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January 28th, 2010

by Guest Blogger

11 comments (+ Add)

Guest: Scott Williams

Diversity Drives Innovation

By Scott Williams

What is Innovation?  Innovation is defined simply as the act of introducing something new.  I appreciate organizations that value innovation.  I’m an adamant believer that if a ministry, organization, group, or leadership team wants to be a driving force in the area of innovation, they must be diverse.  If you have a bunch of guys and gals sitting around the table that all look alike, think alike and have similar life experiences, it’s only a matter of time before their new innovative ideas are merely recycled ideas.  By recycled I mean more of the same.

Diversity as it relates to innovation does not only apply to ethnic diversity; however in my opinion ethnic diversity is always crucial.   I love having an ethnically diverse team, as each team member brings their unique cultural and life experiences to daily discussions.  These discussions and interactions ultimately drive innovation.  If an organization wants to attract the brightest and most innovative minds in the world, they must make sure that all the faces at the leadership table don’t look the same.

It doesn’t matter if the entity is for-profit, not-for-profit or a religious institution.   A diverse leadership team helps to create synergy, productivity, and the ability to serve a diverse world.  Over time, that diverse group of leaders may need to be shuffled around, because long-term familiarity can also result in more of the same.

Diversity is different, change is good, innovation is new and Diversity Drives Innovation.

What do you think?  Share your thoughts!

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  1. Jan 28, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I would completely agree with you that diversity drives innovation. About 10 months ago a Spanish speaking congregation merged with our English speaking congregation. I have to be honest, at first it was difficult…we didn’t know what to expect…
    For the first few months we were running two services: English and Spanish
    But as we grew together as leaders we felt that God was calling us to a true bi-lingual congregation. Each message is translated into Spanish or English and our worship consists of songs that are a mixture of both. God is doing a great work here and I would have to believe that it stems from our willingness to have diversity, which has led to innovation.

  2. Jan 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

    This makes me think of 1 Corinthians 12. We need diversity without a doubt. The only other thing though is that diversity in a leadership team also requires an incredible amount of trust and understanding. It is difficult to get in a room and share ideas with a group of people who think differently than you yet don’t trust one another. As Bill Hybels writes in his book Axiom, there has to be a safe environment to share ideas. He talks about shutting the door and saying from here forward no idea is to dumb or ridiculous. It is a safe environment to dream/plan/strategize. I would love more of that! Yes, we need diversity, but we also need trust amid the diversity.

  3. Jan 28, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I have a multicultural music ministry and I love the diversity of the people. I love learning from other cultures and incorporating elements of their culture into the service, whether it’s language or style. Multicultural worship is certainly a growing movement.

  4. 4Dave Sears
    Jan 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Great blog post Scott! I love the diversity that displays in so many ways!

  5. Jan 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Michael- Absolutely it stems from that diversity… Glad to hear, thanks for sharing.
    Peter G.- The more diversity you have at the table, the more comfortable it is to have those conversations, thus creating the environment that Hybels talks about. Amen and Amen on your trust comment.
    Peter M.- Hearing from other cultures is critical, if we don’t hear from other cultures all we can do is assume.
    Dave- Thx. Dave!

  6. Jan 28, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Sometimes we have been in the little box so long that we don’t recognize its limitations. The familiar is always comfortable to our flesh. The unknown and the new bring us into the realm of faith and trust. We need to think about the, “team,” that Jesus gathered. They were a diverse group in their occupations and approaches to problem solving. Diversity brings us the ability to solve problems,”out of our little box.”

  7. 7Avery
    Jan 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Not to be contrary, but to offer a diverse perspective…

    True diversity comes from a draw from the inside… and the lack of diversity shows an inner weakness and unreal perspective of reality, culturally, etc..

    The need to point out a lack of diversity shows weakness of inner perspective, and puts limits on the reality of diversity…

    When ever the buzzword “diversity” is mentioned especially in our postmodern western culture, it almost always points to ethnical or cultural differences.

    That is because our lack of inner perspective wants to push others towards our own ideals…

    The truth is that the need to point out the need for diversity, shows only the need, but doesn’t provide a solution (which only comes from recognizing the inner truth that ethnical and cultural diversity is a reality.)

    In simpler terms… if we have to point out and promote the need for diversity, it only shows we are not really ready for it…

    Diversity, (true diversity rather than the pop and shallow version of it) doesn’t even consider things like age, ethnicity, and outer appearance… it simply recognizes the truth that all human life has value…

    When something isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it…

    I suggest to promote true diversity… especially in a global christian culture, simply promote the truth…

    Cleaning the inside of the cup first is the most effecient use of our stewardship I think…

    Hopefully, there are a few out there with the intellectual accumen to get what I’m saying… or perhaps I can restate it more simply…or someone else who gets it for that matter…

  8. Jan 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I think there is value for ethnic/cultural diversity along with diversity of experience, but ultimately I think Avery is right that innovation isn’t simply the result of different people coming together under a common goal, but people (whether different or not) coming together under a common goal and committed to being led by the Spirit with the ability to be creative.

    That’s a long way of saying: innovation is a byproduct of creative character, not experience, culture or creativity.

  9. Jan 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Ahem…that last sentence should read:

    That’s a long way of saying: innovation is a byproduct of creative character, not experience, culture or ethnicity.

    My bad.

  10. Jan 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Dama- Thx, Familiar is comfortable! I appreciate all that you guys do in Ardmore.

    Hopefully, there are a few out there with the intellectual accumen to get what I’m saying… or perhaps I can restate it more simply…or someone else who gets it for that matter…

    With the number of Swerve readers w/ the vast experience from around the world, I think it’s fair to assume there are more than a few people who have the “intellectual accumen” to get what you’re saying. I assume that you meant “intellectual acumen.” My personal experiences in ministry, politics, corrections and business is that cultural and ethnic diversity does make a difference in the conversations, practices and introduction of different perspectives. I personally know a number of leaders that didn’t understand it until they lived it. I appreciate the diversity in your opinion!
    Jesse- I appreciate your perspective… I think innovation is a byproduct of creative character, life experience, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, teamwork etc.

  11. 11Avery
    Jan 29, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Yes, that’s what I meant Scott, thanks I have fat fingers :)

    I hear about your experiences Scott… but personal experience can be extremely subjective, (which is why we need diversity)…

    Diversity isn’t always the axis of creativity, (even though thousands of books say it is)…

    I felt like a lot of what you wrote was somewhat of a parrot of post-modern thinking and literature, when in historical actuality… some of the most creative figures throughout history were completely isolated, and lacked any diversity whatsoever…

    Even in the context of biblical history, God for instance warned the Israelites against diversity, understanding that sometimes diversity will water down the important things…(when he warned the Israelites not to inter marry, etc.)

    Diversity is not always helpful in some contexts, and it isn’t a necessity for “innovation” even though some post modern literature touts it as so.

    I like the idea of diversity, as organic, but when we try to control our own atmospheres and diversity, we have by definition changed the meaning of the word.

    Diversity can be helpful… but I don’t hear a lot of post-modern thinkers preaching to change their atmospheres to make older folks more a part of their diverse structures, or handicapped folks more a part of their diverse structures…it is almost always cultural and ethnic (because that is the current trend of “cool”.)

    In truth because those types of diversity are not cool, and won’t get the job done to bring people in…

    I am not picking on you, I just wholeheartedly disagree …

    BTW I like diversity as organic, it should be a natural bi-product of life …

    What I don’t like is the current trend to use the buzzword “diversity”, to make organic cultures more like their own ideals to suit their own purposes…

    Any spiritual atmosphere, doesn’t even consider things ethnic, cultural, or in consideration of age etc… that’s because they have been re-born not to think that way….

    Again, I think the need to preach diversity shows we aren’t ready to really be diverse… but instead shows that we still where the glasses that fog the truth behind making those distinctions…

    When we see clearly, we don’t make distinctions like that… we make distinctions like this: Galatians 3:26-28