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Why Inclusive Leadership is Essential to Innovation

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Whenever a disruptive business story breaks—like Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods—the innovation mandates follow. The message: If you don’t start rethinking your game and, in some cases, even reinventing your mission, you could be the next cautionary tale, the “slow giant that failed to innovate.”

As companies focus more intently on innovation, whether it’s the big, transformational kind or smaller, incremental improvements and pivots, we’re also seeing a growing trend in recognizing the value of diversity in the innovation process. McKesson, for example, proclaimed in their 2016 Diversity & Inclusion Report, “We believe a diverse workforce is a fundamental building block for creativity and innovation.” And Apple CEO Tim Cook has said, “I think the most diverse group will produce the best product, I firmly believe that.”

But clearly it’s not as simple as all that. If it was, we’d be seeing a lot more innovative output.

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Inclusive Leadership Starts With You

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“If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself.”

This quote from Dee Hock, the founder and former CEO of Visa International, is a constant reminder to me that the ability to influence others hinges on what you see when you look at yourself—specifically, at the way you think.

There’s a lot of mystique around what makes leaders tick, but one thing is clear: truly effective leaders are ambidextrous in their thinking. In the early stages of solving problems or making decisions, they consider all of the available options. For them, it's not an “either option A or option B” world. It's “option A and option B.”

In other words, in Whole Brain® Thinking terms, most CEOs are multi-dominant in their thinking preferences. They have a natural mental agility that allows them to move through several different modes of thinking. During a single conversation, they might analyze the causes of a problem (A-quadrant thinking) and offer a creative solution (D quadrant) that enhances the customer experience (C quadrant). In addition, they might translate that solution into a project plan with a detailed list of next steps (B quadrant).

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5 Employee Engagement Questions Every Leader Should Be Asking

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A few months ago, Josh Bersin proclaimed that, after all the years of corporate handwringing over the war for talent, the battle is finally over. But before you exhale and move on to the next issue, it should also be noted that he declared talent the winner. 

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