Innovation Diversity

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What is innovation? Peter Drucker’s definition of innovation was “change that creates a new dimension of performance” (Source: Wikipedia). Another definition that I found was “the successful exploitation of new ideas” (Source: Wikipedia).

Innovation is usually linked with technology or certain types of companies. But when was the last time that you saw diversity linked with real, measurable results of innovation? Of course workforce diversity advocates would trumpet the fact that a diverse population of employees will spawn innovative ideas that can improve a company’s performance. I would challenge them to provide hard evidence of this. Like Joe Friday from Police Squad, “The facts, Mr. and Ms. Diversity Professional, just the facts.”

Although it may be hard to substantiate the impact in some areas of diversity, Supplier Diversity has an incredible opportunity to innovate with measurable results (see Supplier Diversity Innovations). However a change in thinking must happen with Supplier Diversity professionals. They must begin to see their roles differently. They must start to view themselves as value-added innovators versus merely compliance facilitators.

Technology does not have the patent on innovation. In fact, Doblin, Inc. has defined 10 types of innovation, divided into 4 categories (click here to view the entire list). At least 5 of the 10 specific types stood out in my mind as prime candidates for Supplier Diversity innovation, including:

  • Networks and Alliances – Diverse suppliers must be much more willing and proactive in creating strategic relationships with one another that allow them to expand their capacity and increase their capabilities to provide competitively priced, high quality goods and services to corporations. Supplier Diversity plays a key role in helping to create environments that encourage and promote these types of relationships (see Leveraging Strategic Relationships).

  • Enabling Processes - Supplier Diversity must do a better job of aligning itself with the company’s overall strategic initiatives by thinking beyond just diversity spend goals. They need to refocus on developing innovative solutions for using diverse suppliers that help the company successfully differentiate itself and execute its strategy in the marketplace.

  • Core processes - Minority suppliers can add value to a company’s supply chain by helping to lower costs, improve quality, and make key processes more efficient. This should be the focus of every Supplier Diversity professional.

  • Product Performance – Minority supplier input during the design of products and services could not only help to lower costs during the production process, but could also provide valuable insights to specific segments of a company’s target market, resulting in increased revenue opportunities.

  • Channel – Successful minority suppliers could be utilized strategically by corporations as key spokespeople, especially in specific customer markets that the corporation may be targeting. Positive feedback from satisfied suppliers who have strong reputations in their communities could have a very positive influence on the choices made by consumers in those communities.

I could have included ideas for the other 5 types of innovation also. The point is that Supplier Diversity innovation is definitely possible, but it won’t happen on its own. It must be intentional. An environment must be created that invites critiquing, collaboration, and creativity by those who are stakeholders in your organization’s mission.

Based on some interesting insights offered by the Fast Company Resource Center, here are some suggestions for kick-starting innovation within your Supplier Diversity organization:

  1. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Make sure it's a top priority for everyone on your team.
  2. Utilize a Supplier Diversity suggestion box, but make it virtual and transparent.
  3. Don't just ask for ideas, clearly formulate the problem, and then ask for solutions from different stakeholders inside and outside of the company.
  4. Seek out and attract creative enthusiasts and supporters of your Supplier Diversity vision and collaborate with them.
  5. Create an internal customer-supplier roundtable that focuses on problem solving and concept development.

If Supplier Diversity wants to be considered as a strategic function, it must become more innovative. Organizations that don’t innovate in one or more ways to adapt to their environment will not grow, and therefore will eventually die. Supplier Diversity is too important to too many stakeholders to allow it to die.

Be proactive and creative and do something innovative to build momentum and keep the progress of community empowerment through small business development moving forward.

Empowering You for Success,
Paul Wilson

Tags: business, entrepreneur, innovation, empowerment, minority business development

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Entrepreneurial Leadership - Part 2

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Continued from Entrepreneurial Leadership – Pt. 1

Entrepreneurial leaders lead with their heads and with their hearts. They perform with the skill and mindset of an expert chess player. Based on learning, observing, and understanding different people’s abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, they know how to position the right people with the right roles and responsibilities at the right time in order to get the best results for the business, organization, or team.

One of the entrepreneurial leader’s most important abilities is that they help people recognize the wealth of talent, skills, and abilities inside of them and help them to extract it, causing their potential to be realized. When people on your team begin to fulfill their potential, it will produce a powerful confidence in them that enhances their performance and the people around them. You will see results in your organization beyond what you could have imagined.

How can you make this happen? Continuing from the previous list:

4. Create an environment of risk-taking by you being willing to take prudent risks. These are not just business risks, but emotional risks, especially in terms of your transparency. Be willing to acknowledge what your short-comings are. Your people already know what they are anyway, so there is no sense in trying to pretend that you don’t have any failings. One incredible benefit is that this will allow you to establish a greater level of trust with your people.

5. Stretch people by pushing them to operate outside of their comfort zones in a way that complements their strengths and benefits the organization. This will also broaden and deepen the skills and talents of your team.

6. Create incentives that reward people for taking risks that cause them to stretch beyond what they have done in the past. Reward sincere efforts as well as the successes.

7. Teach and challenge your management team to be entrepreneurial leaders and have them do the same for their team members. This is not just a one-person, top-down activity. You want these kinds of leadership traits permeating throughout your organization. This will encourage every team member to look for and attempt to pull out the best in the people around them.

If you do these seven things, you will create fiercely loyal and passionately committed team members who are extremely productive, because they have been empowered to be their best and do their best.

I challenge you, no matter what type of organization or environment that you are in, to operate as an entrepreneurial leader. You will experience results that impact your bottom line, but more importantly your people’s lives.

Empowering You for Success,
Paul Wilson

P.S., I invite you to comment on this blog if you can identify an entrepreneurial leader that has helped you in your life. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Tags: business, entrepreneur, leadership, empowerment, success, team building

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Refocusing Supplier Diversity

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I am very excited! Back in January I wrote that I had a new opportunity with the Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking (see New Entrepreneurial Opportunity). Well, just this week my first article has been published. The title of the article is "Refocusing Supplier Diversity."

The theme of the article is that corporation's supplier diversity departments must become more progressive, shifting from a compliance/social program focus to a strategic value focus. I want to challenge supplier diversity professionals to think and act more entrepreneurially in order to position supplier diversity as a resource that provides quantifiable value to corporations, thereby creating more opportunities for qualified minority businesses. Here's an excerpt:

...This fiercely competitive marketplace also presents some difficult internal challenges for supplier diversity departments. One of the biggest challenges is the pressure to show the value of supplier diversity to their companies. There is a strong correlation between how companies view the strategic value of supplier diversity and the human and financial resources that are allocated for these initiatives. Available resources have a strong correlation to success. Limited resources will likely mean limited success and this reality not only hurts the program but also the professional career. Supplier diversity professionals have the opportunity to change their often limited role and be viewed as strategic contributors if they are willing to make some progressive changes.

Quantifying their value creates a new dynamic for supplier diversity professionals, one in which they are compelled to operate from a different perspective than in the past. The focus must now be on improving the company's bottom line not merely focusing on increasing spend goals. This shift is made more difficult by the numerous supplier diversity challenges, including lack of resources, limited influence, uncooperative decision makers, and inefficient purchasing processes. This situation is complex and often daunting, yet not impossible to overcome...

Click here to read the rest of the article. Also, you can go to the Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking's web site ( and get the article by clicking the link under the title "Is Minority Business Development Really an Economic Development Tool?"

I look forward to your feedback. Enjoy!

Empowering You for Success,
Paul Wilson

business, entrepreneur, leadership, supplier diversity, minority business development

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Entrepreneurial Leadership - Part 1

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Effective leaders come in many different forms and have many different styles (see Maximum Impact). Some of these forms/styles include:

  • Motivational leaders are like cheerleaders, who can inspire people through passionate pep talks filled with creative imagery and powerful words.
  • Relational leaders are able to connect with people 1 on 1 or in small groups, allowing them to feel significant and needed, such that they develop strong bonds of loyalty and commitment.
  • Operational leaders, highly respected due to their wealth of knowledge and experience, are able to execute a plan, knowing how to make the right decisions at the right time with the right people to get the desired results.
  • Authoritarian or dictatorial leaders, while they may not be as respected as other type of leaders, are able to run a “tight ship” and get results (at least in the short-term) even though they establish fear among their followers.

Let’s explore another type of leadership – entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurial leaders intentionally create situations, opportunities, and environments for other people to thrive, thereby enhancing the success of the entire organization. They seek to create new ventures and initiatives that enrich people's lives. Seeing other people succeed is what drives them everyday. They are able to use their entrepreneurial skills to create atmospheres that influence people to go beyond their current level of performance. They not only help people feel like they can fulfill their potential, they create situations to allow it to happen. They are able to expand people’s expectations of what they can accomplish through their own efforts and giftedness.

Using the resourcefulness and ingenuity of an entrepreneur, this type of leader is able to take the people resources around him/her and produce something better than what may have already existed. They are flexible enough to use different types of leadership traits, like the ones mentioned earlier, without overusing or abusing any one of them. In essence they know how to get the best out of people, such that the organization, team, community, etc. is improved as a whole.

Entrepreneurial leaders show up in many different walks of life. They are business owners, corporate executives and managers, pastors, teachers, employees, community leaders, and coaches, among other things. Their focus is on the long-term return from a person’s life, not just a short-term hit of adrenaline. They understand that the success of those they lead will eventually result in their own success and fulfillment.

If you want to get the most out of your team, become an entrepreneurial leader today. Here are some ideas on how you can do this effectively:

  1. Identify the unique qualities and strengths of each person on your team. This takes time and attention, so don’t try to rush it.
  2. Show each individual on your team a figurative (or literal) mirror by affirming them, so they can acknowledge those qualities in themselves. Many people never realize their full potential, because they underestimate their significance.
  3. Don’t allow anyone on your team to work aimlessly. Make sure they are engaging their talents as much as possible.

Continue to Part 2 to get the rest of the list…

Empowering You for Success,
Paul Wilson

P.S., Write to me by commenting on this article if you can identify an entrepreneurial leader who has helped you in your life. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Tags: business, entrepreneur, leadership, empowerment, success

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