Harnessing the power of productive friction to create competitive edge: 7 things we learnt

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1. If you always do what you've always done...

Homogenous teams were effective when all you needed were efficiency of execution and scale. But in our rapidly altering world, incremental shifts are not enough to win the game.This is the environment where diversity of thought, skill and working separates the good from the great.

2. Same same but different?

Let’s be clear, diversity and inclusion are related but different. In our evolved world, diversity talks to the rainbow of organisation attributes. Inclusion to how people feel and behave at work. It is the most powerful signal of how things really are around here. Leaders must recognise that inclusion goes way beyond initiatives and speeches and lives only in the strength of their actions.

3. Start at the end, not the beginning.

Protected characteristics are only the beginning of the conversation, not the end. Big business must be fuelled by a diversity of thought, not just superficial characteristics.That is the specialsauce that fuels innovative thinking, creates opportunities to learn from peers – and so leads tobetter business results and more engaged people.

4. Seek new and ensure it thrives.

To discover new solutions to old problems means challenging existing perspectives and working with people that may not be readily understood. Leaders must ensure that their organisations don’t just get bigger, but that the span of thinking skills is broadened.Voice must be given to the individual, and the tribe retrained to receive it. Only then will every individual be able to bring their best.

5. Empathy everywhere.

In all the talk about diversity and inclusion the word that is missing is empathy. It is empathy that will allow people to understand those with a different perspective. It is empathy that will unlock collaboration. It is empathy that will leave people feeling free to bring every ounce of honesty and ingenuity to the table. Leaders need to be more than inclusive.They need to be empathetic.

6. Just enough productive friction.

At the interface of complete agreement and vehement disagreement is where big businesseslearn deep and quick. Because diversity is the property of a group rather than an individual –teams that argue well by managing just the right amount of productive friction will create asustainable leading edge.

7. Don't play the aspiration game.

Aspirational targets are expressions of hope. But traction and momentum require more than hope alone. In the modern era, aspirational targets have failed to truly move the needle on the D&I agenda and it’s time to try new. It is time to move beyond aspiration to public declarations of hard targets – and the (healthy) pressure that will come with them.