Diversity drives innovation

Author: Marinke Stevens

Few companies nowadays would deny that innovation is crucial to their long-term survival, but innovation doesn’t just happen by itself – as Lego knows from its own bitter experience. Fons Trompenaars, keynote speaker at InNOWvate: “Innovation is nothing more than finding solutions to difficult problems, but in reality it seems as if we do all the things that stand in the way of innovation.”

Trompenaars is an influential business thinker and author of various popular management books. One of his key messages is the importance of diversity within companies – because it creates different perspectives, and different perspectives result in a broader view of the problem at hand. “Thankfully we have plenty of diversity nowadays. 58 percent of people living in Amsterdam don’t have Dutch parents, for example, and Spanish is the number one language in a state like Florida. In business life, although we’re seeing ever-more top-level roles being fulfilled by women and young people – groups that have previously been ignored on a large scale – white males are still dominant.”

Trompenaars illustrates his point by referring to Apple: “There are two groups of people within that company: those who are responsible for functionality, and those who are responsible for the design. There is a continuous dialogue between them. If someone comes up with a nice design, the first question is always ‘Is it functional too?’ and vice versa. At Philips those two groups don’t talk to one another.”

Diversity alone is not enough; a company also needs a culture that embraces diversity, and that in turn requires leadership. “Think carefully about building a balanced team, for instance. A team needs people in several different roles: not only people who are inventive, but also people who aren’t afraid of challenging ideas and people who can put ideas into practice.”

Fons Trompenaars on innovation: ‘A team needs people in several different roles: not only people who come up with ideas, but also ones who dare to challenge them.’

Innovation at Lego

Danish toy manufacturer Lego is one of the companies that has gone through a cultural transition. The company was hit by crisis in early 2000. Sales fell due to the rise of game computers for famili

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