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Group Coaching: The ‘X-Factor’ Explained

Idea posted: October 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: INSEAD

Group coaching can be a catalyst for both individual and organizational change. Its ‘active ingredients’, however, are not commonly understood. Greater awareness of why and when group coaching works can help maximise its benefits. Anecdotal evidence and research suggest effective sessions share a number of key characteristics.

Idea #234
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Avoiding the Acceleration Trap

Idea posted: October 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Is your organization stuck in an ‘acceleration trap’? If you demand that your employees constantly give you the same level of accelerated effort, however committed they are, eventually their energy will burn out and the company’s performance will suffer. This Idea explains how to spot this trap, break free from it, and avoid getting stuck in this harmful position in future.

Idea #231
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The Press Gang, George Goodwin Kilburne, 1839-1924 (Source: Burlington Paintings, London)

Should I stay or should I go? The Power of Headhunters

Idea posted: October 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

We can learn much from recent research about the behavioural aspects of top executives when approached by search firms. It suggests that the decline in corporate loyalty – prevalent among lower level employees since the downsizing era of the 1980s – has spread to the upper echelons as well.

Idea #233
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The Board Game, Magdelena Giesek, 2010. View her work at www.giesek.com

Gamification and Games at Work that Work

Idea posted: October 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Employers are using gamification — the introduction of games in the workplace — to make work more enjoyable and ‘fun’, and hopefully improving, in the process, employee engagement and motivation. But mandated fun is considered no fun at all, unless employees consent to the game. Without consent, new research shows, the gamification attempt will backfire; with consent, gamification will engage employees even though the essential core task has not changed.

Idea #228
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The Meeting, Ester Almqvist, 1929, (Source: The Swedish National Museum. Wikimedia Commons)

Leadership Ensembles: 4 Blueprints for Senior Decision-Making

Idea posted: October 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

The ‘Lone Ranger’ style of senior leader decision-making is a thing of the past; most organizations now bring together groups of leaders (‘ensembles’) for input into different types of decision-making. This Idea identifies approaches for these ensembles to follow in order to make the most successful choices and reach the best decisions when they come together.

Idea #229
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Money for Nothing: The Truth About Investment Consultants

Idea posted: October 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Widely used by retirement plan sponsors and pension fund trustees, investment consultants advise on institutional assets worth trillions of dollars. But their influence is not matched by their performance. New research finds no evidence that they add value to plan sponsors — or provide higher returns for pension scheme investors.

Idea #230
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Singing in the Rain, stage production, Birmingham UK, 2012 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Bad Weather Means Better Productivity

Idea posted: October 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Operations

We all know that bad weather often leads to a bad mood, and therefore it must also lead to bad productivity, right? Not so, according to this Idea which suggests that bad weather actually increases productivity. Through a field study and laboratory experiment, researchers show that when the weather is rainy, there is low visibility and extreme temperatures, workers seem to be more, not less, productive.

Idea #226
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The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs, Georges De La Tour, c. late 1620s, Louvre, Paris (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

When Financially Deprived Employees May Shift Moral Standards

Idea posted: October 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Although moral standards are valued unequivocally, moral behaviour is another story. Under certain conditions, people will let their moral standards shift. New research shows that financial deprivation is one of those conditions and this can have an impact in the workplace.

Idea #227
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Beating Bias through Mindfulness Meditation

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Mindfulness meditation, the practice of clearing one’s mind of all other thoughts but the ‘present moment’, partly by focusing on the physical sensation of breathing, has long been associated with personal feelings of ‘wellbeing’ and positivity. But it has wider, more practical, benefits. New research suggests that leaders who use the technique are more likely to be resistant to the decision-making curse of ‘sunk cost bias’ — and, consequently, more likely to create value.

Idea #225
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Children Acting the Play Scene in 'Hamlet', by Charles Hunt, 1863, (Source: The Yale Center for British Art. Wikimedia Commons)

Calling in the Consultants: Risks and Rewards

Idea posted: September 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

The use of management consultants by businesses and other organizations is controversial — and its benefits hard to quantify. (The ‘consultancy effect’ is impossible to isolate from other factors affecting the organization.)

Anecdotal evidence and experience, however, suggest that the leaders who derive most value from consultants are those who see them not as ‘fixers’ but ‘facilitators’ come to ‘counter-observe’ the organization and help create or measure its aptitude for change.

Idea #214
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John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett in The Class sketch,  first broadcast on The Frost Report on 7 April 1966, BBC Televisio (Source Wikimedia)

Social Status, Performance and Managing Stress

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Leaders and managers may be underestimating the impact of social status in the business world. New research links higher social status to healthier biological responses to stress, as well as positive behavioural outcomes, such as higher performance levels and greater generosity to colleagues. This insight into the power of social status can help leaders and managers anticipate problems and conflicts, and encourage better performance from their teams and business units.

Idea #216
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A scene from 'Iphigenia in Tauris' by Euripides. Roman fresco in Pompeii (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Decision-Making With Emotional Intelligence

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Decisions, especially decisions involving risk, are often guided by emotions, such as anxiety, that in fact emerge from completely unrelated events. Emotionally intelligent leaders are less likely to make a mistake with “incidental” anxiety because they recognize the irrelevant source of their emotions. Leaders can also help others reduce the impact of incidental anxiety by simply pointing out the true source of their emotions.

Idea #217
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A sales assistant demonstrates a blackout coat for dogs at Selfridge's in London, circa 1940. The coat would ensure the dog was visible during the dark nights of the blackout (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Secret of a Good Sales Assistant: Reading Customer Mood

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing

The ability to interpret facial expressions and body language is an important interpersonal skill. However, relatively little is known about how it affects people’s perceptions and experiences of retailers. New research suggests that sales assistants sensitive to ‘non-verbal cues’ are viewed positively by customers but negatively by third-party observers. This has important implications for the way ‘customer-facing’ staff are recruited, trained and evaluated — and for the way shops are designed. 

Idea #220
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The ultimate generalist? Swiss army knife, Wenger (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Generalist Bias: Why Specialists Are Undervalued

Idea posted: September 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Learning & Behaviour

In just about every domain — from sports to business — there is a widespread bias to hire generalists over specialists, even when specialist skills are needed to fill the gap. This generalist bias is reinforced by joint evaluations (comparing specialists and generalists side-by-side) that undervalue the importance of complementarity: a group of narrowly focused experts with complementary specialties can be more effective than a group of generalists with overlapping skills.

Idea #221
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Hamlet's Vision, by Pedro Américo, 1893,The Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Surprising Reality of the Leadership of Change

Idea posted: September 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Linear ‘step-by-step’ guides and standardised solutions are of limited use in the management of change. Organizations, by their very nature, defy prescription. Leaders who want to turn companies round are often better off observing things for themselves and encouraging employees to improvise solutions than trying to follow a generalised model. There are, to paraphrase Hamlet, more things in organizational life than are ‘dreamt of’ in the ‘philosophies’ of academics, business writers and management consultants.

Idea #213
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Leaders Less Stressed than Followers Due to a Sense of Control

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Today’s leaders face increasing demands and must be inundated with stress, right? Not so according to this research, which suggests that the heightened sense of control that accompanies leadership may actually help to reduce stress levels. In fact, non-leaders are probably more stressed than their leaders are. 

Idea #211
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King Lear, a UK TV film version, 2008, starring Sir Ian McKellen, Frances Barber, Romola Garai, Jonathan Hyde and Sylvester McCoy; directed by Sir Tevor Nunn and produced by Paul Wheeler for Channel 4

When Allowing Decision Latitude Can Backfire

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

The best leaders today avoid micromanaging their employees, recognizing that giving employees job autonomy and decision latitude — allowing employees to make decisions concerning their work — will result in greater motivation and better performance. New research, however, shows that too much decision latitude can backfire. Instead of being viewed as effective and conscientious leaders, the research shows managers who give their employees too much discretion and freedom in decisions and managing their work will be viewed as not being conscientious about their work.

Idea #212
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Aircraft Workers on Lunch Break, 1942 (Source: Wikimedia)

Reenergizing Lunch Breaks and the Role of Autonomy

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Strategy
  • Learning & Behaviour

Intuitively, a lunch break will give employees a chance to stop working and restore some energy for the rest of the day. New research, however, shows that not all lunch breaks are restorative. Indeed, it is not only what employees do during lunch but whether they had a choice in what they did that makes a difference. The researchers demonstrate that the less choice or ‘autonomy’ given to employees over their lunch breaks, the less rested or reenergized they will feel by the end of the workday.

Idea #208
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1940's advert for Mum antiperspirant (Source: The Smithsonian.com)

Ethical Lapses in Negotiations – A Male Tendency

Idea posted: September 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Operations

Do women act more ethically than men? According to this Idea, yes they do, particularly during negotiations; men tend to be more pragmatic in their ethical reasoning at the bargaining table than women, especially when they feel like their masculinity is being threatened. 

Idea #210
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Cinderella and her sisters, Aubrey Beardsley illustration of the classic story, from The Yellow Book, 1894

Stopping Women Bullying Women in the Workplace

Idea posted: September 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Women bullying women in the workplace is a worryingly common phenomenon and one that is important for leaders to understand and deal with; because, according to this Idea, its negative effects can ripple throughout an organization. Here, a metaphor involving priming, painting, peeling, and polishing is used to explain how such bullying occurs, and how it can be overcome.

Idea #200
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Ronald McDonald, Delft, Netherlands, 2005. Photo: M.Minderhoud (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Power of Colour in Marketing

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing

Seeing red and yellow together is likely to make you think of McDonalds, according to this Idea. Such is the power of colours on brand recognition and long-term storage of advertisement information. Certain colours in particular are more stimulating than others, and marketing executives can use this information to build stronger advertising campaigns.

Idea #201
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Bathing beach parade, 1919, Bathing Beach Washington D.C. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Identifying High-Potential Talent

Idea posted: September 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Organizations are struggling with how to effectively identify, attract and retain high-potential talent. This Idea — based on a Leadership Survey carried out by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School — proposes employing a formal and systematic approach, and outlines four steps to putting such an approach into practice. 

Idea #203
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Weightlifter figure on the Royal Caribbean International, Mariner of the Seas cruise ship (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Three Ways to Overcome Your Power Deficit

Idea posted: August 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: IMD

'Power shortage’ is not just a term for the energy industry; executives frequently experience deficits in their power to influence as well. According to this Idea, there are three power sources that need to be maintained in order to avoid, or recover from, a power deficit. 

Idea #192
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William Mark Felt, Sr. (1913-2008), A.K.A. ‘Deep Throat’. Felt, a former associated director of the FBI supplied Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein with enough insider information to take down President Nixon after the Watergate scandal. (Source: CBS News)

Blowing the Whistle on Unethical Conduct: It Takes a Village

Idea posted: August 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Operations

Employees who want to report wrongdoing must overcome two fears: the fear of retaliation and the fear of futility (the fear of risking the enmity of boss and co-workers for nothing, because nothing is done). New research on whistleblowers confirms that the boss sets the initial ethical tone for the organization or unit, but also demonstrates that co-workers play an important role in either supporting or discouraging whistleblowing. The research shows that the interaction of the two factors — boss attitude and co-workers attitude — impacts an employee’s fear of retaliation. If either the

Idea #193
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Trust, Fraud and the Financial Markets

Idea posted: August 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Markets cannot function without relationships, and relationships cannot function without trust. But the mechanisms for building trust can be ‘faulty’. Bernard Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme, which ruined thousands of investors, depended on a series of ‘trust-producing’ factors that combined to conceal it from victims and the authorities. Understanding these mechanisms can help prevent similar frauds and abuses of trust.

Idea #195
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Peer-to-Peer Deference in Email Communication

Idea posted: August 2013
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Emails have fast become the most widely-used form of written communication in business, both externally and internally within organizations. This Idea looks at the relationship between hierarchy and the language used in emails, showing that surprisingly, peer-to-peer communication tends to contain more signs of deference than subordinate-superior communication.

Idea #196
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How Formal Mentoring Affects Workplace Networks

Idea posted: August 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

How do widespread organizational practices like formal mentoring affect employee networking? According to this Idea, formal mentoring programs could provide boosts in visibility, increasing participants’ attractiveness as network partners. However, these benefits seem to arise more for women than men. 

Idea #199
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The Money Lender and his Wife, Quentin Metsys, founder of the Antwerp school, 1514, The Louvre, Paris

When Financial Incentives Backfire

Idea posted: July 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: HEC Paris

Companies often rely on performance-based systems to reward their ‘smartest’ or most productive employees. But financial incentives can have unintended consequences. New research suggests that the smartest workers also tend to be the most skilled at playing performance-based systems for personal gain. Leaders need to look closely at the way they structure and design incentives — and reduce the risks of employees concentrating their efforts on activities that trigger rewards.

Idea #180
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The German delegation at the Treaty of Versailles, 1919 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Conducting Better Meetings - Can Data Help?

Idea posted: July 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

The science of meetings — which includes collecting sophisticated data that analyzes meetings word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase — is still in its infancy. Researchers from MIT, however, used an available database with a myriad of data to reach some tentative conclusions about different facets of meetings, from calculating average ‘wrap-up’ times once a decision is reached to identifying the most persuasive words used in meetings. They were even able to use language analysis to identify when participants in a meeting were about to make a decision

Idea #182
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Brad Pitt, the first male to front a Chanel No. 5 perfume campaign, 2012 (source: The Sun)

Celebrities in Advertising: Neuroscience Insights

Idea posted: July 2013
  • Finance
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing

Companies pay celebrities large sums of money to endorse their products and ‘star’ in their advertising campaigns. Until recently, however, little was known about the processes that underlie the persuasiveness of fame. Now, research in neuroeconomics (a field that crosses the disciplines of psychology, economics, marketing and neuroscience) is providing insights into the neural effects of celebrity endorsement — and suggesting ways advertisers can best use celebrities to influence consumers and their decisions.

Idea #183
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