Image: fizkes, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Diversity, whether gender, race, age, or other criteria, plays a significant and often underestimated role in the success or failure of projects in the workplace. How well team members and leaders mesh together and support each other directly affects innovation and how well tasks and projects progress.

One Boston Consulting Group study in 2017 found that companies that reported: “Above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity—45% of total revenue versus just 26%.” A 2019 Kisi study backed up those statistics.

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BCG, commenting on the study in 2018, said, “People with different backgrounds and experiences often see the same problem in different ways and come up with different solutions, increasing the odds that one of those solutions will be a hit. In a fast-changing business environment, such responsiveness leaves companies better positioned to adapt.”

Image: Boston Consulting Group

The workplace is a naturally competitive space. While employees strive to stand out to get noticed, it creates anxiety and stress. Promotions, pay increases, bonuses, and other rewards are many times given based on factors other than capabilities and hard work.

The unfortunate truth is, competition and fear of diversity, whether race, gender, socioeconomic, political, religion, or disability, have played a role in workplace anxiety, stress, and conflict. How can increasing diversity, especially in leadership teams, help achieve higher project success rates? This happens through an increased sense of community and innovation, and decreased conflict.

Increased sense of community and support

When diversity is seen, inter-woven through companies, and encouraged from the top-down, it becomes the norm. It is not only accepted but celebrated throughout your culture. Leaders and employees don’t see it as out-of-place or different. This makes developing a stronger sense of community much easier and fosters an environment of connectedness. Everyone has a chance to learn new things from one another and learn to broaden their view. As mindsets begin to expand, so too does the sense of community. Prejudices that created barriers begin to give way to stronger relationships—and leaders and teams stand a greater chance of providing and receiving the needed support. Support is essential to the success of any project.

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Decreased conflict

When diversity is seen as the norm, teams, and leaders stand a greater chance of growing and developing together, with less conflict. Differences become less visible, and common ground and goals take larger precedence. Teams that are focused on their goals and helping one another achieve shared goals look for reasons to get along and support each other. Fewer conflicts allow for a higher degree of cooperation and productivity. The ultimate result is teams communicating well and working at their peak performance. In the end, they are able to achieve project tasks and goals.

Increased innovation

As business leaders and teams improve their sense of community and support for one another, conflict is reduced, and innovation has a chance to take root. In a Forbes Insights report: “Global Diversity and Inclusion: Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce,” diversity is “crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation.” The report explains how diversity is a primary driver of innovation, an essential element of being successful on a global scale. This is directly linked to how well projects are executed. When leadership teams and employees have members from different genders, races, countries, companies, industries, and experiences, more ideas are generated. This translates to more potential opportunities and innovation. This bodes well for projects and portfolios.

Ultimately, more ideas, less conflict, and a sense of being connected to common goals are what make leaders and teams supportive and productive. This creates an environment in which projects have a greater chance of achieving higher success rates.

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Discover the secrets to IT leadership success with these tips on project management, budgets, and dealing with day-to-day challenges. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays