There are a wide range of tools that leaders can use to boost inclusion in their organizations. Some have existed for some time; others have emerged through technological advances and demographic demands. Inclusive leaders can effectively leverage these tools to ensure they are capturing inputs from all areas, and all members, of their organizations. Here’s a look at some tools you can readily implement in your organization:
Crowdsourcing is a term that has sprung up in the Web 2.0 age to refer to the process of actively soliciting ideas from a large group of people. Inclusive leaders can crowdsource by actively seeking input from employees, for instance, through the use of online forums, live chats or other technology-enabled media. The same process can be used externally. Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, for instance, turned to the public to solicit ads that competed to appear during the Super Bowl broadcast and had a long and successful run over several years. The campaign has been running for a number of years and has resulted in both PR buzz and sales.
Two heads are better than one. Thousands—even millions—are infinitely better!
Celebration of Great Ideas
Celebrating great ideas may seem obvious; however, celebrating ideas is something that needs to be actively incorporated into a company’s culture, whether these celebrations include tangible benefits such as bonuses, raises and promotions or more subtle perks like public or private recognition. Foursquare and other innovative 21st century companies are finding creative ways to engage employees through celebration and recognition. Foursquare, for example, has used what it calls “Demo Days” to allow staff to show off what they’re working on and gather fresh insights from others. Formulated like venture capital pitches, Demo Days are held almost weekly and employees are recognized for their innovations.
The IT world has popularized the concept of hackathons—events where programmers come together for intense collaboration around a particular project. These events could last anywhere from a day to a week in length. The concept has caught on. Today the concept is used by innovative leaders in many industries as a means of bringing people together to focus their efforts on a specific issue or innovation. Doubt whether the concept can work? Twitter was created via hackathon by a group of employees working at a company called Odeo, Inc., in San Francisco. The company still uses the concept to fuel innovation, as does Facebook, which believes that hackathons “serve as the foundation for some great (and not so great) ideas.”
Internal communities, often called Business Resource Groups (BRGs) or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), are groups of employees with shared backgrounds, interests or characteristics that come together to share perspectives, and gain insights about each other and about their workplaces. But, while ERGs may by their nature seem exclusive, that is far from the case. They are a rich source of information, insight and understanding that others within the organization can benefit from on both personal and professional levels.
Kaizen is a Sino-Japanese word which means good (zen) change (kai). It’s a philosophy that was picked up by companies like Toyota for use in work related to quality management and continuous improvement. For inclusive leaders, the use of Kaizen is tied directly to the value of leveraging employee insights and inputs to make positive change. These are typically not “big ideas,” but small, incremental improvements. Every employee in an organization participates in kaizen and all are encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions.
A skunkworks project is an initiative in which a department is created or is tasked with working independently on a specialized project typically geared toward innovation. The idea is to allow the loosely organized team to escape the strictures and cumbersome bureaucracies of the larger organization in order to more efficiently and creatively innovate. Lockheed Martin takes credit for the origination of the term Skunk Works.
Inclusive Leadership Training
While some leaders certainly have a greater propensity for exhibiting inclusive leadership behaviors than others, it can’t be assumed that even these “naturally inclusive” leaders will be able to successfully lead their teams toward desired outcomes. Leadership training is required to ensure that leaders’ actions are aligned with the desired corporate culture and that they have the tools to serve effectively in their roles.
Yes, it takes time to nurture inclusive leaders. But the effort is well worth it. As the organization’s numbers of inclusive leaders grow, so do both internal and external benefits.
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