Keeping up with the Joneses

“Through others we become ourselves.”
― Lev S. Vygotsky, Russian psychologist, 1896-1934

In the past, this quote strongly resonated with us at CCL. We’ve relied heavily on 360-degree feedback assessments, for example, because they give leaders insight into how others perceive them in the workplace. Now we’re seeing the rise of new tools like wearables and computer-generated personality profiles that give us different avenues to self-awareness.

Do these new methods represent a threat to our humanity—as some have suggested—or do they provide a significant opportunity to enhance our work in leadership development?

That’s the question a CCL team has explored in the blog series, Future of Assessment. If you’ve been following our posts, you may have noticed that we’ve taken an optimistic view, for the most part, of how these new technologies can enhance what we do for leaders and organizations.

Over the past few months, we’ve shared specific examples of ways we can harness the power of emerging technology to meet the growing need for useful leader assessment data.

We’ve covered the following topics in our series:

1. 4 Emerging Trends

2. The Smallest Changes

3. Wearables

4. Serious Games

5. Personality and Social Media Analytics

6. The Rise of the Machines

7. Big Data & Analytics

8. The Emotional Future of Wearable Devices

9. Real-Time Feedback

10. Building a Better Mousetrap

11. Radical Transparency

4 Promising Directions

Here are 4 promising directions in the leadership development field that we’re looking forward to exploring in more detail:

  • Virtual Simulations. The same technology that makes online video games so popular is now being used to train leaders. By simulating real-world situations leaders face on the job, participants have a safe environment for assessing and developing the competencies they need to be effective. Like video games, the sessions incorporate elements such as scoring to enhance engagement and retention. This type of training is already showing promise as a reliable tool in the leadership development field, and while the simulations can be expensive to develop, the usage cost per person is low.
  • Big Data & Analytics. Our ability to collect and analyze massive amounts of data provides a new way for leaders to gain insights they can use in their development efforts. Think about how much data is generated every day from the explosion in electronic communications, including our Facebook activity, tweets, emails, and online shopping habits. By collecting and analyzing data from a large population of leaders—including their feedback surveys, customer comments, and social media activity—we can gain more insight into what it takes to be an effective leader. Medical science is already exploring ways to use population data with sites like 23andme, so why can’t we? CCL’s mission is to advance the understanding, practice, and development of leadership for the benefit of society worldwide, and we hope to connect with others who share this view.
  • User-Driven Assessment. Today more companies are turning to easy-to-use tools like Waggl that allow them to get quick feedback from employees using short, engaging surveys. We’ve known for some time that leader development is accelerated when people receive continuous, real-time feedback on their performance; now technology is starting to catch up with the demand. At the same time, as more leaders seek out quick, targeted feedback on their own, we need to understand what it takes for them to be competent at requesting and using assessment data in their learning journeys.
  • Wearables. These tiny computers worn on the body are best known for tracking simple health metrics like heart rate and daily physical activity. Eventually, they may be used routinely to measure the Not So Readily Observable—things like stress, resiliency, and emotions that impact how we behave. While subjective assessments such as self-reporting and 360-degree feedback are useful for diagnosing organizational and leader challenges at a bird’s eye view, we all have biases that affect how we see ourselves and others. These biases are part of what makes us human, and they can cause us to make incorrect assumptions about people and situations—mistakes in judgment that can lead to poor decision-making. Using wearables (an objective, unobtrusive assessment method) to assess the Not So Readily Observable helps increase our understanding of why we think, feel, and act the way we do across situations and with certain people. By incorporating both subjective and objective methods in our leadership development programs, we can help more leaders identify and manage blind spots in themselves and others.

Rapid Prototyping 

Those of us in the leadership development field must continually adapt our approaches and techniques to incorporate new technologies entering the workplace. As scientist-practitioners, we will continue to test our solutions with actual leaders, and we won’t wait until our ideas are perfect. Instead, we will empower diverse teams to design, develop, and evaluate applications that provide fast results at a low cost, and meet our standards for quality and integrity.

We will also assess our progress regularly to let the best ideas and approaches rise to the top, recognizing that we must spend wisely by investing in those that show the most promise. Finally, we will continue to ensure that the confidentiality of individual data is protected at the highest level, regardless of the type of assessment used.

Concluding Thoughts 

From the beginning, CCL has focused on technologies and solutions that are proven to help leaders in their development journeys. As we continue our research, we will gain a better understanding of how to apply these technologies to accelerate leadership development outcomes. If you’re interested in collaborating with us, we invite you to reach out.

I will leave you with the following:

“…it takes boldness to invest in programs of uncertain potentialities, but it is out of such support that some of the greatest discoveries have been made.”

— Smith Richardson, founder, Center for Creative Leadership


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