Practical ways to foster an inclusive environment

At Elsevier, we place strategic importance on having inclusive, engaged and agile teams. Therefore we value having an inclusive environment for our teams to operate in where everyone is treated fairly and respectfully, has equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.

An inclusive culture enables a high-performing and engaged set of employees, where people feel valued and can bring their whole selves to work. A culture of inclusion increases diversity while also improving innovation and team / business performance.

Leaders have a key role to play in fostering an inclusive environment. Whether we are senior executives or managers, leaders’ behaviours can drive up to 70 percentage points difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and the proportion of those who do not —a phenomenal difference.*

Memories from reading ‘In Search of Lost Time’ in lockdown

I started reading Proust around Eastertime last year. England was in its first lockdown, I was no longer travelling for work, no longer going out or meeting up with friends and had more time than ever on my hands.

You need a lot of time to read In Search of Lost Time: it’s the world’s longest novel (according to The Guinness Book of World Records) with 9,609,000 characters (including spaces), 1.5 million words, more than 400 characters, over 3600 pages, published in 6 volumes (or 7 depending on your edition). …

I’ve never written an end of year review before, but I decided to do a personal retrospective of 2020 when I saw Pat Kua’s template (HT David Heath for sharing it). The idea particularly appealed to me this year because my last four months have been dominated by having a TIA (a ‘mini-stroke’) and then a stroke, and I was finding it hard to see past that. …

Remembering the magic

This post was sparked by watching Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk, ‘My stroke of insight’, and an hour later listening to music during an acupuncture session.

Our brain’s right hemisphere

In her talk, Jill Bolte Taylor describes how the two hemispheres of our brains function differently. Our analytical left hemisphere thinks in language; processes sequentially and methodically; divides, categorises and organises information; separates out details and associates things in the present with our past and projects into the future; and sees ourself as a single, separate individual. In contrast,

Our right hemisphere is all about ‘right here, right now’, our right hemisphere thinks in pictures, it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our senses, and then it explodes into an enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, what this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like, what it sounds like.” …

A personal story about rediscovering my left arm and hand

Some background

Eight weeks ago (24 September) I had a stroke.

I’m really lucky:

  • many people have worse strokes than I did (I kept my cognitive abilities and understanding of language, I didn’t have any memory loss, I don’t have any vision problems, I can walk, I’ve not had not any pain, my speech was only slightly impaired; the key impact for me was that I was paralysed in my left arm — and I’m right handed), and
  • I’m making a good recovery (probably helped by being relatively young, I’m 44).

People say that no two strokes are the same.
I would add that no two stroke recoveries are the same either. …

A personal story about sleep, trying things, and emotional complexity

Eight weeks ago (24 September) I had a stroke. Like me, most people who have a stroke survive. As Tom Balchin explains, “stroke is far more disabling than it is lethal.” The possible outcomes from a stroke vary enormously. In The Successful stroke survivor, Tom explains that in the developed world:

  • 15% of people who have a stroke die shortly after
  • 10% require care in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • 40% experience moderate to severe impairments requiring special care
  • 15% recover with minor impairments
  • 10% recover almost completely

In my previous blogpost, which I published two weeks after my stroke, I compared recovering from a stroke to climbing a mountain — a daunting prospect and something that is best done slowly, by taking small steps. …

A personal story

Make things open, it makes them better,” I said.

It’s good to show vulnerability,” I said.

And it feels like it’s probably time for me to put these words into action myself…

A couple of weeks ago I had a stroke. I can find telling people a bit exhausting, and in the first few days afterwards I found it very hard to talk about what had happened to me. I was raw, very emotional and quick to tears. …

A build-measure-learn approach, focused on teams

Why psychological safety is important

At Elsevier, we place strategic importance on having inclusive, engaged and agile teams. Therefore we need an inclusive environment for our teams to operate in where everyone is treated fairly and respectfully, has equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.

For someone to contribute fully, they need to feel psychologically safe. Psychological safety is:

“A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.” Professor Amy Edmondson

In teams with a high level of psychological safety, there is a culture of inclusion. …

A book of fragments

Kunicki: Water

Reading this haunting story of a young husband whose wife and child mysteriously vanish whilst on holiday on a Croatian island was the moment when Olga Tokarczuk’s prize-winning Flights sucked me in.

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‘Flights’ won the International Booker prize 2018 and is beautifully translated into English by Jennifer Croft

Ash Wednesday Feast

Stories don’t need to be linear, and Flights certaintly isn’t — just as life isn’t. Author Marlon James describes the book as working “like a dream does: with fragmentary trails that add up to a delightful reimagining of the novel.”

In one fragment, it takes Eryk — a character who goes on many journeys — ten years of circuitous travelling to get home. Just when he would think he’s heading home “suddenly some new opportunity would arise, more often than not in the exact opposite direction” and he comes to “the conclusion that the truest argument was an old one — the earth is round, let us not be too attached to directions.” …

My garden of forked paths


I’ve just finished reading 4321, a novel by Paul Auster (*spoiler alert*). And it’s brilliant. The book tells four alternative stories of the main character’s life. The novel is full of ‘what if’ storylines, showing how characters’ lives could have taken a different turn, full of reflections what of could have happened but didn’t.

The book is an invitation to reflect on the role of chance in our lives, on how our lives are not mapped out, there are any number of paths that you could take, and whether you do this or do that things could turn out differently. …


Richard McLean

Senior Director @ElsevierConnect doing product strategy implementation & performance. Mainly writing about getting from A to B, & digital stuff. Personal acc’t.

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