Author Archives: Francis

Is Culture the Culprit?

Human resources and corporate hierarchy concept - recruiter complete team by one leader person (CEO) represented by gold cube and icon.The  April 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review had an interesting article,  “Culture is not the Culprit”, by Jay W. Lorsch and Emily McTague.  They argue that these days, changing culture is seen as the cure to all business woes when instead it’s actually process and structural levers that need to be pulled, and then the change in culture follows.  We would actually argue, both from our own experience and the examples that were presented in the article, the process and structure levers that were pulled came from a different cultural mindset.  These CEOs were signaling  a culture change implicitly rather than explicitly, but it remains a culture change nonetheless.

As an example, in three of the four cases studies given in the article, Ecolab, Delta, and Novartis, the authors cite different levers that were pulled in order make the company less hierarchical.  These actions included decentralizing decision making power to other executives, to specific units, or to the front line.  We would argue that the procedural decision to disperse power comes from a fundamental change in cultural mindset:  hierarchy inhibits fluid decisions and actions in companies.  Even though the decision to act and change may have come quickly and efficiently, rather than being the result of extensive offsites, the change in mindset had to come first.  It then most likely had a ripple effect throughout the organizations and became recognized as part of the culture.

We have found in our own business and consulting, that hierarchy is a hindrance rather than a necessity, and when it can be partially removed or tempered, companies can succeed beyond expectations.  What’s more, by removing the hierarchical structure we create a refreshing opening whereby energy is naturally generated.  Whereas hierarchy and the traditional corporate structure are really about control, open power structures foster a culture in which people’s autonomy is encouraged and supported.  When employees are offered more autonomy, they naturally function at a much higher level with less supervision.  This is really the future, because it creates an atmosphere in which people are more likely to take risks and come up with solutions—an atmosphere suited to creativity.

We’ve used the Intuitive Compass® to create a Corporate Culture Questionnaire that is suitable for both CEOs trying to get a clearer understanding of how their company culture supports performance and for people in the process of looking for a new job who want to evaluate how well they would fit within the corporate culture of a particular company.  (For those of you that need a primer on the Intuitive Compass, please click here.)

After you have assigned a score of 1 to 5 to each question (1 being the minimum and 5 the maximum), total the score of each quadrant, then divide by 5 for the average score for each quadrant.


Northeast Quadrant Questions:

  • How clear are the processes that are in place to administer business?
  • How efficient are these processes?
  • How well organized is the business?
  • How methodical is business management?
  • How rationally and logically is business managed?


Southeast Quadrant Questions:

  • How highly would you rate your team commitment to achieving results?
  • How highly would you rate the efficiency of your company’s performance evaluation systems?
  • How frequently is performance reviewed and analyzed?
  • How robust are your company’s performance incentive programs?
  • How well defined are your company’s parameters and criteria for the measurement of success?


Northwest Quadrant Questions:

  • How much emphasis is put on strategic thinking?
  • How highly would you evaluate the openness of the culture to new ideas and influences from employees?
  • How highly would you evaluate the openness of the culture to new ideas and influences from outside the company?
  • How easily does the company tolerate questioning of the status quo and embrace paradox?
  • How effectively does the corporate culture encourage play?


Southwest Quadrant Questions:

  • How well does the corporate culture support risk-taking?
  • How well does the corporate culture tolerate the chaos of the creative process?
  • How well does the corporate culture encourage passionate individuals?
  • How much of the corporate culture is based on vibrant values and a strong sense of purpose?
  • How often do meaningful rituals and symbols play an important role in the corporate culture?


For those of you who have our book, The Intuitive Compass, you can turn to page 171 to decode your results.  For those of you who don’t, we will publish how to decode them next week.

Environments in Which Creativity Can Flourish

It is a truism that the one thing that doesn’t change in life is change; we are constantly dealing with the unknScreen Shot 2016-03-14 at 12.00.41 AMown. A decade immersed in the performing art and cultural studies gave me a new perspective on the how modern world deals with change. When directing or acting, I had to accept that great art is not about control. It is about having discipline in the preparation and surrendering during the performance. Management, at least the way I had experienced it, is about controlling the environment to ensure flawless execution and reach the expected results. Management is a powerful means to reach one’s ends, but my artistic journey made me realize that in the modern world, our fear of change and our inability to deal creatively with the unpredictability of change lead us to seek control over the process of life. This means that although management should be about stabilizing our environment to facilitate the natural creative process belying any human activity, we attempt to control the process to secure the results we want; we do everything we can to eliminate the unknown, but in doing so we work against the creative nature of life.

Excerpted from The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass, 2011.

How to Build the Perfect Team and Scale It

Last Sunday I saw an outstanding article published in the New York Times magazine called, “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team” written by the Pulitzer Prize winScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.04.42 PMning reporter Charles Duhigg.  It tells the story of data giant Google’s multi-year “Project Aristotle” which tried to discern why some teams succeeded while others failed.

Google researchers had a really difficult time finding patterns for which teams failed and which succeeded.  People who performed well as individuals or people who were friends outside of work didn’t necessarily make the best teams. Conversely, the best teams did not necessarily have the best individual performers.  What researchers did notice was that teams either consistently succeeded or failed.  This led them to study the social norms, or culture, that prevailed in the group, which they found to be the deciding factor on the group’s performance.  The best teams had two consistent qualities:

  1.     Everyone in the group ended up with roughly the same amount of voice time at the end of the meeting.
  2.     People in the group had a high “average social sensitivity”, meaning that they were cued in to how the others were feeling.

These two “cultural” elements create a psychologically safe place and appeals to us on a deep instinctual level and to our survival-oriented reptilian brain.  When we “feel” safe, we’re more relaxed and have a sense that we can put ideas out there even if they’re not perfect.  There is unconscious recognition that each team member has a role to play and that their role matters.

Google’s findings clearly demonstrate three tenets of Intuitive Intelligence:  think holistically, think paradoxically and notice the unusual.

That the external qualifications and performance of individuals do not necessarily add up to the best performing teams is a great example of thinking holistically (the whole is more than the sum of the parts) and thinking paradoxically (the “best” parts do not necessarily make the best whole).  Noticing the unusual is exemplified in the high “average social sensitivity” of the better performing teams because they have an inherent awareness to the subtle facial and bodily cues of their team members.

Now for the real question.  How do you scale it?

Ironically through an approach that combines reason and instinct, or the rational and the nonlinear aspects of life.  Google had so much data showing that teams perform better when things got real and there was more space to be human, it gave people permission to let everything be a little more messy and fun.  The good news is that having a common language about “employee performance optimization” gives people a way to talk about this messiness that otherwise might feel very awkward.

Get Your Team Past Inertia Once and For All

Once we start moving in a certain direction or doing something a certain way it is hard to stop or change.  That is inertia.  And while this is true for individuals, it is even stronger in a group dynamic.  If you want to innovate, you need to change.  And in order to effect change you need to overcome the natural tendency toward Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 12.15.04 AMinertia.

Arie de Geus, an ex-Shell executive turned consultant, has researched why certain companies over one hundred years old have been so successful.  The 27 companies he studied were able to successfully get past inertia, sustain themselves, and grow over time.  They managed to withstand economic changes while staying true to their mission, without resorting solely to the tactic of acquiring companies to stay afloat in their market.  He found three characteristics common to these successful companies:

  1.     They practice fiscal conservancy.
  2.     They are open to new ideas from both inside and outside the organization.
  3.      They have established a strong community of values that resonates with their employees, making them feel they can take risks and not be fired if they don’t succeed—the feeling of belonging to a community helps overcome the fear of failure and the anticipation of potential negative consequences at a personal level.

Although point one relates to classic best practices in business, points two and three tell us why play—something not in the typical business best-practices toolbox—is key in a work culture to ensure the longevity of an organization.  Openness to new ideas and a fundamental level of trust are inherent in a playful atmosphere, and play is an essential ingredient in generating innovative ideas.

It is relatively easy to see how play can generate fabulous new ideas, but what is less obvious is the critical role of play in giving those ideas a chance at life against some very serious odds. Innovation is change, and change sends many of us running for cover—for good reason. Change activates our survival instincts and is at least partly responsible for our tendency toward inertia, and inertia, again is a serious barrier to innovation.

Experts agree that the critical stage of innovation is implementation. Implementation is where the rubber meets the road. It requires us to change our behavior, and changing behavior is not only an intellectual but also an emotional challenge. It also requires us to step into the unknown. But perhaps the greatest challenge is that it requires us to overcome inertia, and that is something that humans are hardwired to resist. That hardwiring is key to understanding how inertia works and what its function is.

The human brain wants to stay where it is, in the comfort zone. If we stay in our comfort zone, we don’t have to struggle to survive. We minimize the risk to our survival by staying where we know we are safe. I often explain to my MBA students that the reason they take the same seat in class every week, and the reason we lay our towels in the same area of the beach every summer weekend, is that we are, at our core, instinctual animals. Once we have chosen a seat and made it through class safely without being attacked, the part of our brain responsible for our survival tells us that our best option is to repeat that behavior, because in a way it is the most economical use of our energy. As part of its strategy for survival, our brain wants to conserve energy, so once we sit in a particular spot and know that it’s safe, we will subconsciously want to sit there every time and avoid having to reevaluate the safety of a new spot.

In a group, because relationships add complexity, inertia grows exponentially more difficult to overcome.  My inertia plus your inertia is more that 1 + 1 = 2, and when we add a half-dozen colleagues or try to take on a company with hundreds or thousands of employees, the task is truly formidable.  Even if Kim decides she is ready to be brave and try a new way of organizing the Monday morning meeting, all of a sudden she confronts the realization that her change will affect her staff members.  What if they don’t like her new approach to meeting protocol?  Will they refuse to cooperate?  Stop having lunch with her? Go over her head, complain to her boss, and expose her to a negative performance review?  Kim has a problem.  How can she try something new without so unnerving her colleagues that they stonewall a potentially good idea before it ever gets off the ground?

So, in addition to the natural preference for staying with a mode of being that has proven itself to be safe, getting past inertia is also difficult because of the emotional reaction of others.  You have to show people that change will be beneficial to them; you have to make it both non-threatening and inspiring.  Play is key to overcoming the emotional component of inertia.

You are probably familiar with the saying that you must fight fire with fire.  Dr. Stuart Brown, head of the National Institute for Play, concluded, after years of research, that “play is no less important than oxygen…it’s a powerful force in nature that helps determine the likelihood of the very survival of the human race.”  When we realize that the part of our brain that is responsible for our survival (the fight-or-flight response) is the same part of our brain that contains our capacity for play, it puts play in a new, more powerful, and clarifying light.

Play in face lives eye-to-eye with inertia; both are rooted in our brainstem, where you also find the part of the brain responsible for our survival.  Play and inertia are in the same weight class, peers in a very exclusive executive suite where core strategic decisions about our present and future are made.  But they are having a little war.  Inertia, the more conservative of the two, believes that the smart move is to not move at all, to stay with the plan that got us this far safely.  Play, the wild child, wants to dream a little dream, take the afternoon off, find Atlantis and create a new society there, because sitting here is, quite frankly, killing its buzz.

Play—our wildly creative and childlike nature—opens the emotional door.  It offers an arena in which people become naturally more flexible.  For example, think about music.  You go to a rock or jazz concert and when the music starts you may sit or stand quietly, taking it in, being polite, and heaving appropriately.  But over the course of the evening the music takes you over and you become more comfortable, then relax; you may start tapping your foot or swaying in time with the beat, or even dancing spontaneously with the stranger next to you.  Your behavior just changed without any effort on your part.  This is the magic of play.  Knowing that play is rooted in the same brain area as our instinct for survival is a good enough reason to give it the benefit of the doubt.

One you let the genie out of the bottle, once play is in full swing and inertia banished (at least at that particular moment), things can move fast This is especially true with a large group, because just as it is harder to move a group out of its inertia, once the groups does get moving, it can be a force to be reckoned with—in the best possible way.  Then the challenge transforms into how to manage your newly creative, very energized team.  How to channel their creativity into the winning innovations your company seeks without putting a damper on their enthusiasm.  Playful energy will beget as many dead ends and failures as it will successes.  You have to be able to tolerate this, and you have to create an atmosphere in which your team will be able to tolerate it—even better, embrace it.

Can I trust my gut feelings?

gut feeling 2Gut feelings about potential threats and opportunities are not always correct, and neuroscientists debate the conditions under which the feelings precede the conscious awareness of the clues themselves. But our instinctual skills evolved to ensure our survival, and research findings suggest that in some people those skills are exquisitely sensitive. So although the many serious researchers who say thatgut feelings are not always correct do have a point, they may be missing the most important point: gut feelings have other functions that transcend the logic of reason, and to leverage their role fully we should not evaluate gut feelings on a narrow basis of whether they are right or wrong.

When we engage in solving a problem using logical skills, we follow certain rules or protocols based on past experience with a similar problem. The rules and protocols we follow are generally well defined and measurable. If we succeed in solving our problem, we typically attribute it to the efficacy of the protocols we followed. If we fail at solving our problem, we can look back and analyze the steps we took to find where our approach failed.

Conversely, when we engage in solving a problem using our instincts, we follow a path that is highly specific to our problem and ourselves at a particular moment in time. If someone asks us how we solved the problem, we may be able to recount what we did, but even a detailed recounting of what we did will not necessarily apply to a similar problem. And that’s fine, because instinctual problem solving isn’t necessarily about replication; it’s about dynamic adaptation to circumstances. The problem is that when we are successful, we (and others) may attribute our success simply to luck, even though calling on our instincts is a skill we can develop. So although we may never be able to measure the efficacy of instinct-based problem solving precisely, that doesn’t mean it is a random phenomenon. The difference between logic-based problem solving and instinct-based problem isn’t necessarily efficacy; the difference lies in our ability or inability to precisely identify cause and effect. And when we can’t identify cause and effect, we feel out of control or inefficient.

Techniques to Build Your Gender Intelligence

Just as we prepare ourselves for an important interview or set our minds to achieve a challenging goal like runningScreen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.35.40 PM a marathon, we can take step to invite intuition into our daily experience, and thus build our ability to move between what are traditionally considered masculine and feminine energies. Check out our two previous posts on Gender Intelligence here and here.The following are a number of ideas to ponder and exercises to do. Consider adapting them in a way that speaks to you.

Revisit Your Perspective and Perceptions

  • Consider the possibility that wherever you are now is now the optimal place from which to get where you want to go. A Native American proverb says: What do you do when you get lost? Stand still. The trees and bushes beside you are not lost.
  • Look at a painting by Monet or Picasso and contemplate your ability to alter your perception of reality and bring forth something completely new and unexpected.
  • Pay attention to details — like a word, color, or song that catches your attention or comes to mind for no apparent reason — as elements that have the capacity to reveal the whole. Look around you with a fresh eye to rediscover the environment you’re in or all data and aspects of the situation at hand that you would like to resolve.

Get Comfortable with the Part of Life That Is Not Logical

  • Don’t immediately ban an idea because it is paradoxical and appears illogical. Welcome paradoxical data or situations. The word “paradox” comes from the Greek paradoxos “opposed to existing notions, from para- + doxaopinion”; so something that is paradoxical is something we should all look for because we looking for new ideas, not what is already known and widespread.
  • When you receive information that appears to be out of context, take a moment to notice it. It may appear to be out of context, but it could lead you to a deeper understanding of something that is not obvious.

Accept That You Are Not in Control

  • Allow yourself to be carried away by energies that appear to be chaotic. Your acquiescence can help the emergence of a new order that you could not have imagined.
  • Try to stay in tune with your emotions, especially in moments of stress or chaos. Emotions are energies that are all part of a same circle; if we shut one down, we break the circle, and we close ourselves off from all emotions, good or bad. If we can avoid trying to harshly control emotions that feel uncomfortable, they will pass and we will return to a state of balance. The more we accept our emotions, the faster they evolve and the faster we can move on.

Relax and Practice Noticing

  • The world-renowned mime Marcel Marceau said, “Our body knows things the mind does not have access to.” The best gateway to information from our subconscious mind about the world around us is through a relaxed body. The most efficient way to relax our body is not a five-star vacation, it is breathing. Breathing can dramatically alter our experience in any given moment. You can do this almost anywhere with a simple meditation. Sit quietly with both feet on the floor, hands at rest on your thighs, eyes closed. Don’t try to alter your breathing in any way, just pay attention to it. Don’t think about anything — not your problems, not even happy things — simply focus on the movement of your breath. Do this for a minute, or five minutes, or as long as you like, Taking this little break, even for just five minutes, may at first make you anxious, but give yourself permission to take five minutes in which you do nothing but breathe. To focus on your breathing, simply notice the movement of your diaphragm — the horizontal muscle that moves up and down in your mid-torso. when your diaphragm goes, up, you exhale and your rib cage narrows. When your diaphragm goes down you inhale and your ribcage expands. Becoming mindful of the movement of your diaphragm is enough to largely improve your breathing. When you give yourself this permission, your body will relax and your breath will deepen naturally.
  • Pay attention. It is very easy to stop noticing small things, or even large things. Buddhists have a practice of mindfulness in which every movement, whether lifting a cup of tea to one’s lips or placing a foot on the ground while walking, is afforded the greatest attention. Be mindful during a routine event such as eating breakfast; afterward, record the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arose in the short interval.

After you have tried the exercises, keep practicing the ones that resonate with you. Over time these exercises will help your intuitive abilities get stronger and will make it more likely that they will become natural part of your daily life. Intuition is a skill not made by either nature alone or nurture alone. We are born with a capability, and we turn it into a capacity by using it over and over again. Once you’ve identified the exercise of the few exercises that are most natural to you, with regular practice you will improve your ability to reflect about a decision or a situation beyond pure logic. This will greatly enhance your ability to pay attention and notice, to trust the unknown and tolerate the confusion that comes with ambiguity and complexity. You will be more comfortable with your own subjectivity. It will prevent you from too quickly jumping to a logical conclusion, which would not necessarily get you to the most creative answers.

What is Gender Intelligence in Business?

In the second in series of blog posts about Gender Intelligence we will focus changing perceptions and beliefs and behavior to create diversity and inclusion of both men and women, feminine and masculine values.Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 10.48.45 AM

To tap into the whole of our intelligence, we need to allow mental and emotional space to relate to the intangible and the unconscious, to integrate what is complex, and to accept the out human nature is playful and instinctual.  We also need to address our fear of the unknown and our need for control. If we fail to properly manage these, they can easily and even inadvertently turn into obsession, aggression, and destruction.  It takes awareness, focus, and discipline to turn the human instinctual force into creative collaboration.  Intuition helps us achieve all of this.

The graphic above shows how Intuitive Intelligence facilitates a synergy between our rational mind and our instinctual aptitudes.  Our intellect and instinct work together and feed one another:  intellect operates from deductive and inductive reasoning, instinct from direct perception.  Intuition bridges the gap between the two and receives information from our feelings, emotions, physical sensation, and direct perception.

The diagram shows a feminine quality and a masculine quality on either side of the figure eight.  Feminine energy is receptive and creative, empathic, open, welcoming, intuitive, contemplative, and circular, seeking deeper meaning.  It lives in the left part of the body and is traditionally associated with the right hemisphere of the brain.  Masculine energy is piercing, penetrating, concrete, logical, linear, willful, and powerful.  It lives in the right part of the body and is traditionally associated with the left hemisphere of the brain.  Whatever our gender we all partake in dual feminine and masculine energy.  When we become aware of these two polarities and develop these two qualities of energy, it helps us understand ourselves more deeply and enables us to improve our relationships with others.

The two hemispheres of the brain are connected by the corpus callosum, which develop earlier in girls than in boys and could explain why young girls are usually more mature than boys at the same age.

But although we culturally see intuition as a quality more developed in women, research actually proves that men and women have an equal ability.  I think it is more a question of education, societal representation, ability to trust, and readiness to put intuition to use than a question of innate aptitude.  Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer makes a clear statement about it:  “We still hear that women have much better intuition than men….  This distinction sustains an old prejudice.  Contrary to common belief, however, men and women share the same adaptive toolbox.”


Next week we will present a set of exercises to help you tap into your intuition to improve your ability to move between feminine and masculine energies.

The Business Case for Gender Intelligence

Last week Francis Cholle spoke at The Girls’ Lounge ( at Davos addressing The Female Quotient and why embracing feminine values is the key to success in the 21st century.  He introduced a project The Human Company is co-creating called Skirting the Rules (, which is a social enterprise that frees women—and men—to create a culture elevating feminine values to manifest a more balanced and purposeful world.

IMG_4401Francis and The Human Company are co-authoring this movement and a book along with Deborah Burns, president of DLB Ventures and former client of ours, to help women recognize and validate feminine values that are the key to success in the 21st century, including receptivity, creativity, empathy, openness, and inclusivity.

The speakers at The Girls’ Lounge included:

Laura Liswood, Secretary General, The Council of Women World Leaderships

John Gerzema, CEO of BAV and NY Times best selling author The Athena Doctrine

Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post

Amanda Ellis, New Zealand Ambassador to the UN

Michel Morelli, Vice-President, Business & Consumer Marketing, AOL

Micheale Roth, CEO of IPG

Carolyn Everson, VP Global Solutions, Facebook

The Girls’ Lounge at Davos had 3 objectives:

– to be a destination for the 18% of the year’s attendees that are women (sadly we wish this number were much higher, but it seems indicative of global trends).

– to allow for productive conversations in the intimacy of a lounge designed by women for women and facilitate relationships to develop collaboration and toolkits for change.

– to ask and record influential women about their legacy and commitments when it comes to gender equality (starting a legacy series).

We believe the 21st century is about integrating all that is feminine into the current masculine hierarchical structures that permeate most of our societies. Please note that when we talk about “feminine” and “masculine” we’re talking about energies or archetypes—such as in yin and yang—both men and women have some form of feminine and masculine energies. And both women and men can cultivate these two energies. Success in the 21st century will require keeping in mind what each energy represents and how they complement (and can’t exist without) each other.

This discussion is heading the direction of what we call Gender Intelligence, really being fluent in both a feminine and a masculine mindset and being able to move easily between them as necessary.

The question is:  How do you get Gender Intelligence?  Because wanting to understand someone else’s point of view and having the skills to stand in someone else’s shoes, tolerate what you see, take it in, learn from it, and take positive action are entirely different things.  We see this repeatedly in our domestic politics, in horrifying domestic and international events, and honestly, in our own offices and homes.

We’re going to do a series of blog posts about Gender Intelligence and how to develop it.  Business research shows that the best way to innovate is to focus on people and culture.  So in our blog posts we will focus on changing culture and helping people train to change perceptions, beliefs and behavior and to create diversity and inclusion of both men and women, feminine and masculine values. And while making the case for gender parity in the workplace is a moral issue, it turns out that hiring women is a truly sound business practice.  The reason at the core of it:  diversity.  The broader the range of opinions, backgrounds and experience contributing to an organization, the richer the foundation to draw from and the more likely a project it is to succeed.  This is the case for startups, high-tech ventures and multinational corporations.

Some key statistics from Joann Krotz’s recent release Being Equal Doesn’t Mean Being the Same

  1. Women-led, venture-backed high-tech companies used about a third less capital and averaged 12% higher annual revenues compared to similar startups run by men.
  2. Women-led startups show lower failure rates than those led by their male counterparts.
  3. Multinational corporations with the most women on their boards reported a 26% higher return.
  4. McKinsey & Company found that operating profits were 56% higher at international companies with the most women board directors.

At the Human Company, we’ve developed a tool called the Intuitive Compass® that diagnoses how masculine and feminine energies are being used in a particular situation.  To go with it, we’ve developed a mindset called Intuitive Intelligence (closely linked to Gender Intelligence) that can be used to develop skill at navigating between the two energies.  You can check out a previous post on the Intuitive Compass here.

We look forward to continuing this timely, essential conversation.

Playing while you work. The key to success?

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 10.47.41 PMThe following article about the work we do at The Human Company was published on the January 9, 2016 in the magazine L’Echo.

 “Disruption.” Such is the word that describes the powerful upheaval of the rules of the economic game, due to globalization and digital technologies. When the methods of the past don’t work anymore for the problems of the present, finding new keys to success becomes essential. Consultant Francis Cholle is working on just that.

 By Stéphanie Fontenoy

 French-American Francis Cholle, business consultant and founder of the consulting firm, The Human Company, presents us with his Intuitive Compass®, a true compass for innovation in the hands of business leaders to better navigate in this capricious economic weather. As in Edgar Allen Poe’s A Descent Into the Maelstrom, the one who will be saved is the one who will know how to use their intuitive intelligence in the face of the storm. How? By anchoring instinct to reason, so that “a non-rational logic” emerges, holding within new forms of conflict resolution and understanding of complexity. “Intuition is a homing instinct able to forage in areas where rationality would get lost,” explains the expert. His Intuitive Compass® is comprised of two axes: the North-South axis, which connects reason to instinct, and the East-West axis, the results and “play”. Through a quiz, each company can discover its position thanks to this “compass” and find new roads to explore. To create this model, Francis Cholle, a graduate from HEC, not only drew from his experience as an entrepreneur and business owner, but also from clinical psychology, the teaching of yoga and meditation, and operatic singing, fields that he practiced professionally, as well as many other areas of study and scientific research. His workshops or “Labs” have been taken on by several Fortune 500 companies, including L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, SAP-Business Objects, Bristol Myers Squibb, Hachette, Lagardère, Veolia and Ralph Lauren. He is the author of the bestseller L’Intelligence Intuitive (“To succeed in a different way”) and in English, of a book for leaders, The Intuitive Compass (Why the Best Decisions Balance Reason and Instinct).

You introduce the concept of play and techniques borrowed from the theater in your business workshops. Why?

Because the problems we need to solve today require solutions that we can’t access with traditional thinking strategies. It has been proven neurologically that play allows us to call upon layers of the brain where forms of intelligence only accessible through play, meditation, psychotropic drugs or dream reside. When we play, we are less in “self-control”, we are more open, more creative, and able to take more risks.

In what way is intuitive intelligence particularly important nowadays?

Because we have to realize that this “disruption” phenomenon that we are faced with now is not simply a passing phase to get through, but a new norm, a “new normal” that requires a fresh look at the world. We rediscover that change is really the only thing that never changes, whereas so far, we had a much more static vision of the world.

The models taught in business schools do not fit this new reality?

Things are changing everywhere, including in business schools. Nevertheless, I think students should get help rethinking their relationship with complexity: admit, on the one hand, that resolving complexity is a field where linear, logical and strategic ways of thinking are not adapted to the demands of “disruption”, and on the other hand, that the human race has never ceased to solve complex situations through hundreds and thousands of years, long before the rise of modern logic. It’s an innate aptitude of man that transcends culture and training, that we have access to at any given time. It’s this universal competence that I help leaders achieve in their companies, in a practical and concrete fashion, at the heart of new methods of management, change organization and realization, new approaches to their markets, their know-how and creation of value. It is what the next generation has to discover and learn to mobilize, in business and elsewhere.

Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.” You mention a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Kary Mullis, who explains that his greatest discovery was made while he was driving, with an idle mind, far from his laboratory and research work. What does that tell us about intuition?

The IBM Global CEO study of 2010 revealed that close to two thirds of the leaders of small and large businesses, in 60 countries and 33 sectors, considered that creativity would become their most important skill during the next five years. In his latest book, Eric Schmidt, head of Google, explains that to face “disruption”, one has to rely more on good creative people than strategists. Other studies have showed that a large part of this creativity resides in our subconscious. We access it while we sleep, of course, but also through play or when our mind escapes the conscious straightjacket of rational thinking. I really like these words by a foundational scientist of quantum physics, Niels Bohr, “No, no, you are not thinking, you are only being logical!” It summarizes well the concept that thought is not limited to what we traditionally call logic, in science. Playing, like any other activity that allows us to disconnect from conscious logical thinking, therefore opens the door to creative intuition. The advantage of play is that it is an active mode that can easily be integrated inside work and collaboration processes. American medical researchers from the University of Washington used it a few years ago. In just three weeks, they obtained results they hadn’t been able to reach in ten years of research, by inviting non-scientist gamers to take part in an interactive game, Fold It.

During your Labs, you ask participants to remove their shoes. For what reason?

Shoes, just like ties or vests, are part of the prerogative of the professional “persona”, the character we build at work. By removing these accessories that contribute to the “persona”, we allow without any particular effort for the people present to be naturally more authentic, so they live less inside their heads and more inside their bodies, so they access what they feel more and their intellect less, and therefore access original creative information.

 Describe to us the play session you use to create this realization that another form of deeper and more creative intelligence lies dormant inside us.

The group must recreate the alphabet, from A to Z, with closed eyes, one letter at a time, following alphabetical order, but according to a random order of participation of each member in the group. The group is not allowed to agree on a specific strategy prior or during the exercise. Participants are only allowed to speak to say a letter. No one knows who will speak or when. If two people say a letter at the same time or if the alphabetical order is not respected, we start over from the beginning. I face the group with a complex situation for which there is no preconceived solution. The logical mind is powerless when it comes to solving this situation, naturally complex. Nonetheless, the logical mind is called upon to respect the alphabetical order. However, the group always ends up succeeding. This demonstrates to leading executives that there is another way to solve problems than that of logical and strategic thinking. Participants need to keep their rational intelligence active, but also let another way of thinking emerge, that of non-rational logic.

 What is the goal?

I want to recreate spaces and times where people function connected to each other on a very instinctive, universal, efficient level because it is beyond opinions, emotions and all expressions of separation. It’s a place that can give rise to a unanimity that could not be reached in another manner, and certainly not that fast, because we can always debate things forever. Culturally, we are very concerned with debating ideas. The goal is to reach a quality of relating to oneself and others that goes beyond the limits of the mental, rational and conscious mind, to accomplish a universal convergence that will open a previously unseen range of possibilities and reinvention. It’s a cathartic experience for each participant. Once this experience has been shared by the group, the executive committee for example, there emerges a sense of the possible and consensus. The quality of the interaction between the members of the group becomes completely different. New solutions appear and concrete actions can be decided upon. The next step is building precise and detailed action plans and allowing each participant to make these new solutions their own and become engaged in implementing them. Finally, the ultimate step is to establish these new practices in the daily life of the group and its participants. This requires support through time to fight individual and organizational inertias. Yet we manage, with time and particular care, to develop this new approach in a durable manner, and impress it on minds, work processes and thought patterns.

Your methodology is used by companies like L’Oréal, Lagardère, Estée Lauder Companies. Concretely, how does it work?

I worked recently with a subsidiary of a French multinational company in Japan, in the beauty industry. This group historically had difficulties breaking into the Japanese market. One of the problems is the adaptation of the company’s development model to the particularities of Japan, as much inside as outside the company. For example, the Japanese don’t deal with problems the way Westerners do. Their approach is contextual. The western way of thinking tends to face a problem straight on, like an arrow on a trajectory to its targeted objective, while Japanese people move forward progressively and according to a “hidden order” for the western mind. This is how they solve problems and lead projects. The alphabet game allowed the company’s executive committee to go beyond this very limiting cultural gap. It allowed the Japanese members of the executive committee to feel understood and the Westerners to better grasp the expectations of the Japanese. They managed to better work together and better overcome their challenges without having to understand all the nuances and differences of their respective managerial cultures. They’ve integrated the exercise and repeat it each time the committee meets, as if to find the same wavelength beyond their cultural differences. Once a group has perceived the depth and power of this process, they implement and use it. This allows them to immediately work better together and efficiently, rapidly, solve complex challenges born from the “disruption” they must face. The stakes and the speed of change are such that we have to learn new swift attitudes and new creative ways of thinking at the same time as we solve pressing issues.

Have you had results backed up by figures?

Yes, always. Our approach is built for that purpose. Most of my clients – companies with several billions in revenue and thousands of employees – like many companies today, are confronted with outdated business models, because of the global competition and digital newcomers, to the extent that some of them are experiencing losses. The reinvention of their business model was absolutely necessary. I’m thinking among others of Hachette Media (press) in the United States or Lagardère Unlimited (sports marketing) in Europe and Africa. In record time – less than a year – our approach allowed them to identify and implement the changes necessary, to get back on track with a viable business model, to regain considerable market shares and to reach a good level of profitability, in spite of a constantly changing competitive environment. “Disruption” doesn’t frighten them anymore. They are now equipped to face it.

Thrive in Disruption at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference

“Wisdom 2.0 is a conference tackling one of the biggest challenges of today’s age. Connect through technology, but do so in a way that supports a person’s well-being, work effectiveness, and is ultimately useful to the world.”

— Inc Magazine

I am very excited to announce my participation in the Wisdom 2.0 Conference (Jackie, attach link to “Wisdom 2.0 conference”: people’s stage contest.  The conference will take place on February 20-22, 2016 in San Francisco.

The initial voting process is open to anyone and everyone. In order to vote, you will first need to register for the People’s Stage voting system here in order to log in and cast your vote.

Here is the link to my video on the wisdom 2.0 page:

I’ve included the summary of my video below.  Please take the time to check out the video contest and vote.  I believe that it is an interesting and essential conference and that I can truly help people by spreading our message there.

Thrive in Disruption and Create and Sustainable World

We are The Human Company, a unique management-consulting firm. We work in a very original way that makes organizations fit to thrive in disruption. Beyond a successful business approach for our Fortune 500 clients, it’s a practical philosophy for creative sustainable living, grounded in real science. To make it actionable we designed a model for decision-making: The Intuitive Compass® and a skillset for true leadership: Intuitive Intelligence. It can be learned and applied to anything, from education to politics, to science or simply to daily life. How does it work? It brings out the universal in everyone, the part in us that lives beyond ideology and culture. That’s how change, breakthroughs and innovation can happen. That’s where we all need to work from together to create a sustainable world. It’s actually quite simple. Everybody can learn it and apply it!