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21 Oct. 2014 | Comments (0)

Join Senior Fellow, Human Capital, Rebekah Steele during our Breakthrough Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Lab from November 4-5th, 2014 at TCB New York City headquarters as she facilitates an important discussion on how practitioners can increase innovation through  better D&I practices.


Increasingly, forward-thinking organizations recognize the vital importance of effective, integrated Diversity and Inclusion strategies in propelling product and service innovations. These organizations, however, often overlook another aspect of the relationship between D&I and innovation: the importance of engaging innovative approaches to ensure stronger diversity and inclusion.

An innovation lab provides one opportunity to experience the dynamic and productive interplay between innovation and D&I to build promising new solutions to help businesses succeed. Informed by design theory, systems thinking, Appreciative Inquiry, Six Sigma, complex change management, and more, the Breakthrough D&I Innovation Lab productively engages change agents in an interactive exploration of how innovation and inclusion help each other to help businesses grow.

Through a carefully facilitated process, this highly interactive lab challenges participants to consider how they can move past persistent barriers. It enables them to co-create innovative ways of working to solve business problems through the lens of D&I. Each lab is different, informed by the complement of participants, customized to their business context, and designed to allow the emergence of new ideas. At a foundational level, however, the process orients around four main components that reliably create the conditions for promising new ways of thinking and working to unfold:

  • Explore:The first phase focuses on enabling insight and empathy by engaging participants in an exploration of relevant research, trends, experiences, and interactions. This process helps frame the need for change, highlights what is at stake, and emphasizes the innovation opportunity itself. This step also helps individuals let go of current ways of thinking and working that can get in the way of progress.

  • Design: After visioning, playing with ideas, and practicing creative design, participants focus on generating rough drafts of new ideas and collaboratively creating models, sketches, or outlines that make the ideas accessible to others. Although incremental changes to current practices can add value, the lab creates conditions for a greater focus on ideas fully unconstrained by current ways of thinking and working to foster the best opportunity for groundbreaking innovations.

  • Refine: The third phase is centered on sharing, piloting, and testing prototypes with others to gather feedback. Added insights are incorporated into fresh iterations that help hone and adapt the original idea into a viable way to create greater value.

  • Align: The fourth phase concentrates on creating the plan to implement the new idea, because innovative ideas don’t create value until they are put into effect. Simplistic action plans, such as the implementation of isolated D&I initiatives, often disappoint. In a comprehensive Breakthrough D&I Innovation Lab, a practical whole-system change model is employed. This approach overcomes the limitations of narrow, piece-by-piece approaches that overlook interdependent connections and systemic causes. It enables elegantly integrated solutions yielding widespread, sustainable results. With a whole-system implementation road map, new approaches can be translated into practical actions that consistently reinforce required changes and allow them to feel more automatic.

What kinds of results come from the labs?

Lab participants have designed prototypes of promising new practices and solutions focusing on a wide-range of different issues and opportunities. However, broader results are not limited to new solutions built in the room. In my next post, I will share lab outcomes that are making the most of how innovation and inclusion are helping businesses succeed. 


View our complete listing of Diversity & Inclusion blogs.

  • About the Author: Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele

    Rebekah Steele is a senior fellow providing diversity & inclusion (D&I) expertise for The Conference Board. She serves as program director for both the Diversity & Inclusion Executives and…

    Full Bio | More from Rebekah Steele


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