What Kind of Diversity Unlocks Innovation?

Adopting a multidimensional view of diversity will accelerate your organization’s success, according to Women in Innovation Forum NY speaker Laura Sherbin.

More than 700 attendees gathered on Monday at the Parsons School of Design for the third annual Women in Innovation Forum in New York City (W.IN. Forum NY), where a key topic was the correlation between diversity and innovation.

Speaker Laura Sherbin, co-president at the Center for Talent Innovation, talked about the idea of  two-dimensional diversity and why “inherent diversity, “ while valuable, is not enough. According to Sherbin, there are two kinds of diversity — immutable and mutable — both of which are necessary for innovation.  

Immutable Diversity

Inherent traits like race, ethnicity, religious background, sexual orientation, and disability fall under the category of immutable diversity.  “For a while, diversity was just about bringing people in the door and thinking that magic would happen,” Sherbin said. But a second type of diversity — mutable diversity — also is needed in order to make a palpable impact in an organization, she said.

Mutable Diversity

Mutable diversity refers to acquired traits — anything from cultural fluency and generational savvy to technological literacy and cross-functional knowledge. Unlike immutable diversity, these are learned through personal experience. Together, immutable and mutable diversity form 2-D diversity.

“The power of diversity is huge if leveraged in the right way,” Sherbin said.

According to her research, companies with 2-D diversity are 75 percent more likely to have a marketable idea implemented, 70 percent more likely to see their company capture a new market, and 45 percent more likely to see their company improve market share, than companies without 2-D diversity.

Some inclusive behaviors employers can implement in their own organizations to help leverage diversity:

  1. Ensure everyone gets heard.
  2. Empower decision-making by team members.
  3. Share credit for team success.
  4. Give actionable feedback.
  5. Take advice from others and incorporate into decisions.
  6. Make risk-taking safe — and celebrate it.

Jasmine Zhu