Cultural diversity offers the flexibility and creativity we need to recreate the global economy for the 21st century.
Innovating was never easy. But it's more difficult than ever in a globalized world that is struggling to recover from a major economic crisis.
Differing voices and viewpoints are powerful factors in steering innovation. If an organization does not leverage the potent weapon of diversity, it risks limiting its creative potential and ultimately losing its competitive edge.
In the evolution of leadership, diversity is not defined just by race or gender. It also encompasses the whole human experience — age, culture, education, personality, skills and life experiences. Managed effectively, this cultural diversity offers the flexibility and creativity we need to recover from the economic crisis and confront the many forces challenging us:
- Economic and social upheavals
- Major demographic shifts
- An urgent need to innovate to renew economic growth
- Increasing demands for diversity from our partners, clients, customers and other stakeholders
Our recent study Redrawing the map: globalization and the changing world of business reveals that the boards of many global companies lack the diversity to deal with intercultural challenges. At the same time, they cite the need for internationally experienced staff as the most important cultural factor in conducting business globally.
Becoming a great leader in any country or culture takes time, but translating the new inclusive idiom will quickly reveal four imperatives for success:
- Stir the pot. Research shows that diverse viewpoints generate the lively debate that can create new ideas.
- Anticipate the Next Big Thing — or better yet, drive the Next Big Thing! Diversity powers innovation, helping your business generate new products and services.
- Nurture a spectrum of talent. Expect to find talent in unexpected places.
- Get the mindset. Focus on transformational leadership.
Leading companies have shown that visible benefits to the bottom line result from leveraging inclusive ways of thinking.
But an inclusiveness strategy should not be implemented rashly. Leaders must first cultivate the insight to recognize and understand differences and their power to bring about profound cultural shifts in organizations. This mental transformation is critical to developing transformational leadership capabilities. It is the single most important step toward becoming a successful player in the global arena.