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5 ways to bring your innovation programs to the next level

On International Women’s Day I had the privilege of being able to listen in as an invited guest on some of the larger firms Diversity and Inclusion meetings.

Here is what I am seeing from the conversation:

There is strong and growing awareness of the business value of Diversity and Inclusion

  • Leading firms are truly seeing the business, both innovative and financial, advantage and are fully committed to diversity.

  • They are also beginning to see this as a core part of their culture and as very beneficial for attracting and retaining top talent.

  • They are noting that senior level interviewees are openly saying that the want to work for firms where the culture and values supports their life choices.

  • Leaders who have made diversity an integral part of their business practices are beginning to see the connection between diversity and innovation. They don’t have any specific way of talking about this – yet.

We are still at the ‘fix it’ stage

  • We are still at the ‘fix it’ stage where they are working to educate on biases and fairness in the hiring, promoting, paying and mentoring processes.

  • There is a heavy and –it appears—necessary emphasis on addressing bias and speaking out when bias is encountered.

  • There is a lot of courage being demonstrated with senior leaders acknowledging their own biases. This is inspiring and heartening and is having a powerful impact on the culture.

  • Leading companies understand that diversity produces better business results but don’t appear to understand why beyond ‘diversity of thought’.

Senior women and minority leaders are leading the way in humanizing work

  • Leading companies are encouraging – even expecting, senior women to share stories about how they make work work for them; thus bringing further awareness to all employees and to corporate policy makers and program designers.

  • There is a public acknowledgement of the fact that 85% of women do the majority of household work.

  • Companies are looking to help balance this by tracking paternal leave and encouraging men to take allocated family leave.

  • Senior women leaders are openly talking about and requesting more support from their partners.

  • There is also a growing understanding that these changes will benefit both men and women.

  • We have come a long way. The potential benefits for everyone are exciting

  • Many wonderful leaders have worked tirelessly to get us here.

  • This work is still in its infancy and we are just beginning to see the early stage results.

  • The firms that really understand how to leverage the huge power of diversity and inclusion will be the leaders of the future.

5 Ways to bring your diversity programs to the next level

This work will ultimately transform our understanding of what it means to lead. I look forward to the day.

Today, there is no common language for understanding and talking about diverse ways of leading and contributing. This will eventually slow progress and risk diversity and inclusion becoming disconnected from business goals.

Highly committed leaders who have aligned their reputation and identify with diversity and inclusion goals and are seeing the early stage business benefits now need to be given the tools and support to distinguish the different ways of leading and contributing so that they can leverage these in their organizations and get the next level of business value.

There are new distinctions for understanding the broader spectrum of human leadership, engagement and contribution.

There is an opportunity to further leverage their diversity and inclusion programs and obtain the next level of real business results in areas such as: innovation, new product development, customer engagement, employee engagement, cross-functional collaboration, on the job mentoring and employee development, supply chain optimization and partnership development.

To take advantage of this, companies need to understand the full spectrum of human traits and qualities and develop a common language, a common and much broader rating and valuation systems; results tracking and metrics processes; and a deep shared understanding of how leaders of the future will innovate by amplifying others. My sincere thanks to the leaders who allowed me to join their conversations.

Jennifer Kenny helps companies innovate better together with a focus on applied Human Centered Design Thinking for Innovation and Transformation. She is passionate about helping amazing people thrive in highly complex technical environments.

For more on her Innovating Better Together, How Women Innovate and Human Design Thinking programs please contact her or

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