people standing in a row

There is no such thing as a bad idea – unless you keep it to yourself

How often do you hear the phrase there is no such thing as a bad idea? 

Shark tanks, experimentation workshops and ideation sessions are all great ways to generate innovative ideas, but without a variety of viewpoints, they risk becoming an echo chamber of thoughts. Worse still, is the inability for people to share ideas in an inclusive environment free from prejudice or judgement. To avoid this, companies are recognising and responding to the benefits of workplace diversity and creating an ecosystem of ideas.

Workplace diversity, supported by an inclusive culture, brings improved efficiency, productivity, innovation, creativity, and employee engagement, stemming from getting the best and brightest minds together to solve problems and make decisions. 

Diverse teams deliver innovation that drives market growth, but it is the interaction style, known as diversity of thought, which can genuinely unlock something special. To obtain the greatest possible diversity of thought sometimes requires us to look beyond company boundaries. Creating an ecosystem of ideas affords companies, universities, research groups and individuals the ability to share knowledge and tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. 

But what is the diversity of thought?

Diversity of thought is the understanding that there is more than one way to think about something.

We all have inherent and acquired traits, for example, our age, gender, ethnicity, disability, neurodiversity, race, and sexual orientation, as well as work experience, academic background, time spent abroad, and expertise status, all shape the origins of our opinion. 

Good ideas, even the futile ones, are improved through examination from myriad viewpoints.

How do we encourage diverse thinking?

Diversity of thought can be encouraged through various mechanisms, including process, policy, company strategy and management style. Attracting diverse talent is one thing, but retaining diverse talent through an inclusive and flexible workplace is another challenge.

One example of encouraging inherent diversity is striving for gender balance in the workplace. In 2016, BHP made a public commitment to achieve gender balance by 2025, setting an industry milestone. Since then, our representation of women has increased from 17.6% to just over 36% of our global workforce. 

In Chile, we have reached 40.4% female presence, including our Escondida, Spence and Cerro Colorado copper operations. The result is also reflected in leadership roles, with 40.81% of leadership positions in Chile held by women. In Escondida alone, the mine that produces the most copper in the world, 1,509 women work today out of a total of 3,935 direct workers.

Although gender balance is important, it is vital that we focus on creating an inclusive culture, in which everyone can contribute with their full potential – including contributing new ideas.

But what about acquired diversity?

An article by Harvard Business Review explains that in addition to inherent diversity, companies must acquire diversity to establish a culture where all employees feel free to contribute ideas. The article identifies six behaviours that encourage diversity of thought: ensuring that everyone is being listened to, making it safe to propose novel ideas, giving team members decision-making authority, sharing credit for success, giving actionable feedback, and implementing feedback from the team.

The diversity in thought helps drive innovation. 

Think & Act Differently (TAD), Powered by BHP, is a human first technology and resource development ecosystem where curious minds come together from inside and outside the mining sector to tackle complex issues. The TAD program utilises an open innovation model, supported by transparency, whereby teams openly discuss the ambitious opportunities and challenges they are working on and invite collaborators from universities, industry peers, adjacent industries, and start-ups to join.

Maki Ikeda, Head of Innovation, Product Development for BHP believes strongly in cross-industry collaboration and the simple process of thinking and acting differently.

“We help innovators accelerate their ideas by providing access to subject matter experts and operations to test their innovations. We believe that this diversity of thinking should give us the best result.

“For example, instead of going to a single engineering firm to get a design for a piece of equipment, an alternative approach is that you might go out to the open crowd and get different ideas for the best design. Instead of picking one vendor, you might build a cohort of innovators to experiment and give each other feedback.”