You are not sitting IN traffic - you ARE the traffic

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On diversity, collaboration and accountability driving innovation

Recently, I attended the 5th Annual Women in Technology Event hosted by The Glass Hammer, an organization that promotes professional development for women in several industries. The theme of the evening’s discussion was technology innovation, and NCWIT CEO Lucy Sanders delivered two resounding messages in her keynote address. The first one was about the importance of gender diversity in technology innovation, and the research that supports this claim. The second challenged roughly 100 female audience members to examine their own experiences as part of a minority group in the tech space. Pointing to her last slide, Lucy summed up the message with a compelling metaphor: “As seen on a California interstate highway – ‘You are not sitting in traffic – you are the traffic.’”

Though this event was geared towards women, I thought that Lucy’s messages had a broader appeal and drew parallels to UMT’s own culture. There is an ongoing undercurrent of innovation at UMT, arguably ingrained in our cultural DNA. Day to day, our consultants rely on each other to solve new client issues, often leveraging existing knowledge in new and creative ways. As a testament to UMT’s executive sponsorship for innovation, the keynote speaker at our 25th anniversary was Professor Luke Williams – NYU’s Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship – who spoke about the theory of disruptive change as a strategic approach to innovation. Whether practiced or preached, the importance of innovating, and how we go about innovating, is one of the threads binding the UMT team together.

It is tempting to think about collaboration as the foundational element of innovation, but Lucy Sanders challenged the participants at Women in Technology to take a look in the mirror; she argued that women have to stay accountable to themselves and not to point fingers if they want a seat at the technology innovation table. I think the takeaways here are even broader than a gender-based discussion; members of the UMT team are each accountable, and while we may benefit from one another’s successes, we thrive collectively because each of our team members has the inclination to lead. It is no coincidence that UMT’s 2013 Waalberg Award for Innovation was granted to a team of mixed gender; or that a Women’s Initiative at UMT has recently risen to illuminate opportunities for female leadership and growth across the organization. UMT’s culture continues to embrace diversity, creativity and collaboration, but also to reward the demonstration of leadership by individuals. As our culture continues to build in this positive direction, I think we will continue to see much success.