First thing most of us do, when we enter a conference room, is to look for people who are similar to ourselves or whom we already know. If you want innovation at your meeting, you should counteract this tendency by securing diversity when you seat and group people. But how do you do that most effectively?
A metastudy from the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation showed that diversity was important to increase innovation in companies.
The study found that diversity on gender increases the chances of innovation with 110 %. Apparently some magic happens when men and women start talking. Don’t we all know that?
If you increase diversity on educational backgrounds innovation increases with 50%. Put an engineer together with a doctor and see what happens.
If you increase diversity on ethnicity the chances of innovation increase with 30%. Create a mental Silk Road by letting an Indian share thoughts with a German.
Consider diversity when you seat and group people. Make sure to mix gender, educational backgrounds and ethnicity. Create a safe and positive atmosphere, where the participants are motivated to move out of their comfort zone.
But diversity does not automatically lead to innovation. The study showed that the chances of innovation are decreasing if you group people across ages. So be careful with matching the professor with the freshman.
Of course innovation can happen across ages, but apparently we have to make a bigger effort to succeed. So when you face diversity difficulties like language problems, religious opposites and age gaps, make sure to design a well thought through facilitated process.
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Source: ”Innovation & Diversity”, Forsknings- og innovationsstyrelsen 2007