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Monthly column: diversity + inclusion = innovation

In this monthly column, Vincent Merk, senior lecturer intercultural management and community advisor at TU/e, writes about a topic that is relevant to the international community. This month: how diversity and inclusion influence innovation.


Diversity is a hot item these days. And inclusion is also a popular topic in (innovative) management theories and practices. What is diversity? And what is inclusion in relation to diversity? As Verna Myers from Stanford University recently stated, diversity means being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.


Take an international work force and its efforts to develop best practices along five classical human resource management criteria: competitive advantage, collaboration, morale, engagement and retention.


When diversity (many nationalities/cultures, gender balance, generation mix and interdisciplinary approaches) is high, but the feeling of inclusiveness is weak, there will be low competitive advantage, low collaboration, low morale, low engagement and low retention. In other words, the party will be crowded and colourful, but there will be little action.


In contrast, when inclusiveness (wellbeing, solidarity, belonging) is strong within the group, but there is little diversity, there will still be low competitive advantage and collaboration, but high morale, engagement and retention, or to put it in other words: some kind of feel good atmosphere will prevail. There will be some dancing at the party, but it will not be very diverse in its execution, showing a lack of creativity.


Consequently, when a high degree of diversity is combined with a strong feeling of inclusiveness, all five criteria reach high scores. This will create the right context for innovation, stimulate creativity and hence result in a possible competitive edge.


Considering it always takes at least two to tango, let’s get all members of the party start dancing now and produce the right environment for innovative dancing. Ready? Let’s go! And dance the night away…