2.1 Defining Diversity and Innovation
Innovation and diversity are both multidimensional terms and definitions for them are as varied as the number of academic disciplines, policy makers, and business leaders that specialise in them. The confusing and divergent nature of these definitions has added to the challenge of understanding the linkages between diversity and innovation. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this study, it is important to have a clear framework that captures the core of the academic definitions and matches this with the reality of business practices. This is drawn out from the literature as follows.
Diversity can be defined from a policy and legal perspective across 6 clear demographic strands: gender, age, race & ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion & beliefs, and disability. This demographic and non-cognitive definition has now become broadly accepted as the core legal understanding across the European Union. For businesses, large and small across Europe, this definition is to greater or lesser extent embraced in their policies and practices dependent on the specific legislation in each country and their own willingness to engage with diversity as an issue in its own right. Many will also add other non-cognitive considerations, most commonly nationality, to this definition. Yet, in understanding the significance of diversity for innovation it is also important to go beyond the purely demographic definition, to get under the surface of this strand specific approach and consider the learned aspects of difference. The learning styles and attributes of individuals and even communities include different knowledge acquisition, and communication styles, educational history, personal skills, professional abilities and functional expertise. Businesses also recognise this dimension to diversity, particularly in relation to innovation, as for example some will seek to bring together “cross-functional” teams to encourage the...
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