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How Important Is Innovation and Diversity In Startups?

How Important Is Innovation and Diversity In Startups?
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Neglecting diverse perspectives can limit the range of ideas in a workplace. Research from ESMT Berlin and INSEAD showed that organisations often shape the ideas they receive by favouring certain types.

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This can reduce variety, as contributors align their proposals with what they believe will be accepted.

Professor Linus Dahlander from ESMT Berlin explains, “Organisations tend to favour ideas that align closely with their current interests.

“This preference can incur costs: It may prevent organisations from encountering ideas that diverge from their usual practices, inadvertently narrowing the creative scope of external contributors.”

How Can Businesses Encourage Diversification?

To promote a range of ideas, businesses should avoid signalling which ideas they prefer. Think of doing this:

Limit interactions among external contributors: This can prevent the sharing of similar ideas and encourage unique suggestions.

Reduce visibility of selected ideas: Keeping chosen ideas less visible can help contributors feel freer to propose new concepts without being influenced by previous selections.

Why is Diversification Important?

Diversification within a company, not to be confused with the concept of diversity, means having a variety of ideas, skills, and perspectives.

This can lead to more creative solutions and innovations. New contributors, who are less aware of past choices, often bring fresh ideas.

Professor Dahlander’s research indicates that “idea diversity increased when new contributors, less aware of past organisational choices, made suggestions.” Fresh ideas are important from every team member.

What Role Do Leaders Play In Promoting Diversity ?

Craig Sweeney from WilsonHCG believes that diversity should be led from the top. Diversity involves inclusion in the workplace when it comes to employee backgrounds and cultures. Leaders play a an important part when setting the tone for diversity and inclusion within companies.

They must integrate diversity into all talent attraction strategies, regardless of market conditions.

“It shouldn’t need to be said, but diversity is not a box-ticking exercise, it’s the right thing to do and should be celebrated, not criticised. The UK is an immensely diverse country, and it benefits both businesses and government to think laterally, and look to represent the communities that they’re trying to engage with within their own workforces,” Sweeney stated.

How Can Startups Maintain Their Efforts in Diversity?

Regular assessment: Review diversity and inclusion strategies regularly to ensure they are effective and current.

Employee feedback: Gather input from employees about their experiences and suggestions for improving diversity and inclusion efforts.

What Are Our Experts’ Thoughts?

We’ve asked a few experts to weigh in on why including diverse ideas, and diversity in the workplace, is good for startups, and this is what they had to say…

James McLaughlin, Regional VP, WithYouWithMe

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“Current recruitment processes are built to qualify candidates out, not qualify them in, so neurodiverse individuals are put on the back foot from the outset.

“Given the ongoing skills gap and challenges that many UK businesses face when it comes to hiring talent, we need to broaden our approach which requires a fundamental change.

“It is likely that hiring managers require more training in how to recognise candidates who need different types of support in the hiring process.

“This extra investment is critical to make it fair for the candidates, but also to give organisations the opportunity to uncover the best person for the role who may otherwise be overlooked.

“Employers too often fail to look at skillsets as a whole and are not set up to get the best out of the candidate by failing to look at the whole skillset.

“For neurodiverse individuals, reading and writing might be a challenge that current processes only exacerbate, rather than giving them the best opportunity to demonstrate their strengths.

“The standardised approach doesn’t help unlock the right skillsets and creates a sandbox which is crying out for diversity of thought in order to build high-performing teams.

“The recruitment process must consider the strengths that neurodivergent people have such as attention to detail, more efficient approaches to work, creativity, organisation and many others.

“Of course, they may not be fit for every single role – no one is – but for just 30% of autistic people to be working in the UK means we’re certainly missing out on huge potential.”

Phill Robinson, CEO and Co-Founder, Boardwave

“For decades, the UK and Europe have lagged behind. The UK and European Corporates and SMEs invest approximately 40% less in R&D than their US counterparts, resulting in reduced innovation, productivity and growth.

“Amazon spent $73 billion on R&D last year, more than the whole of the UK put together.

“The gap gets compounded because the UK and European software market faces fragmentation due to geography, language, culture, and legislation, stifling the potential of software scale-ups.

“As a result, very few scale to $100 million revenue companies or go on to become a global business of consequence.

“Yet, a unique convergence of technological advancements, including Cloud, AI, Quantum Computing, Blockchain, Low-code/No-code tools, and the metaverse, presents an unprecedented opportunity for the UK and Europe to forge ahead.

“Their combined impact on society will be more profound than the Industrial Revolution, redrawing the boundaries and disrupting industries where we have traditionally been strong. And it will all happen at warp speed.

“Despite already being behind the US in adopting these innovations, if the government, tech leaders and investors collaborate and act now, we can build world-beating companies with global impact, just like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, Apple et al. have since 2010.

“The World Economic Forum estimates that in the coming decade 70% of new economic value will derive from digital platforms and, without action now, we will be vulnerable economically, and geopolitically, compromising our technological sovereignty and strategic autonomy.

“If the right decisions get made now, in the next 10 years the UK and Europe can have far greater success and spearhead a new technology revolution.”

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Dr. Andrea Cullen, CEO and Co-Founder, CAPSLOCK.

“Part of the issue of the skills gap in tech and cyber is that we continue to hire from the same talent pool.

“Instead, we need to recruit people of all ages, and from different educational backgrounds and ethnicities to build a workforce that truly reflects the society it protects. We must also not discount those who lack technical expertise.

“Sectors would greatly benefit from bringing in people with softer skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving, who show enthusiasm, aptitude and willingness to learn.

“Cyber security is a great example of where there is a need for reskilling because of a huge deficit in skills in the UK and yet a massive demand within businesses.

“By reskilling employees, they will feel valued and can potentially benefit from increased salaries from being in a tech role, while organisations can improve retention and reduce recruitment costs.”

Ed Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder, PushFar

“Owning a startup is undoubtedly challenging, with a huge percentage failing in their first year of trading. Diversification along with innovation are vital for growth and long-term success.

“Having the foresight and ability to adapt strategies, messaging, and even products or services when they’re not quite resonating with your audience, is key.

“Mistakes as start-up owner are unavoidable, however how you adapt to, and overcome these hurdles will ultimately decide the longevity of success.

“At the foundation of a business, I’d encourage all owners to adopt a culture of innovation. Encouraging a diverse team to present ideas, offer solutions, source new opportunities, and provide unique viewpoints.

“Creative minds working together to evolve and develop the business over time is hugely important, especially in the fast-moving world of startups.

“Ultimately, it is vital to have diverse and innovative ideas in start-up businesses, as it’s these unique perspectives that will give you the best chance of separating yourself from the crowd and join the minority who go on to succeed.”

Sarah Gilchriest, Chief People Officer, QA

“We know that when companies are more diverse, they perform better, have better staff retention, and maintain a better culture. However, despite all the media attention, discussion and strategising, the tech industry is still a long way from having a truly level playing field, with women and those from minority backgrounds still significantly underrepresented.

“The opportunity exists though for companies to promote more diversity through upskilling of their existing workforce, making sure those from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds are able to future proof their careers. People can be guilty of thinking of upskilling as simply learning a new trade.

“It’s not just that – it’s about giving people the tools, insights and mentality they need to develop a huge range of skills applicable to different circumstances and to support more innovation. Practically speaking, every worker requires regular training to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change.

“Our workforce needs to represent the society we live in if we want innovation to work for us all, and there is a long way to go before this will have been achieved. It also needs to have the skills that a modern economy requires, and to address the digital skills gap.

“By investing in the development of diverse employees, businesses will find it easier to retain talent, positioning them to benefit from all the strengths a more inclusive, and more skilled, team brings.”

Marisa Pereira, VP, Storyblok

“At Storyblok, we’ve embraced a ‘mindset-first’ hiring approach since our remote-first launch in 2017. This has allowed us to build a truly global and diverse team of over 230 talented individuals across 45+ countries.

“Our borderless approach allows us to tap into diverse perspectives from around the world. This brings fresh ideas into the company, from people that challenge the status quo. This is especially valuable in the digital nomad community, where skilled professionals thrive on flexibility.

“To foster a successful remote team, we champion a strong, inclusive culture. We celebrate differences and encourage open communication through ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions, employee surveys, and randomised ‘coffee chats’. We also personalise leadership styles to unlock individual potential.

“By prioritising mindset and fostering curiosity, we’ve built a team that thrives on innovation. This is key for navigating challenging times and fueling growth in the tech industry.”

Olga Noha, Chief Marketing Officer, SplitMetrics

“Our remote-first approach lets us build a diverse workforce with the best talent, regardless of location. Flexible work schedules and a supportive environment empower everyone to thrive.

“Martech and the wider tech industry have suffered over the years from a discriminatory culture, a lack of women and minorities in leadership and poor overall diversity.

“We are proud of our 55% female workforce at SplitMetrics, however, we’re not complacent and understand that there’s always more to do. By fostering cultural diversity, we can unlock creativity and innovation, making us a stronger team.

“When people from different backgrounds come together, they bring unique perspectives and experiences. This “collision of ideas” sparks new approaches to problems and fuels creative solutions.

“At SplitMetrics, our values are not just words — they guide everything we do. To achieve our ambitious goals and maintain success, we stand united by our core behaviours, including ‘Move Fast’, ‘Build Together’, ‘Strive for Transparency’, ‘Own What You Do’ and ‘Learn + Share = Excel’.”

Iffi Wahla, CEO and Co-founder, Edge

“On World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, we celebrate the immense potential of a borderless world. Our mission is to remove geographical barriers and connect exceptional talent with businesses everywhere.

“Imagine accessing a treasure trove of diverse perspectives, niche expertise, and cost-competitive solutions – all readily available to fuel your company’s growth. This is the reality of a global workforce.

“The shift to remote work is a game-changer, and many companies haven’t fully embraced its potential. We challenge the status quo by leveraging a global talent pool, building diverse, high-performing teams that transcend location.

“This isn’t just about cost-efficiency, it’s about unlocking a world of untapped expertise, like the deep talent pool in Latin America and Africa.

“By fostering a strong company culture and embracing flexible work structures – part-time, freelance, project-based – we create a win-win for businesses and talent. Imagine senior leadership teams spread across the globe, collaborating seamlessly.

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“We can achieve this by optimising our HR tech platform and constantly evolving our approach. Diversity is our strength, and by embracing the ‘uncomfortable’, we build a future of work that’s truly limitless.”



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