26 Jan 2024
by Nell O’Neill

The role of emotional intelligence, collaboration, and adaptability in fuelling tech innovation

Guest blog by Nell O’Neill, Content Writer at Clarion Insight LTD #NatSec2024

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the future of tech had nothing much to do with people. People and tech are often seen as competing, far ends of the spectrum. Innovation can cause people to worry about future income, from robots doing factory work to AI writing website content. Not to mention, the fear and conflict that arises from potential arms-races innovation, which is well documented (see here). You only need to look at our dystopian Sci-Fi to believe that the outlook for a human future with tech is bleak.

Yet, tech corporations are becoming more and more people focused. Why? Successful tech companies get their innovative ideas from emotionally intelligent people, with a desire for change, and a talent for collaboration. This article will argue that collaboration, emotional intelligence, and adaptability are some of the main characteristics currently spear-heading Tech. This is how National Security and Intelligence (NSI) organisations need to adapt to keep ahead of the curve with the rate of innovation in tech companies in the next few years. 


It’s no secret that collaboration should be at the forefront of any innovation. “With the right mix of minds, anything is possible” is still used as a strapline for an NSI organisation Clarion Insight have been collaborating with for a number of years. However, modern tech companies are now prioritising collaboration on a new level. “Each year, Google removes unnecessary bureaucratic features in order to give each employee more freedom and to facilitate communication and collaboration between colleagues.” (The Google Model). An ability and willingness to collaborate with others is what ensures that the full spectrum of ideas, perspectives, opinions and knowledge within a team can be used and tapped into. In modern day organisations, this includes an open mindset, and an ability to work across boundaries and out of ‘stovepipes’ and silos. In this regard, NSI organisations are hindered by the need for ‘bureaucratic features’ that ensure safety and security within the system (such as limiting information through various clearance levels). Whilst these blockers cannot be removed, they can be adapted, and doing so would serve to speed up the rate of innovation within the sector.

Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is an essential characteristic of successful collaboration. We have seen the popularity of this idea grow in recent years, from our work within NSI organisations to the leadership strategies of some of the biggest tech giants out there. So why is understanding and harnessing emotional intelligence so popular in tech? A main reason is that the effectiveness of collaboration hinges upon the establishment of psychological safety and the cultivation of healthy relationships among team members. (Edmondson, 2018). Rich Hua, Worldwide Head of EPIC Leadership and Founder of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) at Amazon argues this very point in his executive insight handbook Build an Innovator’s Mindset: ‘[Fostering creativity and innovation through emotional intelligence in teams] requires the development of psychological safety, which helps earn trust among team members, enabling them to have generative disagreement, which fosters progress and innovation. […] When there’s psychological safety, the pressure to always be right is eliminated, and teams are encouraged to be creative and experiment without fear of negative consequences should their efforts not work out.’ This passage stresses the notion that emotional intelligence is not just an individual competency, but also a team competency (Elfenbein, 2005) which is important given the reality that most work in organisations is done by teams. Without emotional intelligence and psychological safety, you lose the ability to achieve continuous innovation – which makes it essential for NSI organisations to embrace and adopt these characteristics in order to keep ahead of the curve.


Change management is not what it was 10 years ago. Just as waterfall projects are largely being replaced by iterative, agile practices in many business environments, Change Management is having to adapt also.  Rather than focus on objective goal-orientated transformation projects, the current pace of change means it is better to focus on ensuring the workforce is adaptable and ‘fit’ for change when it inevitably arrives.  ‘The pace of external changes is accelerating as ever-larger groups of people and companies adopt advances in ever-shorter spans of time and as the diversity among those adopting these advances grows.‘ (The Google Model). This mindset of welcoming new change also welcomes innovation, which is what pushes people to create new tech. It has actually become one of the six management principles at Google, (alongside a people-centric approach,); ‘A continuously changing organization. If you delay taking action until problems arise, you will act too late. Instead of waiting and springing into action after needs become pressing, a company should ensure that its organization is permeated with a proactive approach to change.’ This approach to adapting to continuous change is somewhat reminiscent of the famous Dwight Eisenhower quote ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’.  Nothing today is static, and as such, the goal post will continue changing and moving. In every field, (but especially in NSI organisations,), the only thing you can do to stay ahead of the curve is to invest in your people and create the best working environment possible to increase your chance of success. Importantly, you need people who are comfortable with change and have the confidence and agility to operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment (Dan, 2012).


I started with our client’s tagline - “With the right mix of minds, anything is possible.” I would like to finish by talking about ours. Clarion Insight’s tagline is ‘People make the biggest difference;’ and we really believe it. Without the input of people, from an individual or team level, organisations wouldn’t be able to achieve the collaboration, emotional intelligence and adaptability that allow for new technological innovations. It’s important to remember that whilst there are many new intelligence and security capabilities through innovative technologies, it is people that are the driving force between each and every one of them. 

Nell would like to thank David (one of Clarion Insight LTD’s Directors and Founders,) for his collaboration during the writing of this post; his insight and knowledge were invaluable.

You can find more insights by both Nell and David at Clarion’s News and Insights Page and Clarion’s LinkedIn Page.

Nell’s personal LinkedIn page is here. David’s personal LinkedIn page is here. They are both open to connecting and collaborating within the techUK community.

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Nell O’Neill

Nell O’Neill

Content Writer, Clarion Insight LTD