Driven by Difference

How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity

 Driven by Difference

Author: David Livermore
Pub Date: February 2016
Print Edition: $27.95
Print ISBN: 9780814436530
Page Count: 240
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814436547

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“Diversity leads to innovation!” That’s the mantra repeated

by many diversity proponents. I just heard it again a couple

of weeks ago from a diversity guru who spoke before me at an

international leadership conference in New York. It makes sense.

Looking at a problem from a diversity of perspectives is likely to

yield better solutions than viewing it solely from one myopic view.

But this rose-colored view of diversity doesn’t jive with reality. Just

as two newlyweds quickly discover that vastly different perspectives

on how to set up house don’t necessarily lead to better results,

the same is true for multicultural teams that are coalescing on a


I recently talked with a senior vice president from one of the

largest global banks who told me his bank cut its diversity and

inclusion budget by 90 percent because its leaders couldn’t see

any return on investment from their diversity efforts. A couple of

months ago, a group of South African executives told me, “We’re

two decades post-apartheid and we’ve made very little progress

in seeing better results from our incredibly diverse workforce.”

And many universities and governments around the world have

abandoned affirmative action–type programs, suggesting it’s time

to move on.

Meanwhile, there’s very limited diversity in many of the Silicon

Valley companies lauded as examples of innovation. Jeffrey Son-

nefeld of Yale University believes tech firms place a premium on

young white males. He says, “It’s sort of a throwback to an era we

should be long past, which is the macho world of the giggling boys,

with the hackers’ sensibility that somehow we are living in a pure

meritocratic world.” Google executive Nancy Lee agrees, at least

in part. She admits that Google’s workforce is predominantly white,

and 83 percent of its tech workers are male. Along with other

Google executives, she is on a crusade to change that.

Should tech firms, banks, and universities recruit a more diverse

workforce simply because of pressure from stakeholders that it’s

the right thing to do? Or can a more compelling case be made for

how a diverse workforce leads to greater innovation and success?

Are there economic advantages to having a more diverse team, or

is it simply a straw man argument?

There’s no question that cultural diversity provides one of

the greatest opportunities for global innovation. The potential is

enormous. But it’s a correlation, not causation. An organization

that learns how to utilize the diverse perspectives from multicultural

teams has a tremendous opportunity to come up with better

solutions. In fact, when used strategically, diversity is one of the

greatest resources for coming up with innovative solutions, which

in turn leads to economic benefits. Learning the managerial steps

for translating diversity into innovation is the primary objective of

this book.

How can you utilize diverse perspectives to come up with better

solutions? And what part of the innovation process needs

to be adjusted to leverage diversity for better innovation?

Those are the two primary questions this book will address.

Diversity by itself does not ensure innovation. Diversity combined

with high cultural intelligence (CQ) does. Cultural intelligence

is the capability to function effectively in culturally diverse

situations. It’s rooted in rigorous academic research conducted

by scholars around the world. I’ve written much about the four

capabilities required to work and lead with cultural intelligence.

But this book reflects the next stage in our research on cultural

intelligence: implementing a culturally intelligent process to drive

innovation. Getting diverse teams to function at the highest levels

of productivity requires a leader and team members with high CQ

and a plan for culturally intelligent innovation.

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