3 steps to embedding the cultural dimension in the M&A due diligence process

When thinking about due diligence in the context of Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A’s), most of the emphasis is on the financial, IP and legal aspects of the deal. Interestingly, the cultural dimension, which is well understood to be the key success factor in creating the valuable synergies in M&A deals is rarely an integral part of the due diligence process. As a result, synergies are always promised, but rarely delivered.

The following data points from Deloitte clearly show that a more proactive approach to predicting and managing the cultural dimension is key to unlocking the full potential of M&A deals. This makes sense, since the most important asset of any business today is its people and the shared values & beliefs that help them work towards a common goal. According to a recent survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research, nine out of 10 CEOs believe that a strong set of values and beliefs will increase their company’s business value and performance.

Isn’t it fascinating how readily we accept the gap between what we know and what we do? Even more so when it comes to things like human emotions, that are much more difficult to “understand, control and measure” than the financial or legal aspects of a business? Not surprisingly, we observe the same dilemma in the context of change initiatives. We know that 70% of them fail to deliver because we are reluctant to address the human mindset changes that need to accompany any transformation project.

At Being at Full Potential we have made it our life’s work to bring more visibility and action-ability to the deeper, human and cultural dimensions of an organization so that it becomes easier to work with in the context of these important strategic initiatives (for example, M&A deals, digital transformation projects and re-organization).

As thought leaders and practitioners in the “soft side of business”, we invite you to reflect (and act) on the following three steps that we have seen proactively embedded into a human first, cultural dimension in the M&A due diligence process with outstanding results.

1. Reframe how we think about cultural integration: Consider cultural maturity before cultural fit as a catalyst for positive and sustainable integration.

On the rare occasion when culture is proactively brought into the due diligence equation, we typically approach it from a “fit” perspective. In other words, we use tools that measure the cultural attributes and leadership paradigms of both organizations and look at how closely they overlap. We assume that the more aligned they are, the smoother the integration process will be and the easier it will be to create value. For example McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index (OHI) or the Merger Compatibility Assessment from the Barrett Values Center.

This, however, only tells part of the story, and often leads to overlooking the true synergy potential of two organizations coming together. Let’s consider marriage as a metaphor for M&A. No doubt that the most successful unions have some underlying values in common. Equally important though is the extent to which the couple respects and values each other’s differences and gives space to each other to fully be themselves. In this way it becomes easier to accept and constructively work through the inevitable challenges that arise once the honeymoon period is over.

Kahil Gibran describes it beautifully in The Prophet. This is what he says about marriage: “Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music”.

This may sound “soft” and idealistic. The reality we observe though, as Generation Y and Z grow into more strategic, leadership and executive roles, is one where this level of Human-first forethought – almost symbiosis- will not only differentiate companies, but also give them a competitive advantage.

In this symbiotic relationship then, acknowledging, respecting and understanding each other’s differences is the key to collaboration, and hence, unlocking synergies. It’s also the sign of a highly mature organization, which suggests that maturity, rather than fit, is what we should be striving for when evaluating the potential of M&A deals.

2. Understanding and assessing organizational maturity: What gets measured, gets done!

The Being at Full Potential Maturity Index is a robust way to measure where both individuals and organizations are on the maturity spectrum, and predicts how people are likely to behave in M&A situations.

For example, an organization that is in the “Feel-Good based maturity” (See below table – Orange) will prioritize a sense of belonging. This translates into policies that ensure a higher level of conformity with guidelines that show how the employee should behave in solving problems or handling relationships with peers, managers, leaders and customers. The “feel good factor” generally overrides personal freedom, creativity and identity.

At this level of maturity it will be very challenging to embrace the diversity in thinking inherent in M&A deals. Instead the tendency will be for the acquiring company to impose their culture (or ways of doing things) on the acquired organization.

On the other hand, an organization operating in the Purpose-Based maturity (Blue) prioritizes:

  • Honest and authentic conversations
  • Feeling empowered and sense of ownership
  • Closer collaboration
  • Intuition in decision making
  • Higher tolerance for risk taking
  • Learning from mistakes
  • Personal development is a priority

At this higher level of maturity it is easy to see how diversity in thinking becomes a key strength to leverage and further stimulate creativity and innovation.

The following table summarizes the 5 stages of organizational maturity, the behaviors we can expect at each stage and predicts the likelihood a M&A deal will create value for its stakeholders.

3. Bridging finance and culture: 6 human-centric measures to unleash value

M&A’s will inevitably increase the natural tension that already exists between finance and culture. The desire to drive up profitability in the short term (especially in target assets preparing for IPO/Sale) often comes at a high cost to the people. This “debt”, often unwittingly inherited by the acquiring company, always needs paying. As a result, it’s common to see morale drop, good people leave and short and long term value erode.

Finance typically has the upper hand in the M&A context, not necessarily because it’s more important, but because hard numbers are easier to measure and control and this is the prevailing western corporate narrative. In this way, the divide between the mind of a business and its heart is further torn apart. Measures like employee engagement or customer satisfaction try to bridge the gap but don’t reveal much about the underlying mindsets that form the basis of culture. Nor are they improving YoY as Forrester and Gallup reports clearly show, despite heavy focus and investment.

On the other hand, cultural dimensions like psychological safety, purpose, integrity and trust are great predictors of a healthy culture but can feel too far removed for the CFO, CEO and Board to integrate into the decision making process for M&A.

Being at Full Potential has developed 6 measures designed to integrate both cultural and performance dimensions of a business. We refer to them as the 6 Organizational Performance Metrics. They are aligned by proxy to critical corporate KPI’s as follows:

  • Inventiveness (Relative Innovation Performance): Measures the extent to which the culture of an organization is conducive to creating radically new products and services (that may or may not have direct market application)
  • Customer Orientation (Customer Experience KPI’s): Measures the extent to which the culture of an organization encourages genuine service to the explicit and implicit needs of its customers.
  • Employee Engagement (Employee Experience KPI’s): Measures the extent to which an organization’s culture ignites dedication and commitment in a person’s day-to-day work activities
  • Trustworthiness (Trust index by GPTW): Measures the extent to which an organization’s culture is deserving of the trust / confidence it receives from its stakeholders
  • Self Leadership (Employee Sentiment/engagement e.g. GLINT): Measures the extent to which an organization’s culture encourages people to rely on their deeper values and principles when navigating the complexities of the organization
  • Getting things done (Numerous Productivity KPI’s): Measures the extent to which an organization’s culture supports people’s ability to execute and deliver concrete results

Being able to assess and measure the 2 organizations coming together in a deal along these dimensions can prove to be incredibly insightful. Here’s an example of the type of output that would be available and the kinds of conversations it can open up.

In this situation we can see that company A is well expressed (green) on all 6 OPM’s (organizational performance metrics). Although there is still room to grow, performance is strong and it has an underlying culture to support it. Company B on the other hand, is under expressed (yellow) on all dimensions, meaning there is underutilized potential and an opportunity to strengthen the culture of the organization.

Having access to this data provides deep insight into the fundamentals of a business. Different profiles like this doesn’t necessarily mean that the “fit” between the two companies is not good. However, it does signal that the cultural & people aspects need to be better understood, and proactively addressed, in order to bring out the full value of the deal.

In this case, as part of the cultural due diligence, we would want to investigate why Company B is scoring so low on Getting Things Done, Inventiveness and Self Leadership. Bringing these measures up in line with Company A will unleash a significant amount of unexpressed potential, which in turn will also lead to significant breakthroughs in performance. The more attention we can bring to the cultural dimensions of performance, the more likely we will be able to tap into the synergy potential of mergers and acquisitions.


For more information on how we can support you in the culture due diligence process please contact:

  • Ben Hobkinson: ben@exponentialhumanpotential.com
  • Mark Vandeneijnde: mark@beingatfullpotential.com


Organizational Change Management: A Definitive Guide

Organizational Change Management: A Definitive Guide

Organizational Change Management Blog

Table of Contents


What is Organizational Change?


Organizational Change Management


Types of Organizational Change


Why Organizational Change is Inevitable?


Most organizational change initiatives fail to deliver value


Human Potential Methodology for Organizational Change


Examples of Organizational changes implemented by Being at Full Potential


Our Learnings from Leading Organizational Change and Development in workplaces


Resources on Organizational Change


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Organizational Change?

According to the business dictionary, organizational change is “involving a modification in the way an organization is structured, managed, and directed. It refers to the efforts of an organization to alter conditions, procedures, and policies to achieve a different set of goals.”

Corporate organizations change one form or the other regularly to achieve better results. Whether it is strategic or operational, organizational change has a profound impact on the direction, composition, roles, and responsibilities of the individual employees. Organizational change is a process that is often initiated by the managers to implement changes in a manner that meets the objectives stipulated by the organization.

With any organization, change is inevitable. And though change may sometimes be difficult to deal with, it is crucial to the growth, development, and progress of an organization. This is most commonly achieved by major initiatives, such as a merger, restructuring, or divestiture of a business unit. Other examples include re-engineering of the information technology infrastructure or a restructuring of the corporate organizational chart.

The other term that is often used synonymously with organizational change is ‘change management’, which refers to the planning and control of the process of change within an organization.

Organizational Change Management

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is the discipline of aligning people, strategy, and technology to achieve a common vision and strategy. Organizational change is a process that is designed to achieve an outcome, such as introducing a new product, service, or process. Organizational Change Management is the process of aligning all stakeholders to the desired outcome.

The key to successful organizational change management lies in the engagement of all employees and the buy-in from their managers. It is important to involve the stakeholders from the very beginning and to communicate intentions and goals. This can be done through town hall meetings and regular communication.

Another important part of change management is collaboration. It is crucial that people are working together to achieve the organization’s goals, rather than getting in each other’s way. Finally, it’s important to reward employees for their hard work. This sends a clear message about the importance of the change and gives people incentives to keep up great work.

Change can be difficult to manage. Even the most confident leaders can feel uncomfortable with change, and there’s a multitude of reasons for why that is. It can be a matter of uncertainty, fear, or a combination of both. If you are a change management professional, it’s important to note that you are not alone in this and it’s up to you to help others adapt to change.

Types of Organizational Change

There are many reasons why organizations decide to change the way they do business. This process can be initiated by the organization itself or by an outside agent. This can occur due to cultural, social, behavioral, or technological changes. Organizational change can be a necessary and vital part of maintaining organizational health and growth.

In the business world, change is often necessary to remain competitive and to meet the needs of a dynamic marketplace. Change is often a welcomed part of life and is generally a good thing. However, not all change is good and some organizations have a difficult time adapting to change.

The types of Organizational Change include,

  • Strategic Transformational Change
  • Structural Change
  • Remedial Change
  • People-Centric Organizational Change

Learn more about the types of Organizational changes in detail here

Why Organizational Change is Inevitable?

Change is an inevitable part of every business, especially in today’s VUCA world. It is the primary source of growth in organizations. It is also an integral part of any business strategy. But change is not limited to the growth and development of a business strategy. It also applies to the growth and development of organizations in general. Organizations are not static; they are dynamic and ever-changing. Every organization has the potential to grow and develop. This is what we call organizational change. Sometimes it is caused by external factors, and other times it is the result of internal factors. Regardless of what triggers it, it is important to understand that every organization has to face the issue of change. And when it comes to organizational change, the question that comes to the forefront is how organizations change.

Change is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be an excellent opportunity to learn and grow. It can bring out the best and the worst in people. But not everyone understands how to handle change. Today’s world is VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous), and here is an article helping us better understand how to handle organizational change.

Why do most organizational change initiatives fail to deliver value?

The growing rate of change has given birth to more complex business environments. For organizations to thrive in this high-speed ecosystem, they need to be able to embrace change effectively. The Gartner research shows that only 34% of the changes were considered a clear success. This is compared to 50% clear failures. The key to increasing the success rate of an organizational change is ensuring its alignment with the business strategy and the development of a high-performance culture.

“Organisational change initiatives can be a success in improving the business only if they are driven by the core business drivers. We recommend that the following four drivers must be present for a successful organizational change process,” said Andrew Huxley, VP, and Fellow at Gartner

According to a McKinsey article, most change/leadership/culture initiatives fail to deliver because we don’t work at the MINDSET level

Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behavior. But although most companies recognize that this also means adjusting underlying mindsets, too often these organizations are reluctant to address the root causes of why leaders act the way they do. Doing so can be uncomfortable for participants, program trainers, mentors, and bosses—but if there isn’t a significant degree of discomfort, the chances are that the behavior won’t change.

Identifying some of the deepest, “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition of behavioral change—one too often shirked in development programs. Promoting the virtues of delegation and empowerment, for example, is fine in theory, but successful adoption is unlikely if the program participants have a clear “controlling” mindset (I can’t lose my grip on the business; I’m personally accountable and only I should make the decisions). It’s true that some personality traits (such as extroversion or introversion) are difficult to shift, but people can change the way they see the world and their values”

McKinsey article 2014

Human Potential Methodology for Organizational Change

Unless we work on the bottom layer and genuinely reassess our underlying belief systems and assumptions about the business and the organization we will not be able to create the sustainable changes in behavior that we are aspiring for. This is of course very daunting work. It can feel like “opening Pandora’s Box”.

Because we don’t know what will be unleashed, is it not better to keep it tightly closed?

This is certainly the feeling many people have and undoubtedly one of the reasons why deeper, human-centric HR interventions are avoided. It’s a fascinating paradox. On the one hand, addressing the bottom of the Iceberg offers the greatest hope, and on the other hand, it also triggers the greatest fear.

As stewards and thought leaders of this work, we have deep compassion for leaders who are confronted with this dilemma. It’s a scary path to take and doesn’t come without risks. However, if executed with great care, it is possible to make the self-realization journey more accessible and relevant to the organizational context.

Creating transformational tools and methods that meet organizations, where they’re at vs expecting them to take this huge leap of faith, is what Being at Full Potential is all about. By quantifying the intangibles, we help shine the light on the invisible layer of culture. HR leaders now have a practical way to measure and release the 85% of intangible value and in doing so, it is possible to start harnessing the vast creative potential of their people. In our experience, when it comes to large-scale organizational change journeys, there is no better place to start than with ourselves. As we grow in our leadership, so will we grow in our ability to inspire and engage other stakeholders throughout the organization and influence the dynamics that are at play.

Is this a challenge you are ready to take on? Do you want to courageously examine how some of your own beliefs may need to change in order to spark a deeper transformation within the organization? Let’s start with a simple exercise:

  1. How would an objective observer describe your behaviors at work? Would they describe you as action-oriented, a critical thinker, perfectionist, a good listener…? Take a moment to write down what comes to mind.
  2. Check-in with yourself where that behavior may be coming from. Is it just part of your personality or can you see that there is an unconscious belief or assumption that may be driving certain patterns of behavior? Take a moment to write down what comes to mind.
  3. Finally, ask yourself if there are any behaviors you would like to evolve/change for yourself in the future. And if so, is there a corresponding change at the belief or mindset level that needs to take place as well?

Examples of Organizational changes implemented by Being at Full Potential

We at Being at Full Potential recognize that the next wave of innovations is going to be unleashed by pulling the human lever. It is going to come from harnessing the human states – not systems and processes – by moving people into heightened states of awareness where they become infinitely creative.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it

–   Albert Einstein

Take a look at how helped bring change in Omega HMS by Changing the approach to talent development from looking only at the past performance to also consider future potential

Here is an example of how we helped change the organizational culture from “command and control” to “self-leadership” in a North London Supermarket.

Learn how Being at Full Potential brought in Organizational reinvention during the Pandemic at Sacred Heart Center

Teach for America: Case Study – Organizational change starts at the individual level (ie: Being the change we wish to see in the world)

Our Learnings from Leading Organizational Change and Development in workplaces

Managing Organizational change is difficult and most of the time the efforts fail because the people who need to embrace the change are often left out of the conversation. Here are some of our key learnings on how to create transformational spaces for transformational conversations. When we bring our people along, the tendency to resist diminishes..

  1. Location is nothing, our BEING is everything
  2. Infuse mysticism but don’t keep it mysterious
  3. Invest in BEING, unleash the DOING
  4. Use Human Potential DATA to break open conversations and unlock new thinking
  5. No matter how profound the collective experience is it needs to be accompanied by ongoing work at the individual level in order to sustain itself

We have explained in detail about these 5 Key Learnings from Leading Organizational Change and Development in Organizations here.

Resources on Organizational Change

While you are here, look at some of the other blogs related to Organizational Change, Transformations, Consciousness culture, and Unlocking Performance

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

How to improve morale in an Organizational Change?
Changing the status quo is always difficult and people often resist change. Communication is key to ensuring how employees feel about the change and it is often important for human resources and management to create a plan for this and implement it.
Why do Organizations change?
Organizations can experience changes intentionally or unintentionally due to internal or external forces. It may involve change in Organizational structure, strategy, procedures, culture or technology.
What are the benefits of Organizational Change?
Change in an organization can lead to bringing many positive impacts to the business. It may be for various factors like increasing the bottom line, employee engagement, developing skills, hiring, etc.
Why is Organizational Change Management important?
Change is inevitable in Organizations and how it is planned and managed can impact the outcome of the process.

4 Types of Organizational Change

4 Types of Organizational Change

4 Types of Organizational Change

Table of Contents


What are the four types of organizational change?


Strategic Transformational Change


Structural Change


Remedial Change


People-Centric Organizational Change

Organizational change can be a tough nut to crack. Approaches might differ from business to business, but the main fundamentals will remain the same. This blog will take a look at the different types of organizational change and how they might apply to your business.

In the business world, organizational change can be a touchy subject to discuss. People don’t like change, they like consistency. Whether the change is for the good or the bad. But change can be good. It can be a way to stay current and competitive in the business world. But change isn’t for everyone. Some people are early adopters and leaders in change. Others are laggards who will refuse to adopt even the most necessary changes.

It is a known fact that the world is changing at an increasingly rapid rate and that this will continue to affect the way we do business, entertain ourselves, and even the way we communicate with one another. This is why it is important to provide a stable environment for each employee at a company so that they may adjust to the changes and help to ensure that the company is successful. There are many approaches to organizational change, and it is important to be aware of each one and the fantastic benefits that they can provide.

What are the four types of organizational change?

There are many reasons why organizations decide to change the way they do business. This process can be initiated by the organization itself or by an outside agent. This can occur due to cultural, social, behavioral, or technological changes. Organizational change can be a necessary and vital part of maintaining organizational health and growth.

In the business world, change is often necessary to remain competitive and to meet the needs of a dynamic marketplace. Change is often a welcomed part of life and is generally a good thing. However, not all change is good and some organizations have a difficult time adapting to change.

The types of Organizational Change include,

  • Strategic Transformational Change
  • Structural Change
  • Remedial Change
  • People-Centric Organizational Change

Strategic Transformational Change

Strategic transformational change management is a process of changing the overall direction of an organization or a group within an organization. Strategic transformational change is often initiated by a senior executive of the organization. Strategic transformational change is often a lengthy process and requires in depth planning and preparation. It is an exercise in creativity and requires a lot of resources and leadership. It is a process that is founded on the idea that every organization has the potential for growth and change. It is an approach that is outcome oriented, with a focus on the desired end result. The key to strategic transformational change is in the process. The process should be aimed at empowering the people who will be involved in the change and inculcating a sense of ownership among them.

Structural Change

When we think of change, we often think of structural change. This is the most common type of change we usually hear about. It involves a complete transformation of the way something works. For example, if a company was in a lot of debt, it might reorganize to cut expenses, improve efficiency, and make it easier to pay off the debt. This type of change is often difficult to implement and is rarely successful.

Remedial Change

Remedial change is the process of repairing something that has already gone wrong. Where is the use of waiting for the mistake to happen and then fixing it? If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. Allow the organization to work perfectly with the existing process, procedure, and system. The best way to avoid mistakes is by maintaining a well-organized environment. This way, you can be sure that everything is in its place and will not cause any problem down the road.

People-Centric Organizational Change

The most successful organizational changes are the ones that are implemented in a people-centric manner. People-centric change management focuses on the employees, customers, and other stakeholders, whose mindset and behaviors are going to be affected by the change. During this type of change, the organization focuses on the emotions of these stakeholders. The change management model for this type of change is based on the idea that if the employees and customers are happy then they will buy into your new product or service and adapt to your new policies.

At Being at Full Potential, we believe in people centric-organizational change by driving people towards BEING rather than DOING. The question that always comes up is “what is the difference between BEING and DOING?” and “how do the BEING initiatives impact the performance of my organization?” To know more about this, read our article on The business care of BEING.

5 stages of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consciousness

A unifying approach to Diversity Equity and Inclusion

Two-thirds of the 10,000 leaders surveyed as part of Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report cited diversity equity and inclusion as “important” or “very important” to business. However, it is also a very broad area that can be understood and brought to life in many different ways.

A Google search quickly reveals two fundamentally different approaches. The first article I came across, Why We Need To Stop Talking About Diversity Of Thought, argues that the focus should be on diverse representation—as opposed to diversity of thought. It goes on to say that “employees who don’t see their identities reflected in their workplace feel a lower sense of belonging, and that can lead to higher churn and lower productivity”. In contrast, the second article, The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths, posits that diversity of thinking is the new frontier. According to their research, “diversity of thinking is a wellspring of creativity, enhancing innovation by about 20 percent. It also enables groups to spot risks, reducing these by up to 30 percent. And it smooths the implementation of decisions by creating buy-in and trust”.

How fitting to have such diverse points of view when discussing the topic of Diversity! And in the spirit of Inclusivity, we can also say that they are both correct!

The reason why we can’t neatly define Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in a way that everyone agrees on is because there is another variable at play; the level of maturity (or consciousness) of the organization. In other words, how we look at DEI within our organizations depends on how we perceive the world around us. As our awareness evolves, so will our approach to this critical enabler of business performance.

To help us navigate the different levels of maturity, or consciousness, and understand the implication for our DEI initiatives, I would like to introduce the following framework that we have developed based on ancient wisdom borrowed from the Indian sages, and adapted to better serve the modern organizational context. This same approach can also be used to better understand important subjects like innovation and sustainability.

Breaking down the different states of Diversity Equity and Inclusion

An organization’s approach to DEI will vary depending on where it is on this maturity scale. One state is not necessarily better than another, it is simply an expression of the collective organizational consciousness at a given point in time. As such, it’s an effective tool to discern where the organization is today and where it can grow into in the future. Let’s look at how we might think about DEI through the lens of these different states of consciousness.

Fear-based consciousness: In this state, organizations are mainly focused on their survival. This fosters a highly competitive environment where alliances form to further our own self interest rather than that of the organization or the customers that it serves. As a result of living in this state of fear it is more likely that people will feel excluded and judged. This might result in backstabbing, gossip and categorizing people into stereotypes. As long as fear is the underlying energy of the organization, DEI initiatives will have very little chance of success.

Feel-good based consciousness: The next level of DEI consciousness can start to express itself when the basic survival needs have been met. This is when organizations wake up to the benefits of a diverse workforce and start putting in place the policies to ensure a more equal representation amongst gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age and so forth. At this stage there is a naïve belief that once all the checkboxes have been ticked, results will automatically follow. However, this surface level implementation of DEI rarely delivers more than the “feel good” factor, and therefore the full potential of our diversity still won’t be realized.

Reason-based consciousness: At this stage of DEI maturity, organizations are primarily driven by results and common goals. We value each other more based on our contributions to the business than who we are as individuals. In this kind of meritocracy, we don’t fully appreciate each other’s differences and unique life experiences. Everyone is treated equally and, here again, much of the potential inherent in our diversity is left untapped.

Wisdom-based consciousness: Now the true power of diversity can start to manifest. To do so, organizations must deliberately create spaces where people can reveal more of their true selves, including their fears, their frustrations but also their deeper yearnings and aspirations. In the process of seeing each other at a much deeper level, wounds can be healed, and new, unexpected inspiration starts to flow. Two recent examples come to mind where holding space for these kinds of conversations led to a transformational shift in the organization.

The first one was a profound share about somebody’s experience of systemic racism in their organization. In doing so, this person gave words to something many other people were feeling as well, but until then, didn’t know how to bring out into the open. Allowing everything to be expressed, without constraint, and feeling truly heard by the group, is what made this such a transformational moment.

In the second example the safe space created an opportunity to overcome the generational stereotypes preventing effective collaboration. The older members of the group had deeply held beliefs about the millennials. They perceived them as lacking initiative and inventiveness. Whereas the millennials felt constrained by the controlling behavior of the more senior Gen X members of the team. Once we identified these limiting beliefs we could enter into an open dialogue where each group could express to each other why they were feeling this in a nonjudgmental way. The breakthrough happened when the senior people realized that their controlling behavior was limiting the immense creativity yearning to be expressed by the younger generation. And vice versa, the millennials had a heart opening moment when they understood the heavy responsibility that management was carrying to sustain the business. Seeing each other in their vulnerability, and brilliance, was a bridging moment that opened up new possibilities for innovation and collaboration in the workplace.

Service-based consciousness: At this highly evolved stage of DEI maturity we enter into a space of shared humanity, or unity consciousness. Seeing each other through this lens we become aware that at a soul level we all yearn for a sense of connection, purpose and meaning in our lives. In this context, we not only transcend our worldly differences to celebrate the full diversity of our unique life purposes, but we also find a way to align them as an inclusive part of the collective organizational, or societal, cause. This synchronization of individual and collective purpose can only happen when we let go of our own self interests (ego) and orient ourselves toward being in service to the greater good.

Continuing with the example of someone sharing her experience of systemic racism in their organization, the real breakthrough happened when the group realized that was going on within the organization mirrored what was also happening with their stakeholders, and society at large. They understood that a change in the outer world, must first start with themselves. Bringing this expanded awareness into the space immediately shifted the atmosphere. It had an instant effect on how members of this diverse team connected with each other. We could feel the healing energy that was created in that instance ripple out to also impact the broader organization and beyond.

In closing, I leave you with the following questions:

  • Where on this scale would you place yourself or your organization at this point in time?
  • How does it change your understanding of DEI?
  • What would need to be true to grow from one stage of DEI consciousness to another?
  • What small action can you take today to start expressing more DEI potential in your team or organization?

3 impactful ways to develop human potential for disruptive innovation

Most marketeers agree that a genuine insight into their customer can unlock disruptive innovation and infuse new life into their brands. It’s no surprise therefore that vast amounts of money are being spent to unveil these precious truths that have the ability to make your customer feel fully seen and understood, in ways that even they could not express themselves.

However, the return on insight generation research is typically not very good. Rather than walk away from the research with one or two heart opening insights, we typically end up with an overload of information that provides a new spin on something we already knew. Indeed, according to “The Future of Insights” project, less than a third of senior marketers are happy with Insights and almost a quarter are negative.

So if money cannot buy insights, what can we do to increase our chances of uncovering these hidden gems?

It is said that innovation happens at the fringe, or the intersection of different disciplines. As I continue to explore the coming together of my current work as a coach in human potential development and my experience in market research, I have come to the following conclusion:

Our ability to discover and harness an insight has more to do with the quality of the researcher’s presence than the “insightfulness” of the subject being researched. Even the root of the word (prefix “in” plus the word “sight”) suggests that an insight literally means “seeing inward”.

Here are three ways in which mindfulness increases our chances of landing a powerful insight and harnessing it as a source of innovation for the business:


Pay less attention to WHAT customers are saying and more to HOW they are saying it.

As coaches, we are trained to feel beyond the words and sense into the energy that clients bring into the session. For example, it’s not uncommon for somebody to come into a coaching call with the objective to work on their leadership so they can grow into a more expanded role in their organization. Often though, there is a deeper desire, not yet being expressed by the client, but subtly coming through in their body language or the energy of their words.

Good coaches can tune into this tension and bring more awareness to it. They might say something like: “I hear that it’s important for you to grow into the next level of your career, but I don’t feel a lot of excitement in your voice when you talk about it. I’m curious if there is something else going on that we might want to look at first.”

Usually, the intuition of the coach is spot on and the client will get in touch with other aspects that are triggering the need for change. For example, it might reconnect them with a passion that was put on hold many years ago when they entered the business world and create an opening to relook at it again.

Clearly, the quality of insight that is generated, and the impact it has on the client, is hugely different between a coach that simply addresses WHAT the client asks for in a transactional way and one that takes a more transformational approach to the conversation.

Isn’t this exactly the same in the consumer research context? Could it be that the really powerful insights, the ones with the capacity for breakthrough impact, are being left behind because we aren’t sufficiently trained to tune into the “unsaid” of the consumers we are interviewing? What if the biggest tensions (between WHAT is said and HOW it is said), also deliver the biggest insights!


Become aware of the current assumptions and beliefs you have about the customer so you can minimize the inevitable interference it has on your ability to pick up new information.

As coaches, we believe in the resourcefulness of our clients. When they feel safe, trusted and seen, it becomes easier to access deeper layers of knowing within themselves.

Therefore, as coaches we strive to show up for them with an innocent mind, leaving our own judgments about what is right or wrong / good or bad behind. This is not as easy as it sounds.

It’s much easier, and sometimes very tempting, to offer advice and suggestions based on our own life experiences. However, as soon as we enter into this dynamic, we lose the capacity to stay open, curious and present for the client to discover their own truth. In other words, our world view, beliefs and ego are coming in the way and preventing the client from accessing their own deeper knowing. They might leave the session with some valuable advice, but they won’t walk away with the breakthrough insight.

The more I grow as a coach, the more I realize the importance of “emptying my mind” before I work with a client. This might look like a 10-minute self-attunement practice before the session.

During this time, I will simply bring attention to my breath, become aware of the “baggage” I am carrying at the moment and consciously choose to set it aside. I might also bring to mind the client I will be working with and take a moment to visualize their brilliance and set an intention for our time together. These simple steps don’t take a lot of time, but the impact can be enormous.

Imagine a marketing team applying some of these basic principles before engaging in research with their customers? What more could we see and discover when observing our customers free from our own judgments and pre-conceived ideas?


Be prepared and open to embrace the change that comes with a good insight. You and your business will inevitably be invited to step into a new direction.

Aha moments will typically trigger a desire for change, or to create something new, and propel us into action. This might mean leaving a job or relationship, moving to a new country, starting a new business or reinventing ourselves within the current circumstances.

I can think of many of those moments in my own life over the past years. Each time it involved a transition from the known to the unknown. This would trigger doubts, fear and a longing for the status quo. However, when reconnecting with the insight that initiated the change, I would also discover a renewed capacity to imagine and dream; to experiment and play.

As coaches, we support our clients on this adventurous journey (from the known to the unknown to the new known). When they get stuck, we invite them into a creative space of exploration. When they fall back into old patterns, we reconnect them with the new possibilities that lie ahead. When they stop believing in themselves, we remind them of their brilliance.

The innovation process is no different. Finding a mind opening insight is only part of the journey. We must also find the courage to act on it and rebuild the business around it. As a marketing team, how much attention do you currently put on cultivating the new mindsets and putting in place the conditions that will allow an insight to flourish into a competitive advantage?

As coaches, we can help you navigate through this transformational process.

Over the course of the past 20 years, I have spent half of it perfecting the art of market research and the other half developing human potential through coaching. I am now grounded in the intersection of both and am available to help you and your business teams get breakthrough returns on your insight generation investments.