Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Truth About Behavioral Change

Learned a lot editing this one:

MIT Sloan Management Review, Nov. 7, 2018 

by Damon Centola

When Twitter launched in March 2006, the earth did not move. Its founders and a few early funders were excited about the technology, but the microblogging site was not the immediate blockbuster you might imagine it was, given that it now has more than 300 million users and has become a wildly influential marketing tool for businesses, nonprofits, and even politicians. Rather, Twitter crept along in its early months, growing slowly.

So, what happened to transform it from another also-ran into one of the largest communication platforms in the world?

Twitter seems on the surface to be the kind of technology that journalist Malcolm Gladwell and Wharton School marketing professor Jonah Berger refer to as “contagious.” To jump-start Twitter’s growth, its founders decided to promote it at a South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference in 2007, where it was a big hit. From there, people assume it rapidly spread across the United States through the internet, thanks to social contacts connected by what network researchers call “weak ties” and “long bridges.” Two years later, in 2009, Twitter adoptions were catapulted into a global orbit when a major opinion leader, Oprah Winfrey, sent her first tweet on her talk show.

That narrative is easy to grasp and compelling. It gives startups, and the people who invest in them, a road map for success. Unfortunately, it is also inaccurate, and the road map leads to a dead end.

In a very interesting study, Twitter’s actual growth pattern was revealed to be surprisingly geographic. Friends and neighbors adopted the technology from one another in much the same way people join a PTA fund-raiser or get excited about a candidate for town office. Twitter didn’t spread virally across the internet; it spread locally, like a grassroots social movement.

Although that explanation of Twitter’s success is less sensational than the usual “going viral” story, it is far more useful for understanding how social networks promote behavioral change. And it corresponds with a growing body of research that describes behavioral change as a complex contagion, which needs reinforcing ties and wide bridges to spread. We’ll explore those concepts here. They are key elements in a diffusion playbook for companies attempting to launch innovations and facilitate both customer and employee adoption. Read the rest here.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Best Business Books 2018: Management

strategy+business, November 5, 2018

by Theodore Kinni



Illustration by Martin León Barreto

Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein, Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust (Berrett-Koehler, 2018)


Heidi Grant, Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You (Harvard Business Review Press, 2018)

Yesterday, managers were the wizards of business. They learned profitability and productivity incantations at various branches of the Hogwarts School of Business. They were privy to arcane corporate knowledge that was withheld from the mere mortals in the rank and file. They pointed their wands, and the workforce did their bidding.

Tomorrow, it’s likely that employees will manage themselves. The incantations and knowledge that were once the manager’s stock-in-trade will be at their fingertips, perhaps on their smartphones. With the help of computers imbued with artificial intelligence, they will decide their own direction.

But what should managers be doing today? The authors of this year’s best business books on management offer conflicting answers. MIT professor emeritus Edgar Schein and his son Peter, now colleagues at the Organizational Culture and Leadership Institute, see a new, relationship-based managerial culture emerging. University of California at Berkeley management professor Morten Hansen identifies practices that defined high performance in the recent past and urges contemporaries to copy them. And social psychologist Heidi Grant of the NeuroLeadership Institute offers managers a way to develop a skill that they will surely need at some point — no matter what their future holds. Read the rest here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Leading a Bionic Transformation

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

strategy+business, October 29, 2018

by Miles Everson, John Sviokla, and Kelly Barnes




Illustration by Mark Matcho

What is it about companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Alibaba? No matter where they turn their attention — cars, banking, groceries, healthcare, media, retail, trucking — industries quail before them. Company leaders start wondering if their moats are deep enough. Investors flee before the drawbridges rise. These companies are among the largest and richest in the world, and they use this leverage to become larger and richer still — in 2018, Apple and Amazon became the world’s first trillion-dollar companies. These powerhouses attract huge numbers of extremely talented people to work for them, and they generate one innovation after another. But none of that explains the source of their industry-disrupting power.

There are probably 100 companies around the world — including at least 40 “unicorns,” startups with a market capitalization of US$1 billion or more — with similar qualities. They are known for rapid, exponential success. Most are in the U.S. and China right now, but they will probably become more common elsewhere soon. We think of them as bionic enterprises: a name that evokes the fusion of technological and biological systems for extraordinary performance and growth. These companies compete in unprecedented ways by combining digital prowess, human ingenuity, and strategic purpose, as if they were the corporate equivalent of superhuman cyborgs such as Marvel Comics’ Iron Man.

Over the past year, as we’ve been researching and writing about the nature of bionic companies (see “The Bionic Company,” by Miles Everson and John Sviokla, s+b, Feb. 22, 2018), it’s become apparent that no company has a monopoly on this way of doing business. A few companies are out in front, but many others will follow. Some will be part of consortia; some will take advantage of highly capable platforms. You can lead your own company toward a bionic transformation if you think about changing your business in the following ways.

• From a business model based on managing the supply of your product or service to one based on providing whatever customers demand, using any means possible

• From an operational approach based on stocks of information that you hold and capture, to one based on flows of knowledge that you collaborate on and share

• From a competitive position based on a stable landscape of rivals to one based on platforms where a single winner dominates the system

Underlying these three shifts of mind is a quiet revolution in the sources of wealth that businesses deploy and create — the first such major shift since the Industrial Revolution. These new intangible (but very powerful) assets are behavior capital, the awareness and insight developed by tracking ongoing activity; cognitive capital, knowledge codified into digitally managed routines; and network capital, the human and technological connection points available to an enterprise (see “Wealth in the 21st Century”). When you deploy these three forms of capital effectively, you transform your enterprise...read the rest here

Friday, October 26, 2018

Why It Doesn’t Always Pay to Be Decisive about Making Decisions

strategy+business, October 26, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

Banal bromides are my pet peeve. They all sound like the wisdom of the ages, until you think about them for a few seconds and discover they don’t make any sense at all. Consider this one, which popped up in my LinkedIn feed the other day: “The best time to make a decision is before you have to.”

This is nonsensical, if not downright dangerous. Why would you make a decision before you have to?

For starters, if you wait, you may find that you don’t need to make the decision at all. I once worked closely with a leader whom I admired and respected, except for what I thought was a bad habit of dithering with decision requests. He wouldn’t offer rulings on even simple matters. It took me a while to realize that the decisions he sidestepped resolved themselves — either something changed that eliminated the need for the decision or it was made in a collegial way by the people directly involved. It was less a bad habit than a refusal to micromanage.




Photograph by Westend61

Let’s assume that eventually you will have to make an important decision, though. If you make it before you have to, you’re betting that nothing is going to change before the time comes to act on it. Given the speed of change these days, what are the odds of collecting on that bet?

If, as is likely, conditions do evolve, you’ll need to reconsider your decision. That means at least some wasted work. But worse, it opens you up to a cognitive heuristic that psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky named “anchoring-and-adjustment.” They found that when people have an anchor in mind — a numerical estimate, for instance — and then receive new information that requires rethinking it, the adjusted estimate tends to hew too closely to the anchor. In other words, if you make a decision before you have to, and then the conditions on which it was based change, you probably will not make the proper adjustments. The result: a suboptimal decision.

What should you do instead? Read the rest here

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Changing the Way Your Company Thinks About Change

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss Magazine, November 2018

by David Mallon



In 2003, when General Stanley McChrystal assumed leadership of the covert Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Iraq, his first order of business wasn’t tracking down dictator Saddam Hussein or jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, it was creating an organization capable of responding effectively to constant change.

A self-admitted “control freak” as a young officer, McChrystal quickly discovered that the complex conditions and enemy capabilities in Iraq were unique. “We realized pretty quickly that raids were not our product. People kept thinking it was the operators going through the [enemy’s] door, but, no, it was knowing where the enemy was and constantly adapting,” he explained in Deloitte Review.

The missions of most companies are not as dramatic—or dangerous—as JSOC’s mission. Nonetheless, many companies are facing disruptions and competitive challenges that require an unprecedented degree of agility and adaptability.

Every business leader knows that the ability to manage change is an organizational imperative. They also know that there can be significant people barriers to achieving change: employees don’t like change, so they resist it; and when they are forced to deal with too much change, they become fatigued.

But what if those barriers aren’t always as imposing as they seem? After all, change resistance and fatigue are psychological states, not immutable conditions. There is no reason why change can’t trigger enthusiasm and energy, instead of resistance and fatigue. In fact, such a transformation can be achieved with three shifts in your company’s change mindset...read the rest here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Four Building Blocks of Transformation

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

strategy+business, October 22, 2018

by Al Kent, David Lancefield, and Kevin Reilly




Illustration by Miguel Montaner

If you are a business leader, you are probably thinking about radical change. New industrial platforms, geopolitical shifts, global competition, and changing consumer demand are reshaping your world. You face upstart competitors with high valuations encroaching on your business, and activist investors looking for targets. Meanwhile, you have your own aspirations for your company: to be a profitable innovator, to seize opportunities, to lead and dominate your industry, to attract highly committed talent, and to carve out a socially responsible role in which your organization makes a difference. You also probably want to clear away the deadwood in your legacy system: practices, structures, technologies, and cultural habits that hold your company back.

The conventional response is a transformation initiative — a top-down restructuring, accompanied by across-the-board cost cutting, a technological reboot, and some reengineering. Maybe you’ve been through a few such initiatives. If so, you know firsthand how difficult it is for them to succeed. These efforts tend to come in late and over budget, leaving the organization fatigued, demoralized, and not much changed. They don’t take into account the fundamentally new kinds of leverage available to businesses that have emerged in the last 10 years: new networks, new data gathering and analysis resources, and new ways of codifying knowledge.

Successful transformations may be relatively rare, but they do exist — and yours can succeed as well. A transformation, in this context, is a major shift in an organization’s capabilities and identity so that it can deliver valuable results, relevant to its purpose, that it couldn’t master before. It doesn’t necessarily involve a single major initiative (though it could); but the company develops an ongoing mastery of change, in which adaptability feels natural to leaders and employees.

An effort of this sort can take place on a large or small scale; it can involve the front, middle, or back office; it can be conducted by any type of enterprise, from a startup to a global enterprise; and it will affect every aspect of the organization’s structure, including such functions as innovation, finance, marketing, sales, human resources, and operations. At any scale, it requires a cultural shift and highly engaged leaders, who take control of the organization’s future in these four ways... read the rest here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Best fit vs best practice: 3 keys to developing a compelling rewards offering

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

InsideHR, October 8, 2018

by Pete DeBellis



It’s a good time to think about your company’s rewards offering – not just because it’s essential to stand out in tight talent markets. But also, because you may be missing out on a valuable opportunity to attract candidates who are more in sync with your company, more likely to perform well, and more likely to stick around.

You can tell if you are missing this opportunity by answering a simple question: What information does your company use to design its rewards offerings?

If the answer is simply “best practices,” you’re not alone. It’s common practice to set rewards based on competitive benchmarks: just figure out what your competitors are offering and match or beat it. The problem is that a best-practices approach to rewards can be a prescription for mediocrity and anonymity in recruitment and retention.

Bersin’s High-Impact Total Rewards research reveals that high-performing organisations aren’t following the best-practices pack. Rather they are unapologetically different when it comes to rewards, and what makes them different is their approach to rewards design. They give a nod to best practices and benchmark data to make sure they understand what’s being offered by other companies. But they follow a best-fit approach to rewards that is tailored to their organisation.

The primary focus of the best-fit approach is finding candidates and keeping employees who are already aligned with your company. These are the people who like to do things the same way things get done in your company. And they are predisposed to go where your company is going.

Bringing a best-fit rewards offering to market

A properly designed rewards offering should represent a differentiated brand in and of itself. It entices the candidates you want to come to you. There are three principal steps to designing and bringing such an offering to market...read the rest here

Sunday, September 30, 2018

“A Blinding Flash of the Obvious”

Insights by Stanford Business, September 28, 2018

by Theodore Kinni



Tom Peters earned his MBA and PhD at Stanford Graduate School of Business in the 1970s, under the unconventional tutelage of organizational psychologists Eugene Webb and James March. But he pegs the beginning of his management studies to 1966 and his two tours of duty as a young naval officer and combat engineer with the Seabees in Vietnam during the war.

“That left an indelible impression,” Peters says of his first leadership role. “Cut the BS. Can the excuses. Forget the fancy reports. Get moving now. Get the job done. On this score nothing has changed in 50 years, including the maddening fact that all too often a business strategy is inspiring, but the execution mania is largely AWOL.”

A lot of other things have changed in the past half-century, but a lot of what Peters learned about management — in the Navy, at Stanford, while researching and writing In Search of Excellence with Bob Waterman at McKinsey in the early ’80s, and in the decades after — remains as relevant today as it was then. All of it and more is collected in Peters’ new book, The Excellence Dividend.

The fat, red exclamation mark that Peters chose as his logo a quarter-century ago is an apt symbol for The Excellence Dividend, which Financial Times management editor Andrew Hill called “shouty.” It’s a sobriquet that Peters embraces. “I give speeches that are noisy and I write like I speak,” he laughs.

Management Isn’t Complicated

Noisy helps when you’re saying things that most leaders already know, but that far too few act upon in a consistent way. In The Excellence Dividend, Peters pinpoints the most common infractions...read the rest here

Friday, September 28, 2018

Three Principles for Managing Technology's Productivity Paradox

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss Magazine, October 2018

by David Mallon

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Big data and advanced analytics. Collaboration platforms and instant messaging. The workplace is becoming a technological wonderland, in which a company can place virtually every resource that its employees need to work more effectively and efficiently at their fingertips. Nevertheless, growth in workforce productivity is hovering around its lowest rate in almost two decades.

We saw this paradoxical situation echoed across the findings of Deloitte’s 2108 Human Capital Trends survey. For example, 71 percent of the respondents to our survey said they are already using personal productivity technologies like collaboration platforms, work-based social media, and instant messaging, and 60 to 70 percent of them said that they believe workers will soon be using these technologies more frequently. Yet, nearly half (47 percent) of the respondents are also worried that these tools will notenhance workforce productivity.

Are their worries justified? Is it possible that, for all their promise and potential, new and emerging workforce technologies could actually drive down productivity?

It can happen. After all, technology is not a productivity panacea in and of itself. Surely, by now, we all know that the next text that pops up on our smartphones could interrupt us and distract us from our work just as readily as it could focus and facilitate our efforts.

The fundamental difference between the two outcomes lies in how you put productivity technologies to work in your company. Here are three principles that can go a long way to ensuring that technology enhances the productivity and well-being of your company’s employees and avoids becoming one of the greatest sources of cognitive overload in their work and lives. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Physician, Disrupt Thyself

strategy+business, September 19, 2018

by Theodore Kinni


If I were a senior executive in healthcare, it would scare the hell out of me to learn that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame, and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon formed an independent company “free from profit-making incentives and constraints” to provide “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost” to a million or so of their U.S. employees. The fact that the CEOs chose surgeon and author Atul Gawande — an outspoken critic of the healthcare industry’s practices — to lead it wouldn’t settle my nerves. The news might even be jarring enough to induce me to read Vijay Govindarajan and Ravi Ramamurti’s Reverse Innovation in Health Care. Although that might prove cold comfort indeed.

“The real reason the health-care debate hasn’t gotten anywhere is that would-be reformers are debating about the wrong things,” declare Govindarajan, Coxe Distinguished Professor of Management at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, and Ramamurti, University Distinguished Professor of International Business and Strategy at Northeastern University. “It’s not about who pays for what. Skyrocketing health insurance premiums are just a symptom of the underlying problem. The problem with American health care is that it costs too much, the quality is uneven, and too many people can’t get the care they need.”

The professors thus blame providers for the fact that the U.S. healthcare system is by far the most expensive in the world while its supposed beneficiaries rank 37th globally in average life expectancy. Healthcare delivery is the problem, they argue.

As we quibble about everything healthcare-related in the U.S., I could quibble with Govindarajan and Ramamurti about whether providers or payors or patients or the fee-for-service, free-market healthcare system itself is to blame for this mess. Clearly, the costs of the U.S. healthcare system have been rising far above the rate of inflation. And given the fact that my very healthy family’s health insurance is its biggest annual outlay, I, for one, would welcome relief from any quarter. 

Reverse Innovation in Health Care argues that the quarter that the relief is going to come from is…India, which ranks 104th in life expectancy. On the surface, this seems so outlandish that the authors had to include an appendix of questions and answers titled “India? Really?” After they spend an entire book making their case, they had to make it again! ...read the rest here

Friday, September 14, 2018

Making Change Contagious

strategy+business, September 13, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

Much of the conventional wisdom about the diffusion of new ideas, behaviors, and innovations comes from network science, where it tracks back to two sources: Mark Granovetter’s influential theory of weak ties and Albert-László Barabási’s work on network hubs. But in the past decade or so, researchers have revealed some nuances to their ideas that leaders undertaking change initiatives, especially full-scale transformations, should consider.

In 1973, the American Journal of Sociology published a much-cited article titled “The Strength of Weak Ties,” by Granovetter, then an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. Based on research Granovetter had done while earning his Ph.D. at Harvard, the article introduced the idea that people with whom you share few connections (your weak ties) are more conducive to the diffusion of your ideas than people with whom you share many connections (your strong ties). That’s because weak ties speed diffusion by extending your reach to more people you don’t know, while strong ties produce a kind of echo chamber in which whatever you are trying to spread reverberates among people you already know — slowing diffusion.




Illustration by mathisworks

But what if the theory of weak ties, which is now widely accepted, isn’t as universally applicable as it seems? Damon Centola, an associate professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks this is the case. In a new book, How Behavior Spreads, Centola describes his work — and the work of other social network researchers — over the past several years. He explains that strong ties can be better conduits for diffusion than weak ties in some situations. It all depends on what kind of diffusion (or contagion) you are trying to encourage...read the rest here

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Why design thinking is now an essential capability for HR (and how to adopt it)

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

InsideHR, September 10, 2018

by Jeff Mike




HR is undergoing a fundamental shift. The rigid, policy-driven programs and processes of yesterday, which were primarily focused on compliance, efficiency, and conventional approaches to talent management, are giving way. Leading HR practitioners are replacing top-down programs and processes with more agile, worker-centric offerings – offerings that are personalised for employees and that are informed by a robust understanding of work and workforce segments – and design thinking can play an important role in this process.

Bersin research backs this up, and high-performing HR organisations are 3.5 times more likely to focus relentlessly on user experience when designing HR offerings than lower-performing organisations. This is a significant finding: High-performing HR organisations are also associated with a host of positive business outcomes, such as meeting or exceeding financial targets, improved processes, greater responsiveness to change, and enhanced innovation. It is also why design thinking is becoming an essential HR capability.

A design thinking mindset can drive results

Design thinking is more than a set of rote practices. It requires a mindset composed of three elements:
  • User-centered design, which places the employee at the heart of the design;
  • Human-centered design, which ensures that the design speaks to the emotions of users;
  • Soft systems methodology, which ensures that multiple, divergent perspectives are incorporated into the design process.
When HR practitioners operationalise this mindset, they can achieve impressive results. Witness one of largest companies powering prosperity, use of design thinking to re-engineer its candidate assessment and selection process. The online financial solutions company’s redesign produced a 14-point increase in quality of hire (with almost two-thirds of new hires now receiving the highest quality rating), reduced average time to fill 12 days (or almost 20 per cent), and boosted new-hire net promoter scores by 14 per cent year over year.

A global leader in consumer transaction technologies used design thinking to address high rates of employee attrition, especially among new hires and key worker categories, such as customer engineers. It developed and used its new employee experience model to rebuild its onboarding process. The result: the volume of new hires who left dropped by 22 per cent, resulting in a savings of $7 million. In addition, turnover within the critical customer engineer segment fell from 34 per cent to 10.9 per cent...read the rest here.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Organizational Culture: Myths and Management

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss Magazine, Sept. 2018

by David Mallon


Organizational culture. It can be a free-flowing front of competitive advantage or an insurmountable obstacle to change. What it can’t be, is ignored.

It can’t be ignored because culture persists. Strip away everything else from a company—its strategy, operating model, and customer offerings—and its culture remains. That’s a major reason why 82 percent of the respondents to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey cited culture as a potential competitive advantage.

The persistence of culture is a good news/bad news story. The good news is that an organization’s culture—that is, the norms, values, and behaviors that govern how things get done within a company—can make it strong and resilient. The bad news is that an organization’s culture can threaten its very existence if it is too hidebound to accept change. The paradox is that both the good news and the bad news can exist in the same culture.

These days, employees and customers are demanding greater cultural clarity and authenticity than ever before. They especially want “the way we do things around here” to include a robust concern for corporate citizenship, which we at Bersin define as a company’s ability to do social good and account for its actions. In our 2018 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 77 percent of the respondents cited citizenship as important and 36 percent rated it as very important. Read the rest here

Thursday, August 23, 2018

When Prediction Gets Cheap

strategy+business, August 8, 2018

by Theodore Kinni


I don’t usually write mash notes, but I recently sent one to Waze via Twitter. I figured the navigation app had helped me avoid more than 100 hours of traffic jams over a couple of years, and I felt compelled to declare my undying gratitude.

After reading Prediction Machines, by three Rotman School of Management professors, it turns out I’m not so much enamored with Waze as I am with the technology that powers it: artificial intelligence (AI). It is AI that enables the app to predict the best routes for its users.

According to Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb, who are also, respectively, founder, chief economist, and chief data scientist of the Creative Destruction Lab, prediction is the essential output of AI. “The current generation of AI provides the tools for prediction and little else,” they write. “Today, AI tools predict the intention of speech (Amazon’s Echo), predict command context (Apple’s Siri), predict what you want to buy (Amazon’s recommendations), predict which links will connect you to the information you want to find (Google search), predict when to apply the brakes to avoid danger (Tesla’s Autopilot), and predict the news you will want to read (Facebook’s newsfeed).”

This is the key insight of Prediction Machines, and it is an extraordinarily useful one for any executive who has been grappling with the implications and ramifications of AI. AI will automate prediction, and as a result, prediction will become cheap. “Therefore, as economics tells us,” explain the authors, “not only are we going to start using a lot more of it, but we are going to see it emerge in surprising new places.” Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Why Wandering Works Wonders for Managers

strategy+business, August 2, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

If you occupy the heights of the business world, staying grounded can be a challenge. The longer you reside atop a corporate Mount Olympus, the less connected you may become to the mundane world of work occupied by the rest of us and, perhaps more dangerously, the customers who pay the bills.

I’ve been investigating some whimsical solutions for leaders who need to get their feet back on the ground. One of them is the practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Forest bathing, essentially hanging out in nature, sounds like nothing more than a walk in the woods to me. But Dr. Qing Li, a professor at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, whose book on the topic was published in April, says it “takes us all the way home to our true selves.” Sounds like a boon for leaders who want to be more authentic — or who just enjoy a good hike.




Photograph by XiXinXing / Alamy

If you don’t have a forest nearby, you can try "earthing." As Clinton Ober, a former cable TV salesman turned earthing evangelist, describes it in a book he coauthored, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?, the ground below your feet is chock-full of negatively charged electrons that can neutralize the positively charged free radicals building up in your body from stress and other bad stuff. You can absorb these healing electrons by walking around barefoot (on a beach, preferably). If you don’t have time for the beach, you can buy an earthing mat, plug it in, and stick it under your desk. Maybe it’ll work — who knows?

I’m always looking for an excuse to go for a walk, whether it’s in a forest or on a beach. I’m also a skeptic. And you may be, too. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is important that leaders stay grounded — if not in the natural world, then surely in the businesses they are responsible for shepherding...read the rest here

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Three Ways to Find STEM Talent in Tight Labor Markets

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss, August 2018

by David Mallon



It doesn’t take much more than a glance at job statistics to gauge the shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workers. In 2016, in the U.S., 13 STEM jobs were posted online for each unemployed STEM worker—roughly three million more jobs than job seekers. In the fourth quarter of 2017, it took 40 days to fill an ICT (information and communication technology) job in Australia—an increase of nearly 50 percent in two years. This year, a study revealed a shortfall of 173,000 STEM workers in the U.K.—with attendant costs to employers of £1.5 billion annually.

The consequences of this persistent shortage of STEM workers aren’t relegated to technology companies. All sorts of enterprises need data scientists, app developers, and STEM workers in a host of other specialties, including cybersecurity, AI, voice tech, and robotics. Moreover, STEM skills are increasingly required in jobs that aren’t categorically technical in nature: the Business-Higher Education Forum reported that 67 percent of the 2.35 million job postings in the U.S. in 2015 were “analytics-enabled.” These include management jobs that require the ability to use decision-making technologies, and functional jobs, like HR and marketing, in which the use of analytics is becoming commonplace.

So, what can your company do to ensure a ready supply of candidates with STEM skills when they are already scarce, and demand is likely to make them scarcer still in the years ahead? Here are three ideas that have worked for other companies...read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Practicing these 5 principles could help your organization improve profitability by 82 percent

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

InsideHR, July 31, 2018

by Madhura Chakrabarti





People analytics has emerged as an essential competency for professionals across the HR function. One major reason: profitability. Last year, a Bersin research study, which included a survey of 900 HR and business leaders across a wide range of companies, found that organisations with the highest level of people analytics maturity reported a three-year average profit that was 82 per cent higher than those with the lowest level of maturity. Unfortunately, our research also revealed that only two per cent of the organisations surveyed has reached the highest level of people analytics maturity.

One big reason why so few companies have a mature people analytics capability is the lack of data literacy in HR. Many HR departments have core people analytics teams, but the expertise they contain is siloed. Our research found that the HR staff in nearly 60 per cent of organisations do not yet have basic data literacy skills.

One demonstrated solution is upskilling. HR practitioners need knowledge and skills to use data and analytics. When we looked at how organisations with the highest level of people analytics maturity attained that status, we found that their success at scaling data literacy across HR was supported by five action principles...read the rest here.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Chaos Is Not a Viable Leadership Style

strategy+business, July 19, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

Thirty years ago, the business world had a fling with chaos theory — the idea that although nonlinear systems, such as markets and companies, are inherently unpredictable, some order exists within them nonetheless. Tom Peters told us that chaotic markets harbored valuable business opportunities. Meg Wheatley said that chaotic companies were more adaptive, creative, and resilient than hierarchical companies. But I don’t recall anyone recommending chaos as a leadership style.

To be sure, there are prominent leaders today who adopt chaos as their modus operandi. Take Brandon Truaxe, the CEO of Deciem, a fast-growing Canada-based beauty products company that expects to record US$300 million in sales this year.

Since January 2018, here are a few things he has done. Truaxe fired his social media team and started posting strange messages on Deciem’s Instagram account, including, as described in Elle, “closeup videos of him talking disjointedly about the popular skin-care line’s vision, a river flowing around a mass of garbage, and a photo of a dead sheep, captioned with a promise to never test products on animals.” He fired co-CEO Nicola Kilner, which prompted chief financial officer Stephen Kaplan to quit. (In July, Kilner rejoined the company.) Truaxe also emailed the company’s employees, “I’m done with DECIEM and EVERYTHING. No need to discuss.”




Illustration by Dina Belenko / Alamy

One big benefit of being a chaotic leader is that you get a lot of attention. In this social media–driven, attention-addled, 24/7 world, it could be that the quantity of attention matters more than its content. Indeed, even as media and customer reactions to Truaxe’s actions turned negative, the company’s products continued selling briskly. “All they’re (his actions) doing is creating more sales for me,” Truaxe told WWD.

Well, maybe. But before you adopt a chaotic leadership style for its Barnum-like marketing effects, you probably should pause to consider what it does to the people and organizations that you are charged with leading. Chaotic leaders are like Loki, the trickster of Norse mythology, who sows the seeds of confusion and discord...read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Enthusiasms of Tom Peters

strategy+business, July 10, 2018

by Theodore Kinni


A couple of years ago, prior to an interview with Tom Peters, I visited his website to see what he was up to. I found the answer in a gargantuan 4,000-slide PowerPoint deck that Peters titled, with his trademark typographic hyperbole, “THE WORKS.” By way of introduction to the deck, he wrote, “Make no mistake…THIS IS A 17-CHAPTER BOOK…which happens to be in PowerPoint format.”

The Excellence Dividend punctuates that claim almost as well as the ! that Peters adopted as his corporate logo after two years of noodling 25 years ago. The paperback is an annotated version of “The Works” — a fleshed-out outline that frequently depends on fonts to make its points.

The CEO’s first commandment, per Peters?
“CEO Job #1 is setting — and micro-nourishing, one day, one hour, one minute at a time — an effective people-truly-first, innovate-or-die, excellence-or-bust corporate culture.
The key words in my declaration are…
one day, one hour, one minute at a time.”

The best way to keep up in a fast-changing world?
“READ! READ!! READ!!! READ!!!!”

The world’s most underserved market?
“W = >2 x (C + I) = $28T
Women’s Market Size = More Than Two Times China Plus India Combined = $28 Trillion”


Swallowing such a book whole is exhausting, mainly because it is delivered with such brio and packed with enough insight and advice to keep you busy for the next 50 years. When I review a book, I fold page corners, underline in ink, and scrawl marginalia. I folded so many pages in The Excellence Dividend that its top right corner is half again as thick as the rest of the book. I ran a new pen dry while reading it; at first I thought the pen was defective.

As you may be starting to suspect, The Excellence Dividend is a 450-page boldbardment of ideas, facts, figures, memes, and manifestos. Peters calls it the sum total of his 50-year career, more than half of which he’s spent as a leading light of management thought. Read the rest here.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Wee Gunmen of Glasgow: On Crime as Industry in Malcolm Mackay’s Tartan Noir

Los Angeles Review of Books, June 29, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

MANIPULATIVE LEADERS. Poor working conditions. A crappy work-life balance. Benefits? Don’t make me laugh. Apart from the illegality and violence, being a criminal isn’t very different from any other career.

Like most other jobs, crime doesn’t pay that well unless you’re the boss or indispensable to the boss. And you know the rule of thumb there: no one is indispensable. At least that’s the way Malcolm Mackay tells it in six interrelated noir novels, published at a gallop over four years by Mulholland Books in the United States and concluding in May with For Those Who Know the Ending.

“I don’t know if a career in crime is necessarily worse than any other, but it is more complicated,” Mackay explained to me in an email exchange.

Every issue that you face in a normal job exists there, too, but with the added complication of some good people wanting to put you in prison and other bad people wanting to take a hammer to your ankles. One thing I did want to get across is that working in the criminal industry doesn’t come with some incredibly glamorous lifestyle to compensate for the difficulties. It’s a grind filled with people looking to exploit you at every turn, and who will help and protect you only so long as it benefits them to do so.
Mackay has been telling it this way since the first clipped sentence of his first novel, The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter: “It starts with a telephone call.” In this case, it’s a call that many gig workers have received at one time or other — a client has a full-time position to fill and is wondering whether the freelancer might be ready for a steady paycheck. It’s three more terse chapters before Mackay makes it clear that this freelancer, Calum MacLean, is a gunman, and the caller, John Young, is the chief operating officer of a fast-growing crime organization headed by Peter Jamieson.

“This might sound counterintuitive and a bit daft, but I wanted the opening of Lewis Winter to seem really ordinary,” Mackay told me.

I wanted Calum to seem as though he could have been any young man and to have the phone call that sets up the interview seem like any employer looking to hire a person. It establishes, I hope, that Calum is an unremarkable person, even if he does unthinkable things, and that the industry he works within can operate in unremarkable ways. I wanted to show the gap between law-abiding people and criminals like him is perhaps not as great as we assume.
Mackay hails from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. But unlike Peter May, who made dramatic use of the sparsely populated, 130-mile-long archipelago in The Lewis Trilogy, Mackay chose to set the six Jamieson noirs in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, an eight-hour trek by ferry and car from his hometown.

“Perhaps it is an unconscious desire to escape my ordinary life here on Lewis and live in a world I don’t belong to, but one that is still entirely my own,” Mackay wrote in The Telegraph a few months before he won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award for the second book in the series, How a Gunman Says Goodbye. “I had an idea for a novel set in the dark space inhabited by urban underworld gangs. Glasgow felt like the right kind of place.”

In contrast to most tartan noirs, however, place plays a minimal role in Mackay’s books. The actual setting is what the 36-year-old author repeatedly characterizes as “the industry” — that is, the crime industry...Read the rest here