Ian O. Williamson, dean of UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business, caught the travel bug in his late 20s, while teaching at the University of Maryland. He has since worked in 30 foreign countries and researched how diverse perspectives help drive innovation.
Williamson elaborated on the nexus between diversity and innovation in a recent interview.
I’ve heard that everywhere you go you tell the story of Orange County. What story is that?
That we are an amazing epicenter of cutting-edge technologies – from EVs to health tech to artificial intelligence and gaming. There are very few communities in the world where you would have so many world-leading technology organizations, all within such a small area.
How does the diversity of people in Irvine contribute to its tech success?
A great deal of research has shown that when organizations can attract employees from different environments and backgrounds, they develop more options to more effectively serve a wider range of customers. This is clearly evident when you look at the range of applications local technology companies are able to create for their customers.
What is the business school doing to encourage local innovation?
One major initiative is our New Venture Competition, which has more than 350 participants this year. The winners get seed money to launch their firms.
What do you enjoy most about living in Irvine?
It has allowed my family to experience a variety of different cultures and exposed us to new perspectives. We attend festivals like the Irvine Korean Cultural Festival and the Irvine Juneteenth Freedom Celebration. Another nice perk is you’re not going to eat a bad meal in Irvine. There’s so much variety.