How to Get the Most Out of a Day Off

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The idea of “vacation” often conjures up thoughts of trips to faraway lands. While it’s true that big trips can be fun and even refreshing, they can also take a lot of time, energy, and money. A lot of people feel exhausted just thinking about planning a vacation—not just navigating personal commitments and school breaks, but deciding how to delegate major projects or put work on hold, just so they can have a stress-free holiday. Because of this, some might put off their time away, figuring they’ll get to it when their schedule isn’t so demanding, only to discover at the end of the year that they haven’t used up their paid time off.

In my experience as a time management coach and as a business owner, I’ve found that vacations don’t have to be big to be significant to your health and happiness. In fact, I’ve been

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Why Traditional M&A Is Becoming Less Important

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From 1870 to 1911, John D. Rockefeller built what was arguably the single most impressive business organization in history: Standard Oil. Mr. Rockefeller’s business strategy was to vertically integrate every aspect of the oil business (exploration, development, logistics, marketing) to assure an ongoing competitive advantage. His vehicles were not just mergers and acquisitions, though there were plenty of both along the way. Rather, they were interlocking series of trusts, partnerships and alliances designed for flexibility and control.

No one’s expecting or advocating a return to Standard Oil’s monopolistic behavior. But some elements of what Rockefeller created may be coming back into vogue.

Consider today’s trends in M&A. Companies are seeking to be quicker on their feet and more innovative. They understand that they often need new capabilities to realize these objectives. So more and more deal activity focuses on acquiring those capabilities. Traditional scale deals now account

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How to Convince Customers to Share Data After GDPR

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In recent years, marketers have lived through the Era of Big Data, and the Era of Personalization, and now we are living through the “Era of Consent.” With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect on May 25th, businesses will be required to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens. For marketers, this means updating your privacy policies, but more importantly, it means finding innovative new ways to connect with customers and gather consent to use their data in order to continue your “marketing relationship” with them.

Marketers across the European Union (EU) have been preparing for this new regulation for months. Yet the regulation impacts all companies globally, including those in the United States, that collect and manage data on citizens in the EU. Many global marketers are still struggling to understand what steps they need to take to

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How Do Consumers Choose in a World of Automated Ordering?

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The term “frictionless commerce” is widely used to describe how digital technologies are blending product purchases seamlessly into consumers’ daily lives. In the ultimate manifestation of frictionless commerce, purchases will be automatically initiated on behalf of consumers (with their advance consent) using real-time, integrated data from known preferences, past behaviors, sensors, and other sources. Envision, for example, a “smart fridge” automatically ordering food items it senses are running low. That is not common yet, but ever since consumers were offered the option to shop online from home, rather than having to go to a store, technology has been rapidly removing friction from commerce.

As frictionless commerce accelerates, so will a momentous shift in the node of commerce. In the era of department stores and supermarkets, consumers selected brands from store aisles and shelves. Over the past several decades, the in-store experience has been increasingly displaced by online shopping,

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The Different Words We Use to Describe Male and Female Leaders

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We like to think of ourselves as unbiased and objective in our employment decisions, but with two equal candidates, who are you going to promote? Someone who is described in their performance evaluations as analytical or someone who is described as compassionate? On the other end of the employment spectrum, if you’re downsizing and have to fire someone and the two people in jeopardy are very similar, who are you going to fire? Someone perceived as arrogant or someone perceived as inept? Leadership attributions in performance evaluations are powerful.

A unique and fascinating data set allowed us to explore the language used to describe individuals in subjective performance evaluations and provides evidence that, as we suspected, language in performance evaluations is applied differently to describe men and women. We analyzed a large-scale military dataset (over 4,000 participants and 81,000 evaluations) to examine objective and subjective performance measures

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Automation Will Make Lifelong Learning a Necessary Part of Work

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President Emmanuel Macron together with many Silicon Valley CEOs will kick off the VivaTech conference in Paris this week with the aim of showcasing the “good” side of technology. Our research highlights some of those benefits, especially the productivity growth and performance gains that automation and artificial intelligence can bring to the economy — and to society more broadly, if these technologies are used to tackle major issues such as fighting disease and tackling climate change. But we also note some critical challenges that need to be overcome. Foremost among them: a massive shift in the skills that we will need in the workplace in the future.

To see just how big those shifts could be, our latest research analyzed skill requirements for individual work activities in more than 800 occupations to examine the number of hours that the workforce spends on 25 core skills today. We then

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How to Help the Employees You Gain in a Merger Succeed

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The term “acqui-hire” is a nifty neologism that enjoys the virtue of being well-defined in M&A circles while suffering the vice of being misunderstood. Ostensibly, young companies are “acqui-hired” more for their best people than for any real interest in their products, services, or ongoing operations. Talent acquisition is acqui-hiring’s main purpose, say innovation pundits — everything else matters less.

This is true in much the same way television can be defined as “radio, but with pictures” — technically accurate, to be sure, but missing the larger value and impact of the experience.

Consider Jet.com founder Marc Lore: Walmart paid $3.3 billion in 2016 for Lore’s company in its increasingly desperate efforts to more effectively compete against Amazon. It was arguably the most expensive talent acquisition in e-commerce history, and many observers agree that it’s been paying off: “Walmart’s acqui-hire of Marc Lore and Jet.com was brilliant,”

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The 3 Types of Diversity That Shape Our Identities

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Diversity means different things to different people. In a study of 180 Spanish corporate managers, we explored perceptions of diversity and found that depending on who is answering, diversity usually means one of three things: demographic diversity (our gender, race, sexual orientation, and so on), experiential diversity (our affinities, hobbies, and abilities), and cognitive diversity (how we approach problems and think about things). All three types shape identity — or rather, identities.

Demographic diversity is tied to our identities of origin — characteristics that classify us at birth and that we will carry around for the rest of our lives. Experiential diversity is based on life experiences that shape our emotional universe. Affinity bonds us to people with whom we share some of our likes and dislikes, building emotional communities. Experiential diversity influences we might call identities of growth. Cognitive diversity makes us look for other minds to

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Is Your Emotional Intelligence Authentic, or Self-Serving?

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It’s possible to fake emotional intelligence. Similar to knockoffs of luxury watches or handbags, there are emotions and actions that look like the real thing but really aren’t. With the best of intentions, I’ve seen smart leaders charge into sensitive interactions armed with what they believed was a combination of deep empathy, attuned listening, and self-awareness but was, in fact, a way to serve their own emotional needs. It’s important to learn to spot these forgeries, especially if you’re the forger.

Plenty of research has documented manipulative misuses of emotional intelligence — the intentionally subtle regulating of one’s emotions to engineer responses from others that might not be in their best interest. Given that most people aren’t sociopaths, in my experience, the more common misuses of emotional intelligence are subconscious. To safeguard against inadvertently falling prey to them, we need deeper levels of self-examination. Here are three

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How Nokia Embraced the Emotional Side of Strategy

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How do emotions shape strategy making? We investigated this topic when we studied how Nokia executives dealt with the company’s severe strategic challenges between 2007 and 2013. As part of this research, we conducted 120 interviews, including nine with board members and 19 with top managers.

Recall that Nokia dominated the mobile and smartphone markets in 2007-2008 when Apple launched the iPhone and Google the Android operating system. The new rivals revolutionized customer expectations, causing Nokia’s Symbian operating system to become outdated. However, Nokia held on to Symbian until 2011, when it eventually switched to Windows operating system, which also underperformed. Ultimately, Nokia initiated a radical strategic renewal in 2013 by divesting its mobile phone business and focusing on manufacturing network equipment and software, patent licensing, and opportunities in wearable technology and the internet of things. This bold strategic leap was, we found, in part facilitated

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Making Time for Networking as a Working Parent

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Networks matter for career success. They help you find people who can assist you with projects, refer you to new employers, and make connections to new and bigger opportunities. In a famous study by Ronald Burt, people who made efforts to improve their networks were 42%–74% more likely to be promoted than those who didn’t.

Here’s the challenge: networks often seem to grow during after-hours activities, like after-work drinks, weekend off-sites, or far-away conferences. And that poses a problem for most working parents. How do you meet new people if traveling to conferences is out of the question? How do you strengthen connections with colleagues after work if you also need to hurry home for soccer practice? For many working parents, those problems don’t get solved and their network growth ceases (and maybe even shrinks).

But being a working parent doesn’t mean the end of a thriving

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How AI Is Making Prediction Cheaper

Avi Goldfarb, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, explains the economics of machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that makes predictions. He says as prediction gets cheaper and better, machines are going to be doing more of it. That means businesses — and individual workers — need to figure out how to take advantage of the technology to stay competitive. Goldfarb is the coauthor of the book Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence.

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Technology Is Changing What a Premium Automotive Brand Looks Like

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Many mature industries are experiencing significant technological disruption. The automotive industry is being disrupted by electric vehicles and self-driving cars, just as home appliances is being disrupted by the Internet of Things and smart appliances, home entertainment by on-demand content providers, and apparel by online personal stylists such as Stitch Fix and Trunk Club.

Leaders in every industry are no doubt keeping a vigilant eye on such developments, yet one very important aspect of this disruption has been largely overlooked: technology fundamentally changes what makes your brand premium.

The traditional drivers of brand premium are being joined (and to varying degrees supplanted) by newer, tech-enabled variables: software, interactive products, digital interactions, immersive experiences, and predictive services, to name a few.

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Here’s how technology is changing the game in the automotive industry:

Product: hardware vs. software. While hardware currently accounts for 90% of the perceived value of a car,

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The Mindset Your Company Needs to Grow Organically

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M&A is central to many companies’ growth strategies. But you can’t grow by acquisition alone. Companies with more organic growth generate higher shareholder returns than those relying on acquisitions alone. But organic growth remains elusive. It’s been easier to go from big to bigger through M&A than new to big through entrepreneurship.

That failure is not due to a lack of trying. Companies dedicate vast amounts of time, money, and effort to organic growth. The problem is that many companies have the wrong “operating system” for organic growth.

For most companies, both M&A and organic growth are managed like rocket launches. An enormous amount of planning goes into anticipating every possible scenario and removing every possible risk. Once launched, the opportunity is micro-managed to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

This might have worked in the past when markets moved incrementally. But in a global business

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Why Labor Protests in France Won’t Stop Macron’s Reforms

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It’s been 50 years since the events of May 1968, when France went through a period of civil unrest, and one year since the election of centrist reformer Emmanuel Macron as president. The country is marking these anniversaries with a series of strikes, rallies, and occupations in response to Macron’s economic agenda. Students, workers, and retirees are protesting, targeting trains, airlines, retirement homes, universities, and government offices. The protests have already cost the CEO of Air France his job: He stepped down after workers rejected his proposal of a 7% wage increase over four years (unions want a 6% immediate increase). This is not particularly surprising for a country known for powerful unions and a strong attachment to social rights.

However, this time, things seem different.

In 1995 a train strike paralyzed France and forced the government to back down from its proposed reform of the railway sector. By

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How to Give the Same Talk to Different Audiences

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If you’re asked to speak at a conference or event, it’s likely because you’ve demonstrated expertise in your particular subject. To provide a great experience for attendees, you generally want to focus on the topic the organizers have requested – the “greatest hits” that you’re known for. But you’ll run into trouble if you give the same speech verbatim every time: your material will resonate much better with some audiences than others, and some may have heard your remarks before and get bored with the exact repetition.

So how can you strike the right balance and effectively deliver a similar talk to different audiences? As a professional speaker who delivers between 30-50 paid keynotes per year, here are three strategies I’ve discovered that can help you craft a successful talk that resonates with diverse attendees.

First, it can be helpful to envision the sections of your speech

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Bureaucracy Can Drain Your Company’s Energy. Agile Can Restore It.

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Believe it or not, bureaucracy was once a progressive innovation. Its hierarchical authority, specialized division of labor, and standard operating procedures enabled companies to grow far larger than they had ever been. The German sociologist Max Weber famously praised bureaucracy’s rationality and efficiencies.

But Weber also warned that, unfettered, bureaucracy could create a soulless “iron cage,” trapping people inside dehumanizing systems and limiting their potential. He was right. Today, most people work in some sort of bureaucracy — and according to Gallup, 85% of employees around the world feel disengaged from their work. Maybe this group includes you. If so, what can you do to escape the iron cage?

The most common conversation I have these days with discouraged employees below senior management levels goes like this: “This company’s bureaucracy is killing me.  It’s killing the whole business. I know it is critical for the leadership to

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How Living Abroad Helps You Develop a Clearer Sense of Self

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In today’s increasingly globalized world, more and more people are choosing to live, work and study abroad—and this trend appears to be a good thing: social science studies have shown that international experiences can enhance creativity, reduce intergroup bias, and promote career success.

To better understand the psychological effects of living abroad, we set out to examine whether and how international experiences can transform a person’s sense of self. Specifically, we focused on “self-concept clarity,” the extent to which someone’s understanding of himself or herself is “clearly and confidently defined, internally consistent, and temporally stable”. Self-concept clarity has been linked to a host of benefits, such as psychological well-being, the ability to cope with stress, and job performance, but research on how it can be cultivated is very limited.

Most studies have found that transitional experiences, such as job changes

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Why You Should Let Employees Personalize Their Job Descriptions

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We live in an increasingly personalized society. We choose individualized playlists instead of radio stations. We self-select our news sources and our TV shows. Our cars have infinitely adjustable seats and telescopic steering. Everything is geared, just for us.

Then we have job descriptions.

In most corporate structures, today, recruitment for a position generally means starting with a formal list of tasks — the standardized job description — and hiring someone who can make a convincing case that they would perform each one.

As time goes on, people get stuck in these pre-defined roles, and, if growth opportunities aren’t available, they disengage. Although concerned leaders try to address this problem in many ways — teamwork exercises, mentorship, perks, innovative office spaces, and incentive programs — their solutions miss a simple but pivotal point: Employees are engaged by engaging jobs.

In my experience leading and managing teams over two

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After a Merger, Don’t Let “Us vs. Them” Thinking Ruin the Company

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More and more companies are relying on mergers & acquisitions (M&A) as a competitive growth strategy. Since 2012, M&A activity has increased dramatically in both number of deals and size of transaction, with the yearly value of global M&A deals tracking above $4.5 trillion for the past four years. These are heady numbers and 2018 is expected to continue apace. Yet when mergers are not done correctly, the end result can be at best uncomfortable, and at worst devastating to both companies.

As part of my consulting work on mergers and acquisitions, I created a playbook that defines the best practices for optimizing the human side of M&A. To uncover the human facets and the consistent challenges of M&A, I interviewed 55 executives from multinational to small- to medium-size companies all over the world. The interviewees, who were in the process of an M&A deal or

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