Successful transformations – from the formation of the elite to the diversity of the collective


Key elements of vital transformations and innovations include the development of new skills and a mindset change.

It invites us to rethink in these uncertain and complex times when social problems are intensely felt or time horizons collide. When we look at both the long term and the short term, democratic impatience and multiple challenges (ecological transition, social justice, loss of meaning, radicalization, etc.) challenge us. to ask new questions and find new solutions. In this dynamic of accelerating transformations, new, non-technical skills are needed to train and mobilize talent in business and politics. You must know how to manage areas of uncertainty, find new ways, reinvent yourself, innovate to transform.

Management literature focuses more on the organizations, tools, and processes that enable transformation. However, great transformations like innovations seem to be driven by an extraordinary person: divine men in politics like Charles de Gaulle or Nelson Mandela, entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs… or brilliant inventors like Marie Curie or Leonardo. da Vinci. However, the legendary figure as inventor, entrepreneur, lone politician hardly resists careful reading of the histories of technological and social innovation. Innovation, first of all, is a social process that requires a combination of many individual, organizational and institutional factors.

Innovation requires not only knowing how to create, but also knowing how to apply it to create value (financial, organizational, social, etc.). And in creation and execution, man is in origin and manoeuvre. Innovation, like major transformations, is first and foremost the job of a collective to respond to a societal challenge.

Also, understanding the human component of innovation is essential. In particular, to understand The range of skills to be deployed is complex and multidimensional. An individual’s ability to innovate, as well as the ability of the collective of which he is a part, is based on both individual cross-skills and collective cross-skills, i.e. the ability of each to work with others in an appropriate environment, initiatives. This is the research “soft skills to innovate and transform organizations” published by France Strategy in May 2022.

The collective is at the heart of innovation and transformation. And beyond knowing how to work together, the diversity of individuals forming an innovative collective is essential. This diversity becomes even more meaningful in times of crisis when the need to do things differently becomes strategic. However, we regularly find endogamous phenomena: in organizations we find an elite from the same education, some more HEC, others in ESSEC … management committees, alumni ministries and ministerial cabinets trusted by polytechnicians or alumni of this or that network ENA meet from the same class (the future of INSP)…

The lack of diversity is highlighted by the selection style and training of these talents. These Grandes Ecoles are well equipped in terms of technical and cognitive skills (logic, rationality, etc.), but have long minimized the importance of non-technical skills (empathy, cooperation, etc.). The development of these skills was “delegated” to sports, political or cultural associations, student offices… The same logic applies to those who participate in large organizations of the state or companies, for example consulting firms. check. This endogamy encourages somewhat overt self-detachment, but its network creates power by creating its own language. However, it prevents the meeting of the forms of thought necessary for all innovations and the cooperation at the borders of the disciplines.

However, all research in sociology and psychology as well as in management shows that the diversity and complementarity of teams facilitates learning. Likewise, comparing experiences fosters the creation and implementation of necessary transformations for organizations and society more generally.

This diversity should be accompanied and supported through three main designs that establish the link between the personal and the political sphere:

one. Understanding uncertainty :

If the goals have to be defined at the beginning, it is necessary to admit that the tools, ideas, learnings are ignored at the beginning. They arise, above all, from the overcoming of sensitivities and the mutual enrichment of those involved. Moreover, in this world marked by an uncertain environment, if we want to act independently and build the future together, we must learn to tolerate uncertainty and uncertainty.

2. Encourage autonomy:

It is essential to enjoy adequate autonomy, this autonomy must be perceived and felt. The development, adoption and possible transfer of skills and new knowledge only happens if we are actors in our decisions. It proves to be a lever of autonomy, prosperity and confidence, and therefore the ability to innovate.

3. Encourage empathy:

Lempathy and The expression of points of view makes it possible to represent what others are thinking or feeling by distinguishing them from their own thoughts or feelings. Empathy contributes to finding desirable and achievable solutions that are compatible with people’s needs and desires. Thus, it allows to reduce conflicts and ruptures between “managers and citizens” through the inclusion of acts of mutual recognition.

In order to achieve these three goals, it is necessary to form complementary teams consisting of individuals with different skills. The understanding and formation of this collective is to be found in the assembly, not in the metaphor of the puzzle and the missing piece. Because unlike a puzzle, the collective is a dynamic that articulates the individual and the group working to create a connection. This requires incorporating and accepting the subjectivity of individuals, as opposed to the bureaucratic model specific to particular institutions, based on rationality, predictability, and risk control, which leaves little room for the initiatives of floor agents. It is a matter of choosing the expression and meeting of different perspectives, different profiles, different sectors. This should start from initial training through arrangements for encounters or even frictions between different populations.

But at the same time, it is necessary for connection these cross skills or precision Ability technical skills, to the organization’s tools for a better understanding of the environment. Thus, soft skills contribute to the learning of technical skills by giving meaning. Technique should be at the service of empathy, autonomy, human, not vice versa.

These requirements undermine the focus on the unique skills of rationality as a key element of choice and decision-making in society. include adoption. great importance to the evaluation precision Ability. This requires close attention to the productivity of the collective throughout the lives of individuals and organizations after initial training. It is also about the societal responsibility of organizations to create and foster diversity, lead transformations, and create a “required environment” to innovate by putting people back at the heart of these challenges.


Romaric Servajean-Hilst, professor at Kedge Business School, associate researcher I3-CRG Ecole polytechnique, founder of ITI Institute

Brieuc du Roscoät, President of the Institute for Transformation and Innovation (ITI Institute)

Sébastien Bauvet, research manager at Frateli Lab

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