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New Research Shows Link Between Inclusion and Creativity

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We have long advocated for the business case of diversity and inclusion. From time to time we make a point to emphasize the related but separate nature of these concepts and how they are each important contributors to business success. A recent “Radio Replay” of NPR’s Shankar Vedantam’s Hidden Brain podcast helps illustrate the distinction nicely.

Differences Lead to Innovation

The particular episode discusses research on the benefits to creativity of interacting with people having different backgrounds or different views on issues or interests. “There is great comfort in the familiar,” says Vadantam. “It’s one reason humans often flock to people who share the same interests, laugh at the same jokes, hold the same political views. But familiar ground may not be the best place to cultivate creativity.”

Vadantam points to research by Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky which indicates that those who form strong relationships with someone from another country score higher on creativity tests.

The story goes on to discuss on in greater detail some of Galinsky’s research on the link between creativity and exposure to and deep interaction with other cultures. The story is worth a listen in full, but the excerpt above is sufficient to emphasize our point.

Related: Inclusion: What a Difference a Few Years Make

Building Deep Relationships

The phrase “deep relationships” is the key here and illustrates the difference between diversity and inclusion. In a business context, diversity can mean employing people from a wide range of cultural, ethnic, religious, etc. backgrounds. Although it is a necessary and important first step, diversity alone is not enough. You also need inclusion.

Inclusion means actually encouraging these diverse people to share their experiences and viewpoints, and it means taking these inputs into consideration and/or acting on them. Time and again we’ve seen data and examples of the ways diversity and inclusion can help promote business goals. Based on Galinsky’s research, we can add creativity to the long list of benefits that diversity, with inclusion, can provide.

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