Exploiting the inherent potential of diversity: A case study of how IBM exploits organisational diversity in the innovation practice

Lærke Wendelboe Nielsen & Birgitte Fruensgaard

Studenteropgave: Kandidatafhandlinger


Today, innovation is vital for staying in a market that becomes more global and more heterogeneous, which draws attention to organisational diversity. Yet, studies show that many Danish organisations have an astoundingly high degree of homogeneity, which might be explained by a lack of insight in diversity‟s potential and a scarce field of literature on the topic. With this thesis we wish to examine how organisational diversity is exploited in the innovation practices of global enterprises. The aim is to deduce some general findings on the subject by establishing a knowledge-based theoretical framework for diversity in which an inductive research method is used for a case study of IBM – with a primary focus on IBM Danmark A/S – where the organisation is analysed by recurrently enfolding data and theory. IBM is seen as a unique case within the field of diversity and innovation because of their huge amount of patents and because diversity has been a natural part of the organisation for decades. IBM has an inclusive diversity culture with a strong focus on “everybody”, where a number of web tools enable the IBMers to map and search for all kinds of employees throughout the organisation. Diversity is exploited by encouraging every employee to contribute to the idea generation and evaluation through different web tools, and in established teams, diversity is exploited by balancing and facilitating diverse knowledge sharing. The analysis is followed by a discussion of the overall analytical results. The thesis will propose a management model of three interrelated gear wheels that provides some concrete initiatives on how diversity and innovation is addressed in an organisational context. The model should be an inspiration for organisations in establishing and maintaining an inclusive culture, where employees are mapped consistently in order to combine the knowledge properly, and inspiration on how to prepare for and facilitate diversity throughout the innovation process. Doing so, the thesis has answered the research question on how the inherent potential of organisational diversity is exploited in the innovation practices of a global enterprise.

UddannelserCand.soc.cbp Management of Creative Business Processes , (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling
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