The Human Factor in Digital Transformation Projects

By Sami Mahroum


How the people working in government manage tech-driven innovation.

The public sector is the largest employer in the world. In OECD countries, nearly 23 percent of the total workforce is employed by government agencies. Around the world, this figure ranges from 5 percent in Japan to much higher in countries like Saudi Arabia (35 percent), Russia (40 percent) and India (55 percent). Small countries like Estonia and Singapore – leaders in smart government initiatives – also have sizeable public sector employment (22 and 32 percent, respectively). It is surprising therefore that few, if any, studies have been done on the effect of ongoing technology-driven governmental transformation on the people who deliver it. That is, of course, unless something goes wrong, like in the case of Phoenix, the Canadian federal payment system, SKAT, the Danish tax agency or the Obamacare portal.

To shed light on this topic, INSEAD and EY teamed up to launch an in-depth study of five major digital transformation projects in five very different countries. The study began with the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and went on to study the Federal Tax Service in Moscow, the digitalisation foundation called BiscayTIK in Bilbao, the national ID administration AgID in Rome and the national employment agency Pôle emploi in Paris.

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As a part of our talent acquisition engagements, we ask our clients how they define “top talent” and how they would assess those traits in the interview process. Reflecting on the insightful comments we hear every day, we thought there would be great value in a new blog in which senior executives/thought leaders share their “Take on Talent.”

This is the seventeenth in a series of blogs/interviews with senior executives who are thought leaders in the areas of Talent Acquisition, Career Development and Leadership who will share their perspectives on this ever present question.


 Paul is the President of Thirdbridge, a high growth, private equity backed disrupter in the research space. Third Bridge provides institutional investors like private equity firms, hedge funds and mutual funds with the information that they need to make better investments.

Before joining Third Bridge, Paul was President of Axiom Law, the leading disrupter in the corporate legal industry, where he scaled the business and oversaw a six-fold increase in size. He also held senior roles at American Express and BCG, and has a wealth of experience across the US, Asia and Europe.

Paul has a Masters of Business Administration from Melbourne Business School.

Find out more about Paul on LinkedIn.” Continue reading

Aim for Transformation, Not Change

by Vip Vyas, CEO of Distinctive Performance, and Diego Nannicini (INSEAD MBA ‘14J), Associate Consultant at Distinctive Performance

Transformation creates attractive futures, while change mends the past.

In May 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled Google Duplex, a new virtual AI assistant with a hyper-realistic voice. Attendees of this year’s Google I/O conference listened to a recording of Duplex making a hair salon appointment, then a restaurant reservation. Both conversations were so natural that the humans on the phone probably had no clue they were talking to an AI entity.

Within hours, videos of the presentation went viral, racking up millions of hits. The world had just witnessed a stunning transformation. A multitude of possibilities immediately flooded the minds of viewers. A new future in the field of human-machine interaction had begun.

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Talent Management and the Dual-Career Couple

by Jennifer Petriglieri

As the head of a large manufacturing plant at a multinational conglomerate, an executive I’ll call David had proved himself a competent, trustworthy manager. So when the presidency of one of the company’s key businesses unexpectedly became vacant, the CEO sat David down to share the good news that he had been chosen for the role. He had earned it.

Sudden career announcements like this are actually pretty common. Even so, David was caught off guard and didn’t know what to say. The head of HR—who was at the meeting—sensed his surprise. Though the offer may have come earlier than expected, she explained, his current boss had been consulted and supported the move. It was a golden opportunity for David, and everyone was rooting for him to succeed. He would have time to make all the necessary arrangements, the CHRO added, and the company would gladly help his family move to the other side of the country, where the business he would run was based. He would start in four weeks.

After asking a few questions and learning about the generous raise that would come with the promotion, David thanked the CEO and the CHRO warmly and promised to discuss the opportunity with his wife that evening. “Of course,” they replied, smiling.

They were shocked when David turned down the offer the next day. He was committed to the company and to his career, he said, but he was also committed to his wife’s career. She had a challenging final year to complete in her surgery residency program, and a move now would hurt her. David suggested various options—taking on the role at a later date, commuting for a period, or working remotely. The CEO rejected them all. “Leadership is about showing up,” he snapped. Continue reading

How humility keeps your ego from hijacking your leadership and team success

By Angela Kambouris

Ego is one of the biggest problems that humanity faces. Being egoless is not possible; however, you can keep yours in check to create business success.

When you are over-invested with your own self-worth, ego is running the show. Each person has beliefs and fears about their value, and when under stress, defensive or over-inflated behaviors play out. When on stage, leading an executive meeting or being a part of a mentorship relationship, your attention can be preoccupied by your view of yourself.

Each person has a set of criteria you unconsciously judge yourself against. When you measure up, you feel pride and like a leader. When you don’t, feelings of uncomfortableness, pressure or fear come out to play. Fight-flight behaviors are triggered, and reactionary behaviors will often result in misalignment of the true leader you are. Unhealthy dynamics take over your own leadership and team success.

Gargantuan egos still may create leaders who achieve phenomenal and impactful success. Kayne West holds a strong ego and has talent, strength and vision. Ego may be the driver to create success, but look at the costs. You see it being played out across the media — dysfunctional personal lives, infighting in organizations and careers blowing up at some point. Continue reading