Madelyn Blair’s company name Pelerei represents two root words that mean “lifting people up.” She made up the name as a hidden reminder of who she is and why she is here. Learn more about Madelyn’s books: "Riding the Current" and "Essays in Two Voices".
"When teams are diverse, meaningful innovation is more likely to happen."
"We know intuitively that innovation goals are well served by cross-functional “SWAT” teams that are diverse in their membership. As Andy Zynga argued in an earlier post, diversity is a means to overcome the cognitive biases that prevent people from seeing new approaches or engaging them when found. But while this seems only logical, is there empirical evidence to support it? When such diversity is enforced can we expect it to produce results? How do we know “more is better”?
Stanford professor Lee Fleming and his colleagues have been working on these questions by looking for patterns in the teams behind patents. They find that higher-valued industrial innovation (by its nature also riskier) is more likely to arise when diverse teams are assembled of people with deep subject matter expertise in their areas. Other interesting findings in Fleming’s body of work include the observation of a bimodal distribution of outcomes for diverse teams (that is, a relatively high rate of failure and high rate of big successes, with not much middle ground); and the discovery that different kinds of communications networks foster different levels of diffusion of innovation. Fleming focuses on cross-pollination in the context of “big D” Development, which often involves recombination of existing knowledge to serve commercial goals.
Along similar lines, Ben Jones and colleagues at the Kellogg Business School of Northwestern University published a paper in Science last year focusing on diversity in the production of new knowledge, as reflected in the research literature. Looking for patterns across some 17.9 million papers indexed in Thomson Reuter’s Web of Science, they demonstrated that the most influential papers (most highly cited) were those that exhibited an intrusion of interdisciplinary information. They also found that groups were more likely to foster these intrusions than solo researchers. This is entirely consistent with Fleming’s findings for industry, and his attempts to dispel some of themythology around lone inventors. (One difference in the studies is that, thus far, Jones hasn’t observed the bimodal distribution that Fleming does; there is apparently no cluster of papers with abnormally low citations which also feature intrusions of outside knowledge.)
Taken together, the studies led by Fleming and Jones make a good case for assembling that SWAT team that can bring multiple disciplinary perspectives to bear on a problem. It isn’t always obvious how to do so, but we at NineSigma can point to an instructive example at AkzoNobel. AkzoNobel is a multi-national, multi-divisional manufacturer and distributor of coatings systems, or more simply put, paint. But paint is really not as simple as just paint; for example, coatings for automotive applications are very different from decorative finishes. Among AkzoNobel’s divisions are more and less conventional manufacturers of chemicals and polymers. Having grown by acquisition, the company has the typical silos, with organizational and geographic boundaries inhibiting the diffusion of knowledge…."
The Glass Hammer on How Women MBAs are changing the system
“When we spoke to leaders and professionals from around the world we didn’t ask what women should do or what women were doing wrong; we asked what key attributes are necessary for a corporate leader,” Romero says. “We identified five key pieces that will help women move forward.”
The first piece of the puzzle is learning what makes a strong leader and teaching women how to lead themselves, lead their careers, and lead others. The second is having a global mindset. The third is cross-gender communication skills. The fourth is cross-cultural communication skills and lastly, the fifth was cross-cultural ethics.
“Corporate culture isn’t supporting women, but when they have these skills in their back pocket there won’t be an option anymore, they must be given a seat at the table because companies need them and can no longer afford not to utilize them. Women don’t need corporate America, that’s why they’re leaving. It’s not to have babies, it’s because the culture doesn’t support them,” Romero says.
It does appear as if many companies are recognizing this, as evidenced from the number of corporate sponsors MBAWI has garnered for its International Leadership Academy and next month’s Leadership Conference and Career Fair, taking place in Phoenix Arizona from the 18th through the 20th. Sponsors include American Airlines, AT&T, Intel, and even Walmart, which has had a rocky history when it comes to promoting women. According to Romero, part of the change is a direct result of women themselves, who are now “voting’ with their checkbooks. This was illustrated by Facebook’s turbulent IPO earlier this year.
“Why would women buy stock in a company that didn’t have a single female board member at the time?” Romero asked. “Women still make 80 percent of the financial decisions and when they don’t see gender parity, they’re no longer willing to look past it anymore. The bottom line is that it’s about the bottom line. More women in the C-suite provides a higher return on investment. It’s time for a huge paradigm shift and all of us at MBA Women International are literally burning with excitement to help make it happen.”
Entrepreneurship is about stepping into the unknown, discovering new possibilities, and creating change. Read (and listen to!) this post to learn why, just like jazz, entrepreneurship is proof that it’s possible to start from inspiration and make something beautiful.
TORONTO — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she believes more women will rise to leadership roles in Canadian politics, despite the loss of a fourth female premier. Quebec's Pauline Marois suffered a crushing defeat ...
To follow up on my blog post I wrote for the Graziadio Voice about learning and applying Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a large group intervention while in Costa Rica with my graduate program in Organization Development, I'm ...
"Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, famously wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Tolstoy’s dictum is a useful starting point for any executive engaged in organizational change. After years of collaborating in efforts to advance the practice of leadership and cultural transformation, we’ve become convinced that organizational change is inseparable from individual change. Simply put, change efforts often falter because individuals overlook the need to make fundamental changes in themselves.1
Building self-understanding and then translating it into an organizational context is easier said than done, and getting started is often the hardest part. We hope this article helps leaders who are ready to try and will intrigue those curious to learn more.
Organizations don’t change—people do
Many companies move quickly from setting their performance objectives to implementing a suite of change initiatives. Be it a new growth strategy or business-unit structure, the integration of a recent acquisition or the rollout of a new operational-improvement effort, such organizations focus on altering systems and structures and on creating new policies and processes.
To achieve collective change over time, actions like these are necessary but seldom sufficient. A new strategy will fall short of its potential if it fails to address the underlying mind-sets and capabilities of the people who will execute it.
McKinsey research and client experience suggest that half of all efforts to transform organizational performance fail either because senior managers don’t act as role models for change or because people in the organization defend the status quo.2 In other words, despite the stated change goals, people on the ground tend to behave as they did before. Equally, the same McKinsey research indicates that if companies can identify and address pervasive mind-sets at the outset, they are four times more likely to succeed in organizational-change efforts than are companies that overlook this stage.
Look both inward and outward
Companies that only look outward in the process of organizational change—marginalizing individual learning and adaptation—tend to make two common mistakes.
The first is to focus solely on business outcomes. That means these companies direct their attention to what Alexander Grashow, Ronald Heifetz, and Marty Linsky call the “technical” aspects of a new solution, while failing to appreciate what they call “the adaptive work” people must do to implement it.3
The second common mistake, made even by companies that recognize the need for new learning, is to focus too much on developing skills. Training that only emphasizes new behavior rarely translates into profoundly different performance outside the classroom.
In our work together with organizations undertaking leadership and cultural transformations, we’ve found that the best way to achieve an organization’s aspirations is to combine efforts that look outward with those that look inward. Linking strategic and systemic intervention to genuine self-discovery and self-development by leaders is a far better path to embracing the vision of the organization and to realizing its business goals.
What is looking inward?
Looking inward is a way to examine your own modes of operating to learn what makes you tick. Individuals have their own inner lives, populated by their beliefs, priorities, aspirations, values, and fears. These interior elements vary from one person to the next, directing people to take different actions.
Interestingly, many people aren’t aware that the choices they make are extensions of the reality that operates in their hearts and minds. Indeed, you can live your whole life without understanding the inner dynamics that drive what you do and say. Yet it’s crucial that those who seek to lead powerfully and effectively look at their internal experiences, precisely because they direct how you take action, whether you know it or not. Taking accountability as a leader today includes understanding your motivations and other inner drives.
For the purposes of this article, we focus on two dimensions of looking inward that lead to self-understanding: developing profile awareness and developing state awareness.
An individual’s profile is a combination of his or her habits of thought, emotions, hopes, and behavior in various circumstances. Profile awareness is therefore a recognition of these common tendencies and the impact they have on others.
We often observe a rudimentary level of profile awareness with the executives we advise. They use labels as a shorthand to describe their profile, telling us, “I’m an overachiever” or “I’m a control freak.” Others recognize emotional patterns, like “I always fear the worst,” or limiting beliefs, such as “you can’t trust anyone.” Other executives we’ve counseled divide their identity in half. They end up with a simple liking for their “good” Dr. Jekyll side and a dislike of their “bad” Mr. Hyde.
Finding ways to describe the common internal tendencies that drive behavior is a good start. We now know, however, that successful leaders develop profile awareness at a broader and deeper level.
State awareness, meanwhile, is the recognition of what’s driving you at the moment you take action. In common parlance, people use the phrase “state of mind” to describe this, but we’re using “state” to refer to more than the thoughts in your mind. State awareness involves the real-time perception of a wide range of inner experiences and their impact on your behavior. These include your current mind-set and beliefs, fears and hopes, desires and defenses, and impulses to take action.
State awareness is harder to master than profile awareness. While many senior executives recognize their tendency to exhibit negative behavior under pressure, they often don’t realize they’re exhibiting that behavior until well after they’ve started to do so. At that point, the damage is already done.
We believe that in the future, the best leaders will demonstrate both profile awareness and state awareness. These capacities can develop into the ability to shift one’s inner state in real time. That leads to changing behavior when you can still affect the outcome, instead of looking back later with regret. It also means not overreacting to events because they are reminiscent of something in the past or evocative of something that might occur in the future.4
Close the performance gap
When learning to look inward in the process of organizational transformation, individuals accelerate the pace and depth of change dramatically. In the words of one executive we know, who has invested heavily in developing these skills, this kind of learning “expands your capacity to lead human change and deliver true impact by awakening the full leader within you.” In practical terms, individuals learn to align what they intend with what they actually say and do to influence others.
Erica Ariel Fox’s recent book, Winning from Within,5 calls this phenomenon closing your performance gap. That gap is the disparity between what people know they should say and do to behave successfully and what they actually do in the moment. The performance gap can affect anyone at any time, from the CEO to a summer intern.
This performance gap arises in individuals partly because of the profile that defines them and that they use to define themselves. In the West in particular, various assessments tell you your “type,” essentially the psychological clothing you wear to present yourself to the world.
To help managers and employees understand each other, many corporate-education tools use simplified typing systems to describe each party’s makeup. These tests often classify people relatively quickly, and in easily remembered ways: team members might be red or blue, green or yellow, for example.
There are benefits in this approach, but in our experience it does not go far enough and those using it should understand its limitations. We all possess the full range of qualities these assessments identify. We are not one thing or the other: we are all at once, to varying degrees. As renowned brain researcher Dr. Daniel Siegel explains, “we must accept our multiplicity, the fact that we can show up quite differently in our athletic, intellectual, sexual, spiritual—or many other—states. A heterogeneous collection of states is completely normal in us humans.”6 Putting the same point more poetically, Walt Whitman famously wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”"
"The following is not a futuristic scenario. It is not science fiction. It is a demonstration of the results of an extremely unlikely, yet intellectually fascinating query: What would happen if the earth stopped spinning? ArcGIS was used to perform complex raster analysis and volumetric computations and generate maps that visualize these results.
Inspiring case studies, tips, and presentation ideas to help you set your story free, from the Haiku Deck team and our creative community.
It’s worth noting that we have nothing against PowerPoint itself — in fact, PowerPoint can be used to create some incredibly awesome presentations, if you have strong design skills or you know someone who does.
“I believe that the world would be a better place if half our institutions were run by women, and half our homes were run by men,”
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has written a book on challenges facing women in the workplace that is expected to be published next year by Knopf. Titled “Lean In,” the book is not a memoir, but a “call to action” with a lot of research and data, laced with anecdotes of the experience of one of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile female executives and also many other women.