The good news is that there is an increasing recognition of the essential truth about problem solving…about innovative thinking…that Albert Einstein recognized more than 75 years ago:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to when we created them.”

Today, many business teams and managers are energetically seeking new, creative thinking beyond “the box” in an effort to uncover pathways to new opportunities and growth. A growing number of enterprises and organization are now realizing that diversity in thinking and problem solvers can have a dramatic, positive impact on creative solutions and innovative insights.

Recent studies of the innovative process (by the Center for Talent Innovation) have added to the understanding of the process. The research has revealed that there are two types of diversity that work synergistically to drive and sustain continued, serial innovation.

Both types of diversity need to be acknowledged and harnessed to optimize and manage for innovation.

Inherent diversity: this is the type of diversity that most researchers are familiar with. These are the traits each of us is born with, such as our age, gender, and ethnicity.

Acquired diversity: how you behave and think because of what you have learned and experienced. Socioeconomic background, nationality, culture, education, work experience, etc., are all acquired diversities.

Interesting but not especially surprising.

The real learning: workforces or teams that include both types of diversity synergistically drive innovative solutions to demonstrably higher levels than less diverse teams. And further, leaders with acquired diversity help establish a “speak-up culture” that encourages rather than inhibits the full creative capability of each team participant or employee.

In order for an idea to be developed and brought to market, there must be receptivity at key decision maker levels throughout the organization (read: accepted by a diverse audience).

Therefore, an inherently diverse innovation team that is encouraged and managed by leaders who value every thinker’s insights is a superior model for optimizing innovation. In fact, the research shows innovation teams possessing inherent and acquired diversity produce dramatically, quantifiably greater outcomes.

We think it’s probably summed up best by Steve Jobs. He led Apple through a series of innovations that outdistanced IBM which at the time had a 100 times larger R&D budget. Jobs had great clarity of understanding of what makes an innovation process successful:

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”