It has been more than a year since I heard about the Burqini the first time and it has been more than six months since I wrote a post about it. I like the story of the Burqini since it is such a great example of creativity at the intersection of cultures and I often use it to describe the mechanisms that make diversity and mixed cultural perspectives drive innovation.
Over the last months I have realized that the online discussion about this product has been gaining momentum. Opinions about it can be read on blogs about Islam, lifestyle, fashion, integration, politics, sports - you name it. In this media flow a couple of articles from Holland and Sweden caught my attention; it seems that the Burqini is actually being used in these countries and that it has made many Muslim women visit swimming pools and shores in a way that they didn’t do before. This too has caused debate - people react when they see things they haven’t seen before. Many swimming pools have rules about what you are permitted to wear in the water and often it is unclear how the Burqini should be treated in this respect. As I have mentioned before the debate on multiculturalism is continuous in European countries and the integration of Islam is far from friction free.
But friction is an inevitable part of the process that makes diversity drive innovation. If the Burqini makes people come to places where they wouldn’t have gone without it and mix with people they wouldn’t otherwise have met it may be a slow but effective tool for integration. And integration, naturally, makes it far easier to leverage diversity for innovation. Remember – it was such a mix of cultures that created the Burqini in the first place. Wouldn’t it be nice if this Lebanese-Australian invention could catalyze new diversity-driven innovation?