According to a recent report from Cisco, about 40 percent of today’s leading companies will be displaced from their market position by digital disruption in the next few years.

In the words of entrepreneur and author Grant Cardone, “To get to the next level of whatever you are doing, you must think and act in a wildly different way than you previously have been.” The need for innovation is clear.

However, many haven’t recognized just how valuable diverse teams that are effectively leveraged through inclusion can be in the battle to stay relevant.

According to Bersin by Deloitte’s 2015 High-Impact Talent Management study, companies with talent strategies that are integrated with inclusion, diversity and culture were nearly two times more likely than their competition to be change-ready innovation leaders in their market.

Research from McKinsey & Co. shows that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers and for ethnically diverse companies, that number is 35 percent.

Inclusion correlates so well with innovation largely because it sparks creative tension — one of the key building blocks of innovation. Hiring and empowering a team with diverse backgrounds and perspectives helps companies avoid falling victim to sameness, the natural enemy of innovation.

Here’s a few tips to start building a culture of diversity and inclusion at your workplace:

Focus on market domination, not compliance
Inclusion isn’t about fulfilling requirements or checking boxes. Michelle Tomallo, president of Fit Technologies, a NorthCoast 99 winner, says that her company intentionally hires for and taps into different perspectives to identify new markets, cost efficiencies and disruptive products and services. Identify one key business objective and engage a diverse range of employees in the problem-solving process.

Get out of your bubble
You’ll be uncomfortable with some of the ideas that come from a truly diverse team, but innovation comes from this kind of creative tension. It’s important to show openness to exploring new ideas from different sources and finding opportunities for some of them to be piloted.

Hire to fill culture gaps
While it’s critical that a new employee shares your company values, managers often tend to unconsciously hire people like themselves. Adam Grant, author of “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” suggests a different approach: avoiding groupthink by hiring less for cultural fit and more for what’s missing from your culture.

Don’t go it alone
Small businesses are increasingly realizing the competitive benefits of attracting and retaining top talent by investing in building diverse teams and inclusive cultures, says SueAnn Naso, president of Staffing Solutions.

Many are willing to share their strategies, resources and lessons learned. Connect with these innovation leaders through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Commission on Economic Inclusion.

Creating a culture and team built for innovation is hard, but essential not just for survival, but also to obtain market dominance in today’s dynamic marketplace. Pursue the unbeaten path today to advance your company to the next level.


This post originally appeared in Smart Business on February 1, 201

Gloria Ware
Gloria leads JumpStart’s strategic efforts to create inclusive, high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystems. She brings a wealth of finance and business development expertise to the organization, along with a passion for community engagement.