A Reflection

by Richard Nesbitt, Chair of The Inclusion Initiative

On the 23rd November The Inclusion Initiative (TII)  launched at LSE.  2020 has been an eventful year at LSE and the challenges we have all faced have strengthened Dr Grace Lordan’s vision of providing ground breaking research and meaningful ideas to improve organizations by making them more inclusive.  TII brings behavioural science insights to firms to allow them to enhance the inclusion of all talent. The first hub of The Inclusion Initiative relates to financial and professional services in London, and I am very pleased to announce that I will chair its advisory board, alongside Christine Chow, Belton Flournoy and Denise Wilson.

In my 35 years in financial services, I have found that going beyond what my experience taught me and seeking out other’s perspectives increased the quality of decisions being made. By consulting a group of others who had differing types of backgrounds and experiences I often found new ways to approach a problem. My openness to the viewpoints of others meant that I delivered better business outcomes. The COVID-19 response has caused a crisis like no other we have experienced in modern history.  Leaders in finance are expected to chart a course first to safety, then to coping and finally to return to a new normal operating environment. Given we have not faced this problem before, old approaches should not be assumed as the optimal way to deal with these issues.  More ideas from more people and new ways of dealing with adversity will require inclusion of a more diverse group of people that ever considered before. It requires thinking outside the box and a search for new incoming generating activities.

Working from home has tested disaster recovery plans and the strength of technology platforms. Generally, these are working as well as could be expected. However, the loss of contact with fellow employees, customers and managers makes this a challenging time for all. Combine this with the human needs that everyone has to protect their families in a pandemic and the stress levels are immense.

At times like this there will be a natural human tendency to fall back on prior experience and the beliefs you hold regarding known truths. It is also natural to rely on those closest to you whom you have learned to trust. Both familiarity bias and affinity bias will influence who we turn to in these times if left unchecked. Leaders realize now more than ever is the time to engage colleagues of  diverse background and experience. It is the time to pause and consider outlier solutions. It is also the time for leaders to put aside what they perceive as a ‘safe’ decision making approach, which is over-reliant on gut feelings, biases and heuristics. Instead they should embrace decision making that safeguards against these natural human tendencies, allows for higher levels of creativity, innovation and risk assessment and is more inclusive.

The Inclusion Initiative, through their research and training, will help create more inclusive and productive organizations.     

The time to embrace more inclusion in your decision making is NOW. The way forward for our organisations will need to include all points of view and experiences in order to develop a plan for the new environment we all will operate within as we get back to work.  A new TII report titled “Virtual Inclusion in the City” by Lordan (2020)  provides leaders with insights on how to increase virtual inclusion.



About the author



Richard Nesbitt

Richard Nesbitt, former COO of CIBC; former CEO of Toronto Stock Exchange; Professor, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto and Chair of the Advisory Board for The Inclusion Initiative at LSE.  Read more here.