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

Friday, June 29, 2018

Three Design Thinking Tenets that Can Lead to Better HR Solutions

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss Magazine, July 2018

by David Mallon

deloitte hr-boss magazine
The quality of the solutions you adopt to address the challenges and problems your company faces is determined, in large part, by the process you use to formulate them.

That’s a big reason why design thinking popped up as one of the 10 best practices for leading companies and innovative HR organizations in the 2016 Deloitte Human Capital Trends survey. Seventy-nine percent of the more than 7,000 executives surveyed ranked the creative problem-solving process as a high priority for meeting talent challenges. Moreover, those respondents who identified their companies as “high-performing” were three to four times more likely to use design thinking than their competitors.

Design thinking has been gaining adherents ever since Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon first articulated a process model in 1969. Since then, firms—such as IDEO—and universities have popularized design thinking and a wide range of companies have adopted it.

Today, there are many variations of the design thinking process, but there are three simple, but too-often ignored, tenets that appear in one form or another in all of them. If you follow them, I believe that you are far more likely to come up with successful solutions to the myriad of challenges that all companies the rest here

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Wait-and-See Could Be a Costly AI Strategy

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

MIT Sloan Management Review, June 15, 2018

by Jacques Bughin

From the dexterity of Amazon’s Kiva robots to the facial recognition in Apple’s iPhone X, artificial intelligence is increasingly sophisticated and accessible. It also promises to be a rich source of profit uplift — up to 10% of revenue, depending on your industry.

Nevertheless, more than 95% of companies have not embraced AI technology to reinvent how they do business. Even though there are many unknowns regarding AI’s capabilities and uses, our research at the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that following a wait-and-see strategy for too much longer could be a costly mistake.

How costly? When we collected more than 400 use cases in 19 industries and simulated the dynamics of AI diffusion (based on current corporate intent to adopt, the technology’s impact on cash flow, and the profit growth linked to adoption), we found significant divergences in the patterns of economic growth between early adopters of AI at scale and non-adopters. In the simulation, early diffusers — that is, companies that will use a full suite of AI technologies in the next five years — doubled their normal profits by 2030, bringing in an additional 4% of gross profit growth annually at the expense of their competitors. When we extrapolated this on a global basis, it equated to a shift in corporate profit to early AI diffusers of approximately $1 trillion by 2030, or 10% of the current profit pool. Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Lessons From China’s Digital Battleground

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

MIT Sloan Management Review, June 12, 2018

by Shu Li, François Candelon, and Martin Reeves

The explosive growth of the digital market in China, a country with more than 700 million internet users, constitutes a rich prize to companies that can exploit its opportunities. Five of the 10 largest public internet companies in the world — Tencent Holdings Ltd., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Baidu Inc., Inc. (aka Jingdong), and NetEase Inc. — have emerged from this $1 trillion market. And, by February 2018, Chinese companies accounted for 33% of the world’s unicorns (privately held startups valued at $1 billion or more), with almost three-quarters of them targeting digital or online markets.

So why have so few of the leading Western players succeeded in holding a winning share in China’s digital market? They know well the winner-takes-all stakes in digital business, and they have successfully dominated international markets in the past — after rolling out their digital products, platforms, and business models in other countries, without significant resistance. But in China, they have struggled:

In 2002, eBay Inc. entered China and quickly captured a 70% market share. Five years later, its market share had dropped to below 10%.

In 2004, Inc. acquired Chinese online book retailer, heralding its high-profile march into China. In 2008, Amazon’s share was 15%; now, it’s below 1%.

In 2005, Microsoft Corp.’s MSN China went live and gained a 53% market share among Chinese business users. But its market share decreased to less than 5% before it quit the Chinese market in October 2014 under strong attack by Tencent’s QQ and WeChat.

In 2014, Uber Technologies Inc. formally entered China and spent billions in fierce competitive battles to gain market share from its Chinese competitors. In 2016, it sold its Chinese subsidiary to Didi Chuxing Technology Co. and exited the country.

In 2015, Airbnb Inc., the world’s largest online marketplace for short-term lodging, landed in China. As of today, it lags far behind its Chinese peers. In 2017, Airbnb had 150,000 rooms for rent; market leader had 650,000 rooms.

Why have so many powerful Western players hit a wall in China? Protectionism is a convenient excuse, but we believe that it is an exaggerated one. Worse, it oversimplifies and obscures some important competitive realities in China that many Western players have missed.

These factors arise from the very different starting point at which China entered the digital era. Unlike many Western economies, China’s economy was not yet mature when the digital tsunami broke on its shores. In many of the industries most affected by digital technologies, offline offerings were limited, physical infrastructure was lacking, and other essential market components, such as payment systems, were missing. Thus, in China, digital technologies offered a solution to fundamental bottlenecks in consumption, rather than a disruptive alternative to existing solutions.

Against this backdrop, China’s digital market developed in an exceptionally rapid and dynamic manner, one based on need rather than preference. Furthermore, the winning game plan for dominating digital markets turned out to have some unique characteristics with regards to localization, speed, online and offline integration, and local ecosystem development.

It is important for Western players to recognize and understand these characteristics. They are not only key to winning in China but also in other countries that share a similar profile, such as India and Indonesia. In addition, they provide valuable insight into how China’s digital giants may compete as they go global. Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Seven Tips for Managing Procrastinators

strategy+business, June 12, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

Studying procrastination used to be a terrific way to avoid doing things I was supposed to be doing. It hasn’t been as much fun for me since one of the things I supposed to be doing was writing this column on how to manage procrastinators. Rats!

One thing I learned before I was distracted from my studies is that about 20 percent of adults identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. That is, they are habitually unable to perform tasks on time, even when there are serious consequences involved. Moreover, reports DePaul University psychology professor Joseph Ferrari, author of Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done, the incidence of procrastination is pretty consistent across age cohorts, gender, and nationalities. As yet, procrastination researchers have not identified any “blue zones” — Shangri-las in which people not only live longer, but also never miss a deadline.

Photograph by Designer491 / Alamy

What the researchers have identified is two kinds of procrastination: avoidance and arousal. Avoidance procrastination is fear-based; it is driven by the desire to duck a task. Arousal procrastination is thrill-based; it is driven by the desire to play chicken with deadlines. Although it’s easy to joke about procrastination, neither kind is a laughing matter for executives.

Managing procrastinators can be an extremely frustrating experience. If one in five employees isn’t doing what they are supposed to be doing, or can’t be relied upon to meet a deadline, it can wreak havoc on planning, productivity, team performance, and anything else that depends on synchronized activity or keeping to a schedule. If employees are avoiding tasks altogether, work never gets done unless someone else does it. If they are thrill seekers, the work ends up getting short shrift and, often, does not get done on time.

So what’s a leader to do? Read the rest here.

Monday, June 11, 2018

How an employee-as-customer mindset in HR can empower agile teams

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

InsideHR, June 11, 2018

In Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey, an overwhelming 90 percent of the respondents – 10,400 business and HR leaders across 140 countries – told us that creating organisations of the future was “important” or “very important” to them. In fact, they identified building new organisations as their most important challenge. Agility and agile teams play a central role in the organisation of the future, and as companies race to replace structural hierarchies with networks of teams, they are looking to HR for capacity and support.

Agile teams – nimble, entrepreneurial, cross-functional groups of employees that are already becoming ubiquitous at every level of organisations – are an essential component of tomorrow’s workplace. Fast-acting and purposeful, agile teams can not only navigate the vagaries of the marketplace, including volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), but also mine them for opportunity.

Inside the makings of agile teams
What do agile teams need to achieve the empowerment necessary to operate at their maximum potential? They require a supportive culture and high levels of trust, inclusion, and accountability. When teams are imbued with trust, their members are better able to identify and act on opportunities for improvement, development, and innovation. Employee inclusion, both in teams and in the company as a whole, engenders an overall sense of belonging that helps enable employees to better connect with one another and to share their best ideas. And, high levels of accountability are necessary to help advance organisational strategies, with each successful encounter encouraging team members to seek out and accept more responsibility for their work.

What can HR do to create agile teams
HR leaders can best support the empowerment of agile teams by thinking of employees as customers and expanding their focus on employees to include teams. This approach to enhancing the employee experience in agile teams can be accomplished by adopting a design-thinking mindset, creating personas, and mapping the employee journey...Read the rest here.

Monday, June 4, 2018

How to Become a Master of Disaster

strategy+business, June 4, 2018

by Theodore Kinni

If you like disaster stories, you’ll love Meltdown, by Chris Clearfield, a principal at risk consultancy System Logic, and András Tilcsik, an associate professor at the Rotman School of Management. The authors cover a gamut of catastrophe, from a ruined Thanksgiving dinner to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and the multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The worst part of all these examples: According to the authors, they were preventable.

All the disasters recounted in Meltdown share characteristics first identified by sociologist Charles Perrow. Now in his nineties, Perrow earned the appellation “master of disaster” for his seminal study of a host of incidents in high-risk settings, starting with the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station accident in 1979. “In Perrow’s view,” explain Clearfield and Tilcsik, “the accident was not a freak occurrence, but a fundamental feature of the nuclear power plant as a system.”

This system — indeed, each of the systems described in Meltdown’s disasters — is complex and tightly coupled: complex in that the systems are nonlinear, with parts sometimes interacting in hidden ways, and tightly coupled in that there is little slack in these systems. A failure in one part quickly, and often, unexpectedly affects other parts. Read the rest here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

It's Time to Make the People Side of Business Data-Driven and Evidence-Based

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Boss, June 2018

by David Mallon

deloitte, leadership

These days data is front-page news. It’s use—and misuse—has precipitated a host of corporate crises. In many of these stories, data is being demonized. But data, per se, isn’t bad or good; it’s what people do with it that matters.

We live in an era of digital technology, in which more and more of what we do generates data. A few years ago, IBM estimated that we were creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, and that something like 90 percent of all the data in the world created in the prior two years alone. The data we generate is collected, analyzed, and served back to us constantly, whether we realize it or not.

Companies and individuals must become masters of data or they may risk being mastered by it. And to master data, companies and individuals need to be mindful. What data will be collected? How can they ensure its accuracy? Who will collect it? Where, when, why, how, and for what purpose will it be used? Where will the data go? Who will have access to it? What privacy and security controls will protect it?

If that seems like a lot of questions, well, it is. We need to be active stewards of our data. We need to actively seek insights from it. We need to use those insights in positive, productive ways that drive organizational and personal value. The headlines tell us that these tasks shouldn’t be left unaddressed—especially when it comes to our people.

The HR Function Needs to Build Data Muscle

One finding rings out clearly in Bersin’s High-Impact People Analytics study: Companies that are proactively building an organizational muscle around people data and analytics are getting ahead.

Some corporate functions, like marketing, are already well along in the data and analytics race. But the typical HR department is not nearly as evolved. Our study revealed that only two percent of companies surveyed have a fully mature (Level Four) people analytics capability; meanwhile 83 percent of companies are operating at Levels One and Two.

The people side of business must become more data-driven and evidence-based. Data can and should inform decisions around performance, people, and talent, if for no other reason than the fact that relying on tradition and prior experience are neither sufficient nor prudent in today’s digital the rest here