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Inclusion leads to Innovation

Creating an environment where all people feel welcome, safe, and respected is essential in business, and something we take seriously at IFT. Building and fostering a culture of inclusion that is truly lived in an organization is not only a catalyst for business success.  It provides a strong foundation for innovation.

According to a 2018 report from Deloitte, organizations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. A 2019 report from Accenture further supports this concept, stating that an innovation mindset is six times higher in the most-equal companies than in the least-equal companies. Furthermore, Accenture’s research states that employees in the most-equal cultures see fewer barriers to innovating and are less afraid to fail.

Innovation doesn’t happen when everyone thinks the same, agrees all the time, or is afraid to share their perspectives. Instead, it thrives on the diverse experiences and different points of view among teams and gives everyone the space to feel comfortable, accepted, and empowered. And that’s the sweet spot—where innovative ideas and positive changes flourish.

One of the many places IFT members experience a direct connection between innovation and inclusion is within our divisions. According to Nitin Joshi, PhD, a longtime division participant and member of the Division Champion Team, IFT divisions thrive because the opinions of their diverse members are valued regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, geographical location, size of the organization, tenure, or other factors.

Michelle Braun, PhD, who serves as the New Professional Work Group representative on the Division Champion Team, agrees. “IFT Divisions are the perfect microcosm for creating opportunities for progress within the larger IFT community,” she said. “For example, the Division Innovation Lab invites a diverse set of representatives from each division to come together, face-to-face, and much of the time is focused on inspiring and enabling an exchange of new ideas and ways of thinking within and across divisions. The output is a plan for each division to take forward with champions/working groups assigned to each.”

Both Joshi and Braun have experienced first-hand the innovation and inspired thinking that results from the diverse and inclusive division membership.

“At IFT 19, a diverse group of Dairy Foods Division members had an idea to host an e-summit. This activity is being led by a student member and many expert members are playing a supporting role,” Joshi said. “Similarly, in the Product Development Division, a young professional is taking the lead in preparing a Product Development 101 presentation with many experienced members providing their expertise to make it happen.”

“It is really the collaboration between the divisions and New Professional Work Group that has created some of my favorite examples of identifying new ideas to meet an unmet need within IFT,” Braun said. “The Divisions have expressed interest in developing presentation opportunities and competitions similar to those students engage in, so the New Professionals Work Group is developing a program that could serve as a bridge from the student experience leading to the development of topical webinars, podcasts, or scientific session programming for early career team members within divisions.”

Joshi and Braun also concur that their own participation in IFT divisions has impacted their ability to think creatively and innovatively.

“The best innovations are a result of open minds, positive attitudes, and great collaboration from multiple sources,” Joshi said. “Participating in the divisions has enabled me to hear various ideas from different people with different perspectives on the same topic, which has opened my eyes to different ways of thinking and increased my creativity.”

“IFT encourages innovation and new ideas and provides the springboard for delivering them.  It is energizing to be able to discuss ideas, dream big, gather with some of the best minds in our field, and talk about how we can best shape the future for our colleagues and our industry,” Braun said. “There is an inclusive and holistic approach fueling the science and scientist that places IFT in a special category of associations.”

IFT is dedicated to creating an inclusive and equitable culture of respect and opportunity for people of all backgrounds, beliefs and experiences, where diversity of thought is valued, and innovation prevails. Learn more about Diversity and Inclusion at IFT and find the IFT division that fits your expertise or an area you want to learn more about.

– Nancy Ukpe Gargula, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, IFT

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