A Guide to Collaborative Leadership

TED Talks very often carry great nuggets of wisdom (NoWs).

The NoW here (Lorna Davis) is about sharing the personal experience of learning the benefits of creating the right environment for an engaged workforce.

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‘Renaissance’ Leaders: The Catalyst Required for Business Transformation?

A recent research paper published in the Strategic Management Journal by Nagle and Teodoridis

( https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.3091 ) demonstrates the quantitative benefit of introducing a generalist into groups of specialists involved with developing ‘breakthrough’ concepts, products or innovations.


The work was based on the analysis of the way that Microsoft’s Kinect product impacted on future development having transformed the field of motion-capture. In a recent Harvard Business School ‘Working Knowledge’ article by Michael Blanding ( The Business Case for Becoming a Jack of all Trades? ), he notes:


“Released as a gaming accessory for Microsoft’s Xbox in 2010, Kinect was leagues ahead of similar technologies such as Nintendo’s Wii and PlayStation Move, in that it could capture motion of the whole body, not just a handheld controller.”


The context for the work was to establish whether mixing subject matter experts or specialists in a particular field with people of a more generalist field of view would influence the productivity and output of the work group. Nagle commented on the stimulus for the work:


“We thought it would be interesting to see if there were potential benefits to not hyper-focusing and having a broader set of knowledge and experience.”  

Blanding notes that: ‘scientific researchers soon realized the potential for the knowledge embedded in the technology in a whole range of applications, and quickly wrote their own software code to use it.’ This brought the cost of doing motion-sensing research down dramatically to a few hundred dollars from the previous tens of thousands.


It was found that not everyone immediately leaped on the knowledge. Blanding goes on to point out: ‘Since the academic community hadn’t anticipated this development, some researchers were quicker to use it than others.’ Nagle and Theodoridis used the academic paper database of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to identify who those researchers were.


This enabled Nagle and Theodoridis to classify each scientist’s degree of specialisation by determining how many different fields they’d published in. Through keyword search for “Kinect”, they were able to determine which researchers were quickest to use the new motion-capture knowledge.


The research came up with some impressive results. The findings were:

  1. The top 25% most diversified researchers were 3.1 times more likely to use Kinect in their research within the first 4 years of its launch than those in the bottom 25%.
  2. The papers they produced were 3.8 times more likely to appear in the top 10% of papers cited by their peers, indicating more insightful and broader applicability.


Nagle summarised the findings by commenting that generalists did things not only earlier but have more impact than specialists when they engage with the new knowledge.


The benefits of mixing generalist outlook with specialist talent is not lost on the researchers for use in the business world.


Where there is the need or desire for achieving major step change or transformations, having generalists to bring new ideas and refresh thinking and action into the mix is demonstrably beneficial.


Clearly there is a modern-day role for ‘Renaissance man or woman’ as a transformation leader.


The final comment from Nagle:


“Having more diversified knowledge and being a Jack-of-all-trades actually allows you to master knowledge that is further away from your expertise in ways that can be beneficial. That can have important impacts on .. the future of ideas and innovation for companies.”


The thinking and approach looks equally applicable in productivity improvement, disruptive technologies adaption and adoption and organisational leadership.



Effective Interim Leadership and Management

Last September, the British Academy of Management (BAM: http://www.bam.ac.uk/) held a conference at University of Aston – BAM2019, where the attached paper was presented.

Co-authored by Prof. Stephen Woods, Dr. Geoff Thomas (both University of Surrey) and Mary Murphy and Nick Diprose (both of Holdsway), it provides a very good summary of the available academic literature related to interim leadership and management.

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How to “Incentivise” People to Achieve Transformative Change.

The traditional way we try to encourage people to achieve a desired goal usually rests on financial reward. This is contrary to scientific research – a lot of it.

Image by Shad0wfall from Pixabay

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