How to Increase Your Influence at Work

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To be effective in organizations today, you must be able to influence people. Your title alone isn’t always enough to sway others, nor do you always have a formal position. So, what’s the best way to position yourself as an informal leader? How do you motivate colleagues to support your initiatives and adopt your ideas? How can you become a go-to person that others look to for guidance and expert advice?

What the Experts Say
Having influence in the workplace has “clear value,” says Dorie Clark, author of Entrepreneurial You. “You get more done and you advance the projects you care about and are responsible for,” which means “you’re more likely to be noticed, get promoted, and receive raises.” But gaining influence in the modern workplace is difficult, according to Nick Morgan, author of Power Cues. “It’s never been harder to influence others, because they’ve

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How to Fix the Most Soul-Crushing Meetings

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Meetings are notoriously one of organizational life’s most insufferable realities. U.S. companies spend more than $37 billion dollars a year on them. Employees in American companies spend more than one-third of their time in them. And 71% of senior managers view them as unproductive. In one global consumer products company that I work with, my firm’s organizational assessment revealed an unusually intense degree of frustration over how much time was consumed by meetings, leaving “only evenings to do our day jobs,” according to one interviewee. In a meticulous inventory, we calculated the hours spent in meetings by directors and above across the enterprise (a population of about 500). They collectively spent more than 57,000 hours per year in recurring meetings. That’s the equivalent of six and a half years!

Better meeting techniques, like distributing agendas, holding stand-up meetings, or enforcing a no-device policy, are all well-intentioned

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3 Reasons Global Firms Should Keep Investing in India

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A major debate has unfolded around India’s economic prospects. On the one hand, you have Prime Minister Modi declaring at the 2018 World Economic Forum that India’s economy, already the fifth largest in the world, will double, to $5 trillion, by 2025. On the other hand, you have the media pointing out the country’s shallow middle class, growing inequality and joblessness, and a trail of multinationals frustrated by the lack of China-like success in India.

While India remains a challenging market, there are at least three reasons global firms cannot overlook the country without consequences.

India has seen growth in infrastructure spending. The country has been increasing its spending on infrastructure such as airports, cities, hotels, ports, roads, bridges, hospitals, and power plants. During the past three years, for instance, the newly formed Andhra Pradesh State has made massive investments in building out its infrastructure. India has expanded its solar

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Research: A Strong Privacy Policy Can Save Your Company Millions

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Cyberattacks are on the rise, with over 1,000 data breaches occurring at U.S. organizations in 2016 alone, most often through hacking or external theft. And it isn’t only violated firms that are hurt by these incidents. Studying hundreds of data breaches, our research has found that they create significant ripples that affect other companies in the industry.

Our research shows that data breaches sometimes harm a firm’s close rivals (due to spillover effects), but sometimes help them (due to competitive effects). What is more, we found that a good corporate privacy policy can shield firms from the financial harm posed by a data breach — by offering customers transparency and control over their personal information — while a flawed policy can exacerbate the problems caused by a breach. Together, this evidence is the first to show that a firm’s close rivals are directly, financially affected by its

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Power Can Corrupt Leaders. Compassion Can Save Them

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In 2016 John Stumpf, then the CEO of Wells Fargo, was called before Congress to explain a massive scandal. For more than four hours, Stumpf fielded a range of questions about why the bank, which had over $1.8 trillion in assets, had created 2 million false accounts, and, after the fraud was discovered, fired 5,300 employees as a way of redirecting the blame. The recordings of the hearing are a shocking but illustrative case study of how leaders are at risk of being corrupted by power.

Stumpf’s appearance before Congress shows a man who had made it to the top of one of the world’s most valuable banks — and who seems to show an utter lack of ability to have compassion for other people. Even though his actions caused 5,300 people to lose their jobs, he seemed incapable of acknowledging their pain. Yes, he apologized, but he

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Big Companies Are Embracing Analytics, But Most Still Don’t Have a Data-Driven Culture

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For six consecutive years NewVantage Partners has conducted an annual survey on how executives in large corporations view data. Each year the response rate increases, and the reported urgency of making effective use of data increases as well. This year the results are both more encouraging and more worrisome than in the past.

Six years ago, the primary focus of questions and answers in the survey was big data, which was relatively new on the business scene. In the 2018 survey, the primary attention has moved to artificial intelligence. AI is now a well-established focus at these large, sophisticated firms. There is both a stronger feeling that big data and AI projects deliver value and a greater concern that established firms will be disrupted by startups.

The survey includes senior executives from 57 large corporations. The industry group with the most firms represented in the survey is one

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One Proven Way to Improve U.S. Health Care: Expand Medicare Advantage

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Hayon Thapaliya

The percentage of U.S. GDP spent on health care continues to rise, reaching 17.9% in 2017. At the same time, health insurance premiums have increased as much as 60% in the individual market in some states. The federal and state insurance exchanges have failed to rein in costs. Now, with the rollback of the mandate that individuals must purchase health insurance, the number of uninsured in the country will climb. Meanwhile, continued federal funding of the subsidy for insurance for the poor is uncertain.

It’s time for a better idea that addresses both cost and quality. That better idea is expanding the successful Medicare Advantage program to both Medicaid and employer-covered populations.

This Medicare program has a proven track record in preserving quality and generating customer satisfaction. If all Americans were covered by the program, selection bias — insurers seeking to cover healthier, more profitable people and

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Study: Replying to Customer Reviews Results in Better Ratings

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Every now and then, firms make mistakes that leave their customers unsatisfied: a restaurant misplaces an order, a hotel’s air conditioning breaks down, or a dry cleaner damages a garment. With increasing frequency, disappointed customers share these negative experiences by writing online reviews, and many potential customers take these reviews into account when making choices about which firms to frequent. Because of this, even small service failures can have a lasting negative impact on a firm’s reputation — and financial performance.

In the age of consumer reviews and digital word-of-mouth, how can a firm participate in shaping its online reputation? There are standard service recovery strategies, such as offering perks and discounts to disappointed customers. Many managers have also started publicly responding to consumer reviews as a way to apologize and outline steps the firm has taken to avoid future service failures. Review platforms claim that

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Study: Replying to Customer Reviews Results in Better Ratings

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hbr staff/john swope/life/Getty Images

Every now and then, firms make mistakes that leave their customers unsatisfied: a restaurant misplaces an order, a hotel’s air conditioning breaks down, or a dry cleaner damages a garment. With increasing frequency, disappointed customers share these negative experiences by writing online reviews, and many potential customers take these reviews into account when making choices about which firms to frequent. Because of this, even small service failures can have a lasting negative impact on a firm’s reputation — and financial performance.

In the age of consumer reviews and digital word-of-mouth, how can a firm participate in shaping its online reputation? There are standard service recovery strategies, such as offering perks and discounts to disappointed customers. Many managers have also started publicly responding to consumer reviews as a way to apologize and outline steps the firm has taken to avoid future service failures. Review platforms claim that

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Research: What Happens to a Startup When Venture Capitalists Replace the Founder

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Entrepreneurs often seek external capital to accelerate their growth. This is especially true in hotly contested markets where fast growth can be the difference between success or failure. And yet this outside funding may come with strings attached, which can (and perhaps should) give entrepreneurs pause. Founders will likely find their influence diluted, in terms of both financial equity and their control over the board of directors. They may even find themselves out of a job if their investors decide to fire them and find a replacement.

Between 20% and 40% of founders do not remain in their original role (according to several academic estimates), typically replaced by a more-seasoned executive who might seem better positioned to scale the company and prepare it for the acquisition or IPO market. One would assume venture capitalists are rational actors who would not replace founders if it were not in the

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Should You Cover for a Friend’s Mistakes at Work?

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It’s nice to have a friend at work who cares about you and looks out for your best interests. Research has even shown that it contributes to your engagement. The benefits of having a friend at work are clear, but what about the downsides? What happens when your friend starts to let things slip? How do you handle it when you notice they aren’t keeping up? Should you cover for them?

As with most difficult situations at work, there isn’t one right answer. The approach you take depends on a variety of factors. First, how worrisome are the slips? Will they create significant problems for your team, or even your customer? Next, how self-aware is your friend about their harmful behavior and the impact it’s having? Finally, how is your friend’s manager handling the situation? Is anyone other than you noticing the problem? The answers to these questions will help you decide

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4 Ways to Build an Innovative Team

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One of the most common questions I get asked by senior managers is “How can we find more innovative people?” I know the type they have in mind — someone energetic and dynamic, full of ideas and able to present them powerfully. It seems like everybody these days is looking for an early version of Steve Jobs.

Yet in researching my book, Mapping Innovation, I found that most great innovators were nothing like the mercurial stereotype. In fact, almost all of them were kind, generous, and interested in what I was doing. Many were soft-spoken and modest. You would notice very few of them in a crowded room.

So the simplest answer is that you need to start by empowering the people already in your organization. But to do that, you need to take responsibility for creating an environment in which your people can

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Do Women’s Networking Events Move the Needle on Equality?

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Recently, I was flying home from the Conference for Women, where I had been invited to speak. I was carefully holding a copy of the conference program on my lap — my mom likes to save them, and I wanted to be a good son and bring her back an unwrinkled copy. The guy sitting next to me on the airplane noticed it and asked me about the conference. I told him it’s a series of nonprofits across the country that run conferences for women from all industries to talk about leadership, fairness, and success. He then surprised me by saying, “I’m all for equality, but I’m not sure what good a conference will do.” Done with the conversation, he put on his headphones, content in his cynicism as I stewed, trying to come up with the best, albeit incredibly delayed, response.

By the time I

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How AI Is Changing Contracts

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Contracting is a common activity, but it is one that few companies do efficiently or effectively. In fact, it has been estimated that inefficient contracting causes firms to lose between 5% to 40% of value on a given deal,  depending on circumstances. But recent technological developments like artificial intelligence (AI) are now helping companies overcome many of the challenges to contracting.

The main challenge firms face in contracting arises from the sheer number of contracts they must keep track of; these often lack uniformity and are difficult to organize, manage, and update. Most firms don’t have a database of all the information in their contracts – let alone an efficient way to extract all that data – so there’s no orderly and fast way to, for example, view complex outsourcing agreements or see how a certain clause is worded across different divisions. It

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More and More CEOs Are Taking Their Social Responsibility Seriously

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Jana Partners, the activist hedge fund, isn’t known as a tree-hugging hippie sort of firm. Yet, last month it joined with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System to send a letter to Apple’s board warning about the effects of the company’s devices on children. The same month, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink sent a letter telling companies that his firm would consider social responsibility when making investments. And Mark Zuckerberg told investors that Facebook would be making changes to its platform that would help users in the long-term, even though, he warned, in the short-term the result would be users spending less time on it.

We are witnessing a big, transitional moment – akin to the transition from analog to digital, or the realization that globalization is a really big deal. Companies are beginning to realize that paying attention to the longer term, to the perceptions of their

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How Leaders Can Keep Their Cool in a Crisis

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The word crisis suggests something that happens infrequently. But these days, crises have become a regular state of affairs. Brands that you’d think would be fairly immune to scandal have found themselves embroiled in controversy. And those that deal with public relations challenges regularly have still been caught off guard by a customer insurgency. Some crises disappear quickly and others never seem to go away.

When it comes to a crisis happening, the question seems to no longer be “if” but “when.” Every leader needs to be prepared. By their very nature, crises put things in a whirlwind and emotions run high. So it’s imperative that leaders keep their cool and make smart decisions.

To get inside the eye of the storm, we spoke with executives who have had to successfully navigate crises of all kinds. Here’s what we learned:

You can’t pick your crisis. The

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How More Regulation for U.S. Tech Could Backfire

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If 2017 was the year that tech became a lightning rod for dissatisfaction over everything from the last U.S. presidential election to the possibility of a smartphone-driven dystopia, 2018 already looks to be that much worse.

Innovation and its discontents are nothing new, of course, going back at least to the 18th century, when Luddites physically attacked industrial looms. Hostility to the internet appeared the moment the Web became a commercial technology, threatening from the outset to upend traditional businesses and maybe even our deeply-embedded beliefs about family, society, and government. George Mason University’s Adam Thierer, reviewing a resurgence of books about the “existential threat” of disruptive innovation, has detailed what he calls a “techno-panic template” in how we react to disruptive innovations that don’t fit into familiar categories.

But with the proliferation of new products and their reach ever-deeper into our

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When You Have to Carry Out a Decision You Disagree With

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One of the great frustrations of being a middle manager is that senior leaders make decisions that go against what you would have done had it been up to you. Sometimes you are part of the decision process, and other times the decision is simply handed down. Either way, you are now responsible for ensuring that the plan is carried out.

A natural reaction in this situation is to begrudgingly go along with the chosen course of action. You might even be tempted to communicate to your peers and supervisees that you’re not convinced this is the right way to go.

Resist that temptation. Your job is to help your organization succeed. You won’t be fulfilling that role if you — intentionally or unintentionally —  undermine the decision. Instead, start by asking yourself whether you trust the organization you work for.  If — deep down —

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Can We Keep Our Biases from Creeping into AI?

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Eminent industry leaders worry that the biggest risk tied to artificial intelligence is the militaristic downfall of humanity. But there’s a smaller community of people committed to addressing two more tangible risks: AI created with harmful biases built into its core, and AI that does not reflect the diversity of the users it serves. I am proud to be part of the second group of concerned practitioners. And I would argue that not addressing the issues of bias and diversity could lead to a different kind of weaponized AI.

The good news is that AI is an opportunity to build technology with less human bias and built-in inequality than has been the case in previous innovations. But that will only happen if we expand AI talent pools and explicitly test AI-driven technologies for bias.

Eliminating Biases in AI: The People

Technology inevitably reflects its creators in

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Why Amazon’s Grocery Store May Not Be the Future of Retail

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When Amazon opened its cashier-less concept grocery store to the public in Seattle on January 22, the company’s stock rose 2.5% – slightly more than the 2.4% increase after Amazon announced that it was buying Whole Foods this past June. Does Amazon Go signal that smartphone apps and virtual carts will replace checkouts in grocery stores?

A low-cost, automated store is certainly an experiment worth watching. But retailers shouldn’t rush to rip out their registers just yet. Retail is littered with promising technologies introduced with great fanfare that didn’t become mainstream because they didn’t sufficiently benefit either the retailer or the customer.

One reason is that new tools often don’t save the retailer enough or generate sufficient new revenue to cover their cost. Another is that too many customers simply don’t like them. To become the new normal, a technology has to make it beyond

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