Immigrant pathways to innovation are neither obvious nor automatic. The same homeostatic mechanisms that keep up a nation or company’s culture, values, beliefs, assumptions, and traditions often limit the successful introduction of new ideas, ways of doing, and routes of inquiry. Diversity initiatives that seek to incorporate difference and celebrate uniqueness often struggle with the same challenges; to incorporate ideas or values that are different from those already invested requires the reconsideration of paradigms, models, and rules of order.
Creative thinking shares characteristics with modern-day immigrant pathways to innovation to include:
- Ability to reject conceptual limits in the pursuit of knowledge, ideas, and understanding
- Ability to establish connections between constructs and nodes, previously considered incompatible or contradictory
- Ability to conceptualize new functionality, purposes, and abilities; and
- Ability to reconfigure information nodes, generate new models, and propose new realities
Immigrant pathways share other characteristics with creative types in that their incorporation and processing of information has an increasing ability to:
- Pierce the veil of explanation and rationale
- Perceive ‘what is’ versus ‘what is desired’
- Identify potential gaps between ‘what is intended’ and ‘what is achieved’
Consider the self-image of a nation when contrasted to the experience of someone who recently immigrated. Or consider the experience of a citizen who is well served by the status quo when contrasted with the experience of a citizen who is left at a disadvantage. National trends to recruit those with specific local or agency ‘experience’ is more likely to produce homogeneity and limit the business opportunities cultivated when a more complex understanding of what is possible is available. Similar limits surface when specific technologies or practices are emphasized, and others are ignored.
When implied homogeneity of thought, action, behavior, and beliefs is celebrated in policy, recruitment initiatives, and through cultural reinforcement mechanisms the opportunity for due diligence, realization of effective analysis, and leveraging of available immigrant innovation pathways decreases. Celebrating diversity of thought, behavior, and experience within a containment field that limits its influence is to miss opportunities to solve complex problems, identify and overcome invisible barriers, and increase value.
Innovation competencies in each industry and market require further exploration in order to identify what core skills are actually needed to support a vibrant, creative, and effective workplace. Characteristics that fall into the ‘nice to have’ comfort zone can continue to remain emphasized but should not overshadow future (and often unmapped) industry or customer requirements. Many business and economic models may support the so-called ‘self regulating’ systems and markets, but the question is whether all the voices demanding innovation are being heard. If the voices remain homogeneous, opportunities for innovation, learning, and increased value may be lost.
How is your team leveraging innovation pathways to innovation? Increasing agility of thought and ability to explore new possibilities? Measuring innovation? Share your comments below.
Thomas-Breitfeld, S. (2017, April 11). How to Think Differently about Diversity in Nonprofit Leadership: Get Comfortable with Discomfort. Retrieved April 12, 2017, Go to the full article.