How the Rolodex kills innovation

How are you building your professional network? Classmates, colleagues, event conference attendees, social network buddies — they are the people entering your network, your contacts list, your Rolodex.

When you are looking for someone to join you or your company in an adventure, this is the first place you are looking for: trusted people you already met or worked with successfully.

And this is what everyone does.

Chances are, regardless of your gender or color, if you are working in software and electronics companies in Europe or America, your Rolodex is mostly filled with white men.

When left unchecked, this bias grows into a lack of diversity that damages your company’s bottom line. And, by the way, you are also unwillingly propagating institutional discrimination. Whoopsie daisy.

Inherent diversity involves traits you are born with, such as gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Acquired diversity involves traits you gain from experience: working in another country can help you appreciate cultural differences, for example, while selling to female consumers can give you gender smarts.

The coming together of people of different ethnicities, genders, and culture — with different experiences in cities and societies is a key driver of innovation and growth, and attracts top talents.

Ubiquitous products of this blending of cultures are successful musical genres such as jazz, rock’n’roll or hip-hop.

Employees of firms with both significative inherent and acquired diversity are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.

Need an example? In the 90's, Gordon Bellamy, a game designer who happens to be gay and African American, pushed EA to feature black players in NFL 95. It gave an opportunity for a whole part of the nation to finally identify with the characters, and drove up sales of the game dramatically.

Incidentally, together with the release of the Genesis console, this initiative helped Sega build and secure its position in home video consoles in the American market, previously owned by Nintendo.

Now you know — just keep the rolodex bias in check to enable the diversity that will foster innovation in your company, whether you are looking for business partners or hiring in a global, remote, or local business.