Spurring Innovation in Golf Through Inclusion

PGA of America Chief People Officer Sandy Cross, Co-Founder & CEO of Jopwell Porter Braswell, Former Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer of Campbell Soup Company Monica Diaz, and Chief Experience Officer of The Medici Group Kristian Ribberstrom

In a changing world and a changing United States – where by 2040 a majority of the population will be minorities – companies across all industries are reacting with innovation, culture shifts and collaboration.

Could we say the golf industry is doing the same?

That was the main focus on the PGA Forum Stage presented by OMEGA Thursday morning, when PGA of America Chief People Officer Sandy Cross moderated a thoughtful panel discussion on “Inclusion & Diversity: Crucial Ingredients to Innovation.”

Joining Cross on the panel were Jopwell Co-Founder & CEO Porter Braswell; Monica Diaz, the former Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Campbell Soup Company and ESPN; and Kristian Ribberstrom, a Partner & CEO of The Medici Company. Together, the four provided strong insight from outside the golf industry on how inclusion and diversity can generate innovation throughout the game.

“It all starts with who is in the room making decisions,” said Diaz. “Does your company or team have enough differences to even start innovating? If not, that’s where you begin. The landscape is changing to embrace diversity.”

The group also touched on the fact that nearly one in five people now have a disability, emphasizing how inclusion is important, now more so than ever, in the workforce.

“A workplace needs to be a place where people feel comfortable working,” said Braswell. “Companies who involve everyone? They perform the best because ideas are always flowing through the building. There’s no stifling of ideas. Innovation is built from people being authentic and feeling ready to help make a difference.”

Added Cross: “The visual storytelling piece is so critical for everyone in the golf industry. What do people see when they look at your brand? Is it positive? Open? Inclusive? In this day and age, it needs to be all three and more.”

Ribberstrom, originally from Sweden and attending his first PGA Merchandise Show, had some interesting takeaways from a walk through the aisles earlier that morning.

“Golf seems to be changing faster than the industry understands,” said Ribberstrom. “Going around the Show floor, the demographic of the PGA Show is much more diverse than we actually think it is. There’s a shift going on, and it’s important for the industry to react accordingly.

“People of all backgrounds are the future. Some may say that they don’t need diversity, that they’re OK. But diversity and inclusion can give you the right people, and the right people create innovation.”