather than necessarily being the best at a particular job. A technology business that stands for creative diversity is not only placing diversity into the heart of its organisation, but will also attract a more unique quality of applicant.

Ultimately, the key to achieving diversity is not to see it as a finite goal, but rather a journey that requires constant self-assessment and recommitment from the whole business. This can be done successfully from feeding diversity programmes into HR strategies, and encouraging a workforce to stay constantly curious and take inspiration from a number of different people and places. The competitive nature of today’s workforce has made it essential for today’s businesses to ensure they are being as creative as possible and driving innovation in all aspects of the company. As a result, diversity is no longer a “nice to have”, but rather an essential aspect to a business in order to attract and retain leading creative talent and differentiate itself from the competition.

Mark Stanley is CTO of Lift London, a Microsoft digital studio working on UX design, creative, engineering and mechatronics.

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