Why Your Organization Needs Diversity to Drive Innovation

This is a guest post by Scott Williams. He’s a pastor, blogger, consultant and author of Church Diversity: Sunday The Most Segregated Day of the Week. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

What is innovation? Innovation is defined simply as “the act of introducing something new.” Innovators are not always right. They tend to have as many stories of failure as they do of success.

Still, I appreciate organizations that value innovation. They demonstrate the willingness to try new ways to share their message and ultimately get more of their products in the hands of consumers.

Apple is the king of innovation, of course. They are always introducing something new and a new version of the new thing that they just introduced! It keeps people like you and me wanting to buy the latest-greatest Apple products with the most innovative technology.

I know it seems like many moons ago when Apple released the original iPad. However, they released the first generation version of this product just a year and a half ago. This innovation opened an entire product category that didn’t exist previously.

That’s what innovators do. They chart a new course and lead the way.

Often times we think that innovation should be left up to technology companies, the automobile industry, and new media type industries. The reality is that innovation is an act of intentional leadership for all leaders and especially those in ministry.

I believe the church should be one of the most innovative entities on the planet, as the church is the Bride of the Innovator: “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

However, if a ministry, church planter, organization, or leadership team wants to be a driving force in the area of innovation, it must strive for diversity.

In my book Church Diversity, I researched the top corporations for diversity in the world. I studied companies like Johnson & Johnson, IBM, and Coca-Cola. I also conducted research on some key churches around the world. I then drew parallels between the two.

A common theme from these corporations and churches was the fact that diversity in their leadership team, staff, and people fueled success and inspired innovation.

IBM vice president of diversity, Ron Glower, says it this way,

Diversity is a cornerstone of IBM’s strategy to differentiate itself as one of the world’s great companies… it is an essential part of how we attract and retain the best people around the world and makes for a creative environment.”

Unfortunately, if you have a bunch of leaders sitting around the table that all look alike, think alike, and have similar life experiences, it’s only a matter of time before their innovative ideas become recycled ideas, meaning “more of the same.”

While diversity does not just apply to ethnic diversity, ethnic diversity is crucial. Why? Because each team member brings their unique cultural and life experiences to daily discussions and interactions. These discussions and interactions ultimately drive innovation, ideas, and ways to reach a diverse group of people. I have witnessed this first-hand in my own team.

Diversity must be valued if:

  • The church wants to attract, retain, and develop the best talent.
  • The church wants to stay competitive in the market place of leading all people to Jesus.
  • The church wants to be stronger than ever before.
  • The church wants to truly be innovative and not stuck in the pre-civil rights movement era.

One of the pastors that I featured in my book talks about the innovative bonuses of having diversity as a value. Pastor John Bryson “JB” says it this way,

You go to war for diversity and you win the secondary battles against preference and consumerism as a bonus.”

A diverse leadership team helps to create healthy dialogue, synergy, productivity—and the ability to serve a diverse world.

It’s time to look at innovation differently and truly seek to fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus said “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” That means all nations, all ethnicities, and all people.

Questions: How have you seen diversity fuel innovation? How have you seen a lack of it stifle innovation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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