How Diversity Inspires Innovation

Diversity in all senses encourages creativity and innovation by fusing together two or more ideas that are traditionally separate. Specialists are often too narrowly focused.

What's the Latest Development?

The essence of innovation is fusing ideas that have not been connected before, like Steve Jobs combination of calligraphy and technology to create Mac's graphical user interface. A fusion of business models can also inspire innovation, as when Netflix-style rentals and high-end fashion were combined to create the successful business Rent the Runway. So how can businesses consciously higher individuals who are good at fusing new ideas? They should look for diversity at every level of the company and the individual.

What's the Big Idea?

Bronwyn Fryer of the Harvard Business Review says there are many levels to diversity. And while companies may have official policies recognizing diversity as a value, most corporate cultures lack a truly innovative spirit. One reason, says Fryer, is the presence of too many specialists. "The devaluation of generalists has produced lots and lots of business majors who may know how to put together a spreadsheet but who can't think broadly enough to put unlike ideas together." She offers a spirited defense of a liberal arts education.

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