Social and Inclusive Environments are Key to Building a Culture of Innovation

The theme of innovation took on new a form when the pandemic accelerated the digital journey.

More than ever, ‘digital transformation’ has gone from being an abstract concept to a tangible reality for companies and individuals alike. As a result, innovation has become an even more definitive factor of differentiation, or even survival, for many businesses.

Current market conditions have not only exposed the importance of innovation and the digital journey, but have also opened up the need for inclusion and the role of people in building this culture.

To think about innovation and technology is to understand that this only happens when a sum of factors, like diversity of ideas, thoughts and social backgrounds, come together to form collective intelligence. When companies are attentive, they increasingly realise that the union of people with different professions, experiences, and life stories helps to build great values for the future.

How diversity and inclusion impact transformation

When discussing innovation, it is important to demystify its concept. I like to see innovation as the corporate ability to solve problems in a simple and creative way. Considering the diversity of our society, consumers, and circumstances, quick responses are usually required to mitigate high speeds of change and unpredictabilities.

Innovation is a tool for solving our current problems, as it passes through collaborative construction and collective intelligence. These two corporate skills make organisations capable of formulating fast, creative responses and, above all, adhering to the needs of their consumers and society. This scenario requires the expression of diversity within a company that follows the journey of digital transformation.

Understanding this path, it is essential to discuss how Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) impact the innovation and digital transformation processes of organisations, especially during sensitive moments and difficult world events such as the ones we are currently experiencing.

Taking responsibility for change

A study by Agility In Mind revealed that of the 250 UK business leaders questioned, one in three (30%) believe a lack of knowledge regarding diversity initiatives’ importance holds them back from having the desired impact. The understanding of the need for collective intelligence and the promotion of transparent and collaborative environments is integral to the management of large organisations.

But much remains to be done. Promoting this awareness, expansion of knowledge and understanding of the depth of D&I themes for the market and society is the responsibility of each of us, especially leaders. The initial key to change is the reconstruction of the leader’s mindset,  which needs to move away from “command and control” to assume an active role in supporting the issues that touch D&I in companies.

The path that results in the innovation so desired by companies goes through humanised management and the construction of a safe environment for co-creation, engagement and creativity of teams and people, where they can be who they are and can contribute with their backgrounds. Building this corporate environment will allow us to better understand the society in which we live, and become better equipped to design products, services and solutions for it.

If we want to enhance the individual and unique evolution of people, Diversity and Inclusion are powerful levers for that. They generate a sense of belonging, motivation and engagement, enhancing the creative culture of innovation. Giving people the freedom to be who they are is still one of the best ways to provoke and unlock their best potential.

The team behind the technology

The realisation that true digital transformation is cultural transformation is often not assimilated. What is technology without the human eye, or without its use as a tool that enables solutions to our problems? Behind the proper and effective use of technology, there is always a human attitude or decision.

The adoption of new technologies such as machine learning, AI, big data and several others is certainly challenging. But the biggest challenge to becoming innovate and digital is to engage its people in new corporate behaviour, in a new mindset open to experimentation, to the exchange of knowledge and the broad power of diverse thinking. It is to create a culture of innovation that is sustainable, in an environment of many changes and unpredictabilities.

New ways of using technology emerge every day and are excellent tools for directing strategies and supporting decisions. But it is not enough to surround yourself with technology without understanding the real problem to be solved. The key is to understand it as a means and not as an impact in itself.

Being digital means treating both the past and the future through collective intelligence and acting effectively based on quality data, guaranteeing the delivery of innovative solutions in line with the needs of people in society. In this way, Diversity and Inclusion are key levers for true transformation. They enable organisations to create a culture of innovation that will have an impact on their business and society. To be digital is to understand, above all, that technology is there to serve our needs as human beings, diverse by nature.

About the Author

Solange Sobral is a Partner and Executive Vice President at CI&T. She currently leads the CI&T operations in EMEA, promoting innovation and digital transformation for large organisations. In addition, Solange leads the company’s global ESG committee and supports the creation of humanised and inclusive management programs.  She is a passionate proponent of Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace and has dedicated herself to illustrating both the cultural and business value of an inclusive workplace. In addition, she is a columnist for Meio&Mensagem, a well-known publication in Brazil, covering Digital Transformation.