i3, une unité mixte de recherche CNRS (UMR 9217)

Institut Interdisciplinaire de l'Innovation

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Successful transformations – from the manufacture of elites to the diversity of the collective
Posted on 8 June 2022

The key factors of vital transformations and innovations involve the development of new skills and a change of mindset

In these uncertain and complex times, where societal issues are intensely felt and time horizons are telescoping, inviting us to look at both the long and short term, democratic impatience and multiple challenges (ecological transition, social justice, loss of meaning, radicalization...) force us to ask new questions and find new solutions. In this dynamic of accelerating transformations, new non-technical skills are needed in the training and mobilization of talents, in the business world as well as in politics. We need to know how to manage areas of uncertainty, find new ways, reinvent ourselves, and innovate in order to transform.

The management literature focuses more on the organizations, tools and processes that enable transformations. Yet, great transformations like innovations appear to be driven by an extraordinary individual: political providential men such as Charles de Gaulle or Nelson Mandela, entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs... or genius inventors such as Marie Curie or Leonardo Da Vinci. Nevertheless, the mythical figure of the inventor, the entrepreneur, the solitary politician hardly resists a careful reading of the history of technological and social innovations. Innovation is above all a social process that requires the concomitance of many individual, organizational and institutional factors.

Innovating requires knowing how to create, but also how to implement in order to generate value (financial, organizational, societal...). And in creation and implementation, people are at the source and in charge. Innovation, like major transformations, is above all the business of a group to respond to a societal challenge.

Therefore, understanding the human component of innovation is essential. In particular, understanding the range of skills to be deployed is complex and multidimensional. The ability of an individual to innovate, and also that of the group in which he or she is involved, depends on both individual and collective cross-disciplinary skills, i.e. the ability of each individual to work with others in an environment that encourages initiative. This is what the study published in May 2022 by France Stratégie "Soft skills to innovate and transform organizations" says. 

The lack of diversity is accentuated by the way these talents are selected and by their training. These top schools are well endowed in terms of technical and cognitive skills (logic, rationality...) but have long minimized the importance of non-technical skills (empathy, collaboration...). The development of these skills was "delegated" to sports, political or cultural associations, to student offices... The same logic prevails for those who join large government or corporate bodies, such as consulting and auditing firms. This endogamy favors an "entre-soi" that is not very open, but whose network is strong because it creates its own language. However, it hinders the meeting of modes of thought and collaboration at the frontiers of disciplines, which is necessary for all innovations.

However, all research in management, but also in sociology and psychology, shows that the diversity and complementarity of teams facilitate learning. In the same way, the confrontation of experiences favors the creation and implementation of the transformations necessary to organizations and more generally to society.

This diversity must be accompanied and supported through three major objectives that link the personal sphere and the political field:

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