Editor’s Note: Here at our Johnson & Johnson corporate blog, we occasionally like to share speech excerpts delivered by members of our senior leadership team at conferences and industry events. On Friday, November 6, Martin Fitchet, M.D., Global Head, Research & Development, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, spoke at the Net Impact conference in Seattle. Martin shared his own personal and professional evolution as a scientist and gay man during his “Demand Diversity, Embrace Innovation” spotlight talk. Martin’s view- that diversity and innovation are inseparably linked- dovetails with our mission at J&J to cultivate a diverse workforce in order to unleash the power of innovative thinking and create healthcare breakthroughs that help millions of people around the world. We invite you to read excerpts of his remarks and be inspired by them.
Living Your Own Truth:
I am a senior scientist at the largest health care company in the world. I am also gay. I do not say that because I want to make who I am the centerpiece of my time with you today. I don’t. I’m much more interested in who you are. Expressing – or rather being– my true self brought diversity alive for me. In my case, it was after a period of deep reflection that I discovered the importance of diversity in the particular sense in which I want to present it to you today—not just diversity but authenticity. That, I believe, is diversity’s ultimate power.
My own period of reflection came after the very painful collapse of a long relationship. The details are unimportant. But this is not: Before then, who I was and what I did were two separate things. I was not fully living my own truth. And in the business of innovation, that matters. Innovation is intensely personal—and interpersonal. It is rooted in trust and a mutual respect for individual perspectives and experience.
Be You in Life and Work:
Often when we talk about diversity we’re talking about respecting someone else. My challenge to each of you is to reveal yourself. You might find that harder, in many ways, than honoring somebody else. It is one thing to say the color of someone else’s skin won’t determine what you think of them. It’s entirely another to say you’re going to get comfortable in your own skin. What I’m suggesting today is that revealing your authentic self and embracing that in others is absolutely vital to the process of innovation. Diversity must transcend the categories in which we are accustomed to thinking of it.
Rethink what Diversity Means:
Diversity is an essential part of the answer to the challenge of innovation. But it’s not just the diversity we think of—not just that. We need to think about diverse diversities. Diversity was first defined by governments that were concerned, with very good reason, about pushing society in specific areas like race, ethnicity, gender and age. Those remain vital elements of diversity. But today we need to broaden our understanding of diversity to include all the dimensions of ourselves that bring unique perspectives that are so critical to innovation. Diversity of identity, yes. Diversity of age—which in my company means ongoing efforts to recruit more young people like you, and in many of yours means being open to the perspective of older professionals like me. And diversity of outlook.
Authenticity Ignites the Best Collaboration:
Most of us write code in teams, unravel the genome in working groups, and develop medical devices through collaboration in labs. It may look like a simply professional relationship. I can tell you it is not. There are few experiences more personal or intense. It is an experience of immense highs and frustrating lows, of late nights and great stakes. You cannot innovate in this environment without the fullest and truest trust, and therefore without the fullest and truest authenticity.
At J&J, we are in the business of curing diseases, saving lives, transforming human health. It is an immensely cool business to be in. It is also deeply personal. Authenticity matters. It matters in how we work with each other, in the diverse perspectives we bring to our mission, and in the way we serve our customers and save lives. Those unexpected connections are revealed when you reveal your diversity. Amazing things happen when people are willing to be honest about their lives.
Embrace Innovation, Demand Diversity:
This is profoundly personal stuff. As we learn about more dimensions of one another, authenticity drives more opportunities for connections. This is hard stuff. It is. Revealing your authentic self requires a certain level of vulnerability. It did for me. And it will for you – or you aren’t doing it right.
But let me say this by way of conclusion. I was 18 years into my career before I revealed my authentic self. It took me that long. And when I did it unleashed so much—for me and for the innovators around me. I don’t want any of you to have to wait that long. We have too much to accomplish.
So to each of you I say embrace innovation, demand diversity in each other and of yourself. We can’t do one without doing the other—and we can’t afford not to do both.
Martin Fitchet, M.D. is Global Head of Research & Development for Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies.