Innovating with an Accent, Keynote Speech at CDW

Latino Speaker Hispanic Heritage Tech Innovation

We live in a globally connected economy. Thanks to the accessibility of technology worldwide, an unknown company can disrupt established organizations. Innovation and creativity are more important than ever, especially when combined with a vital ingredient – Diversity.

Last week, I presented the keynote speech for CDW’s HOLA BRG Hispanic Heritage month event. It was great to present to a full house of both on-site and remote teams.

CDW Hola Organization
A diverse and attentive audience at the Hola BRG Hispanic Heritage event in Chicago

Why innovating with an accent? Well, as you may know, an accent is something you develop when you learn a different language. Accents are very easy to recognize, not so easy to drop. Why? The roots of your mother tongue run deep. The sounds, intonation, and phonetics you are familiar with takeover. The same happens in innovation.

When creating something new, we all have accents. We bring our upbringing, education, and attitudes to the table. It’s hard to see things for what they are; without filtering them through the lens of our experiences. Diversity can help uncover the truth.

Groups of diverse problem solvers outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers, according to research from Lu Hong and Scott E. Page published by the National Academy of Sciences. What does this mean?  Diversity trumps ability.

Diversity Drives Growth

Several studies have shown the positive impact of diversity in the workplace.

  • McKinsey found that companies with more diverse executive teams outperformed their peers. Companies with higher executive board diversity had a 53% higher return on equity.
  • Inherent or acquired diversity? Your company needs both. Inherent are the traits you are born with and acquired are the ones you gain from experience.  According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, companies need both. Firms that embrace both types of diversity are 45% likelier to grow their market share.
  • Diversity can also help to recruit talent. A survey by Glassdoor found that 67% candidates consider a diverse workforce important. They see it as a factor when evaluating employment opportunities.

Like wearing new prescription glasses, companies that embrace diversity are able to see new opportunities.

Unlikely Innovation Boosters

Inventors and Innovators need people that believe in their ideas. It doesn’t matter if this is happening inside your company or to a lone individual. These initial supporters are key. Inside the company, they can be mentors or managers. Outside the company, they can be early adopters or investors. Enter Phil Romano, a restauranteur and initial supporter of the first balloon-expandable stent. What does the founder of Macaroni Grill and Fuddruckers have to do with one of the inventions that changed the world? He invested in the idea when traditional medical device firms said no.

Dr. Julio C. Palmaz, MD pitched his early idea to medical device companies and he only got rejections. Why? They didn’t see the early idea for what it could be. It’s the same reason why Blockbuster didn’t buy Netflix for $50 million dollars. It’s hard to accept that the status quo might change and that the change can come from an unlikely place.

Diversity and Teamwork Win

Diversity and teamwork are necessary to win in today’s interconnected society. It’s hard to innovate in a vacuum and people want to belong to a team that supports their efforts.

It was an honor to be invited back to present to such a diverse and engaged group from CDW and I look forward to their feedback.

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