Approaches to innovation are becoming more sophisticated and deliberate. It is no longer a ‘once a year’ whiteboard brainstorming activity with lots of post-it notes; rather, organisations that innovate successfully are more calculated and scientific with the strategies they deploy and the methods and capabilities they use. Against this backdrop, the ability to include diversity of thought to innovation-related problems will help to set leading organisations apart.

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Leaders transitioning into a new role. Leaders feeling the pressure. Leaders making smarter decisions in a complex world.

These are the three topics we look at this month as we think about what it means to lead at the edge. We look at innovations in transition programs to accelerate success, a personal story of mindfulness and new insights on the relationship between racial diversity and collective intelligence.

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Harvey Christophers leads the Risk Advisory Practice at Deloitte, a role he took on 4 years ago when the service line was languishing. He talks candidly to Catherine Pinfold, Manager Risk Advisory about his brush with exhaustion as he brought the service link back from the brink and at the same time tackled some unique personal challenges; and the importance for him of mindfulness and resilience techniques to manage his mental wellbeing.

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Advice to my younger self? To invest in my mental health and resilience at an earlier stage and that it is as important as the physical and emotional.

Transitioning into a new executive role can be an incredibly overwhelming experience partly because it entails a steep learning curve.  “You are flooded with information and overwhelmed by choices,” says Geoff Roberts, CFO of SEEK. Not just information but new relationships, new expectations and much more complexity and ambiguity. It is no wonder that nearly 40% of all executive transitions fail in the first 18 months (Stoddard; N & Wykcoff C 2009, ’The right leader: selecting executives who fit’ in Deloitte 2010, Taking the Reins – Managing CFO Transitions).

One technique organisations are using to accelerate the transition, and increase the chances of success, is a dedicated transition program. This article reviews the elements of an effective transition program through the eyes of users – both facilitators and executives – and in the context of Deloitte’s research on transitions and client work.

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“The Transition Lab gives you clarity to sit above the issues and concentrate on what will have the biggest impact on the organisation.”

In Washentaw County, 29 different juries – each with six people – are hearing the same sexual assault case. One group of juries finish their deliberations in 50 minutes, discuss 30 of the 46 major case facts, make four mistakes and notice that two pieces of evidence are missing. Another group of juries finish their deliberations faster – in 38 minutes – but they only discuss 25 of the 46 major facts, make eight mistakes and notice just one piece of missing evidence.

Cross to the other side of the world and in Singapore, stock market traders are deciding whether to buy or sell shares. In small clusters of six traders, they make their decisions over ten trading periods, each lasting two minutes. Some of the clusters make few pricing errors and trade accurately about 65% of the time. Other clusters regularly overprice, create pricing bubbles and trade accurately only 40% of the time.

Both scenarios entailed people making difficult decisions, under pressure, with imperfect information and significant impact. That sounds like day-to-day life for leaders.

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What was the difference between the groups which made better decisions and those that were prone to error?

If culture eats strategy for breakfast it means we need to get a lot smarter about driving cultural change. Three great articles – from around the world – provide insight on where to focus.

emotions cultureMiddle managers – that’s the advice from the UK about how to get traction on gender equity. More than just who, this research identifies 4 practical and simple steps to break-through the permafrost and create an inclusive workplace. Customer inclusion – that’s the advice from a US case study – because it inevitably leads back to focussing on employee diversity and inclusion. And in a virtuous circle, higher levels of employee inclusion lead to increased customer satisfaction. Emotions and national cultures – that’s the advice from German research for those seeking to ensure a higher proportion of successful Mergers and Acquisition.

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As organisations race towards creating workplace diversity and inclusion strategies, and CEOs sign up to public statements of their personal commitment to inclusion, attention is shifting to middle management and how ready, willing and able they are to change. Since 70% of middle managers are male, the question of whether male middle managers know what it means to be a gender inclusive leader becomes even more important.

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Despite the prevalence of global M&A deals in the wake of the global financial crisis, some researchers argue that the failure rate of such transactions is too high; begging the question ‘are organisations missing out on factoring an integral component in the equation for a successful M&A deal?’ Are companies too focused on the financial costs (and expected rewards), ignoring the true value of culture and natural human emotions along with the influence these have on the whole deal?

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Organisations stand to benefit from understanding how employee emotions are shaped by management practices and national cultural constructs. If organisations understand this, and equip their managers accordingly, they will be able to reduce the dysfunctional reactions typically exhibited by employees during cross-border acquisitions.

Much of the literature on diversity and inclusion has focussed on employees. Could it be that the principles underpinning employee diversity and inclusion are also applicable to customer diversity and inclusion?

Deloitte defines inclusion as the active process of organisations and individuals adapting their practices or behaviours so as to meet people’s diverse needs. Deloitte’s 2012 research (“Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup) found that employees feel included when they perceive they are respected and being treated fairly, when their unique value is known and appreciated, and when they feel a sense of connectedness and belonging.1

The same principles play out for customers; customers feel respected and valued when they perceive that they are seen as a person, that their voice is heard and that services and products are adapted.

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