Human beings have an astonishing ability to learn, but our motivation to do so tends to decrease with age, particularly in adulthood. As children, we are naturally curious and free to explore the world around us. As adults, we are much more interested in preserving what we learned, to the point of resisting any information — and data — that challenges our views and opinions. Unsurprisingly, there is now big demand for employees who can demonstrate high levels of “learnability,” the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable throughout their working life. This demand has been turbocharged by the recent technological revolution.
Indeed, one of the major cultural and intellectual changes of the digital age is that information has been commoditized, and access to it is now ubiquitous. With the right question (and WiFi), we can all pretty much find
Despite good intentions—and widespread acceptance of the importance of innovation—efforts to innovate at large companies often lack a clear mission and framework, and as a result, they go off the rails.
At one large European energy company we consulted with, no less than four separate corporate functions were supposed to be working on innovation—yet none of them was supporting critical needs at the business unit level. To make matters worse, the various functions involved were competing internally for space and resources, while duplicating each other’s work.
Without realizing it, even well-managed businesses versed in modern management practices can generate an environment that is hostile to innovation. For all of these reasons, large companies need to have a distinct Innovation Unit headed up by a senior executive who ideally reports to the CEO.
In our work at the European Center for Strategic Innovation (ECSI), we have extensively
While overall adoption of artificial intelligence remains low among businesses (about 20% upon our last study), senior executives know that AI isn’t just hype. Organizations across sectors are looking closely at the technology to see what it can do for their business. As they should—we estimate that 40% of all the potential value that can created by analytics today comes from the AI techniques that fall under the umbrella “deep learning,” (which utilize multiple layers of artificial neural networks, so-called because their structure and function are loosely inspired by that of the human brain). In total, we estimate deep learning could account for between $3.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion in annual value.
However, many business leaders are still not exactly sure where they should apply AI to reap the biggest rewards. After all, embedding AI across the business requires significant investment in
The use of virtual file-sharing platforms like Dropbox, Google Docs, and others has become ubiquitous in business, academic, and other settings. But is your team using such collaborative platforms as effectively as they could be?
Whether working on cancer cures or the latest consumer-tech products, how teams collaborate affects their performance and success. We know a lot about how teams collaborate face-to-face, with regard to leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and other areas. But less is known about how groups work together virtually. As more and more collaboration happens in digital settings, it’s critical to understand best practices for working in such spaces.
To address this question, we studied the virtual interactions of research teams at universities around the word on Dropbox, analyzed how the collaborative dynamics related to performance and developed a list of best practices that organizations can use on any file-sharing platform to improve team performance.
CEOs are known for their confidence. It is, after all, one of the reasons they’ve made it to the top. And yet, that confidence sometimes flags, as we at leadership advisory firm Egon Zehnder learned from a survey of 402 CEOs from 11 countries—executives who together run companies with $2.6 trillion in sales.
Participating anonymously, CEOs told us that while they did feel ready for the strategic and business aspects of their roles, they felt much less prepared for the personal and interpersonal components of leadership, which are just as critical to success.
Here are some of the most surprising findings:
68% acknowledged that, in hindsight, they weren’t fully prepared to take on the CEO role.
50% said driving culture change was more difficult than they’d anticipated.
48% said that finding time for themselves and for self-reflection was harder than expected.
A recent survey by Deloitte of “aggressive adopters” of cognitive technologies found that 76% believe that they will “substantially transform” their companies within the next three years. There probably hasn’t been this much excitement about a new technology since the dotcom boom years in the late 1990s.
The possibilities would seem to justify the hype. AI isn’t just one technology, but a wide array of tools, including a number of different algorithmic approaches, an abundance of new data sources, and advancement in hardware. In the future, we will see new computing architectures, like quantum computing and neuromorphic chips, propel capabilities even further.
Still, there remains a large gap between aspiration and reality. Gartner estimates that 85% of big data projects fail. There have also been embarrassing snafus, such as when Dow Jones reported that Google was buying Apple for $9 billion and the bots fell for
Most people I know have a to-do list so long that it’s not clear that there’s an end to it. Some tasks, even quite important ones, linger unfinished for a long time, and it’s easy to start feeling guilty or ashamed about what you have not yet completed.
People experience guilt and its close cousin shame when they have done something wrong. Guilt is focused internally on the behavior someone has committed, while shame tends to involve feeling like you are a bad person, particularly in the context of bad behaviors that have become public knowledge.
The fundamental question is whether these feelings are a good thing. To answer that, it’s worth quoting the movie Bridge of Spies. Mark Rylance plays the spy Rudolf Abel. He’s asked at one point whether he is worried, and he responds, “Would it help?”
If you ran a fancy restaurant, would you want the chef also to clean dishes and mop the floor? Of course not. You’d hire others to do these things and let the chef focus on producing delicious food. This simple idea — that one should match the skill level of the individual to the skill requirements of a task — has influenced how many businesses operate. That’s why lawyers are helped by paralegals, professors by teaching assistants, and chefs by sous chefs.
Task shifting of this kind moves routine tasks requiring lower skills away from high-skilled professionals. It must be done judiciously, because if a person is less qualified than a task requires, it will hurt quality and may add to costs if rework becomes necessary. On the other hand, if a person is overqualified for a task, it will increase cost and, counter-intuitively, may lower quality
The world’s 230 million knowledge workers are frazzled. Modern life is an interminable cacophony of emails, notifications, messages, alerts, feeds, data and information. 70% of us look at our phones within 30 minutes of waking up. All this causes stress. With multiple notifications on multiple apps on multiple pages of our devices, where do we start? Who will help us?
Fortunately, almost all of us already have a personal assistant. It’s a piece of software on a device you own: the intelligent assistant (IA). We carry IAs around on our laptops (Microsoft’s Cortana), phones (Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s Bixby) and smart speakers (Amazon’s Alexa, Baidu’s Little Fish). You probably have more than one. There are an estimated one billion IA-enabled devices in the world today. With smartphone penetration in the UK and US approaching 70%, it’s easy to believe that there will be as many intelligent assistants as
One of the biggest challenges facing management scientists has been the struggle to produce knowledge that is both academically rigorous and applicable to practicing managers. In an Academy of Management Journal editorial, we described two problems that contribute to this challenge.
No, it’s not just you. If you’ve ever doubted that you had your boss’s full attention while her laptop is open in front of her, stop doubting. In spite of her protests that “I’m listening, go ahead…,” she wasn’t. Decades ago, research settled the question of whether you and I can do two things at once. We can’t. But emerging research shows that even the simple presence of a cell phone — much less its glowing screen and constant beeps — interrupts our ability to connect.
The problem is that manners haven’t caught up with technology. In one online survey, my colleagues and I found that nearly 9 out of 10 people say that at least once a week, their friends or family stop paying attention to them in favor of something happening on their digital devices. And 1 in 4 say these interruptions have caused a
We know that controlling what we pay attention to is the key to living an intentional life. According to an informal poll of my clients, one of the biggest impediments to attention management is “O.P.P.” — other people’s problems. This is a particular problem for my clients in leadership who find it difficult to disconnect from their team, even for short periods. The primary reasons they give for this constant availability are that they “don’t want to be the bottleneck that holds up important work,” and they want to be available to make decisions and mentor their staff through problems.
So in this article, I want to take a deeper dive into learning to control your environment. When leaders’ time is constantly in demand from staff, they report they have too little time remaining to engage in what might be their most important role —
Public speaking affects people in different ways. Some people get jittery and anxious before they talk; they need to spend time calming themselves down before they go onstage.
Other people want to make sure they have extra energy when they’re in front of an audience. These people need to spend time amping themselves up before a talk — doing whatever helps them feel invigorated.
My pre-talk ritual has always been to be still; I would consider this a spiritual ritual. I’ll typically find a dark spot backstage to center myself, exhale calmly, and create quiet space in my head. Meanwhile, I interviewed over 40 professional speakers some of who have a more amp-it-up ritual, like doing power poses or rocking out to heavy metal bands.
Out of curiosity, I decided to try out some of these different, energizing pre-talk rituals before my last big keynote. I
In countries like India, South Africa, Italy, and the United States, institutional trust is declining. People have less faith in businesses, governments, and the media. But this is not a global trend. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that China, the UAE, and Sweden are experiencing dramatic gains in their faith in institutions while the United States has seen a drop of 37 points.
So how can companies successfully navigate this complex state of affairs? Research from the University of Minnesota confirms that understanding the basis on which people trust has become increasingly important to forging international business relationships. As Stephen Kehoe, Edelman’s Global Chair of Reputation, told me in an interview, “If you are even slightly unaware of how a particular set of stakeholders regards your company, sector, or country of origin, you are at a disadvantage. You may not be aware that you are acting
I’ve been following Netflix since 2005, when I first visited its headquarters in Silicon Valley and interviewed Reed Hastings, its founder and CEO. I don’t think I’ve learned more about strategy, technology, and culture from any other company I’ve studied. It’s a stretch to claim that everything I know about business I learned from watching Netflix, but there’s no doubt that many leaders can see glimpses of the future of competition and innovation by looking at how the company does business.
Despite this week’s news that the company had added fewer new subscribers than expected, if there were an Academy Awards show for business performance, Netflix would still sweep this year’s categories — the corporate equivalent of “Titanic” or “Lord of the Rings.” Wealth creation? The company, which is barely 20 years old, has a stock-market value of nearly $165 billion, more than Disney. Cultural
Ignorance may be bliss for some, but ask anyone in commerce or finance, and they will make it abundantly clear: Ignorance is risk. For that reason, U.S. markets embrace reasonable regulation to ensure transparency and fairness. Stocks are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), commodities by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and government currency by the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. But an emergent fourth asset class, cryptocurrencies, has no single regulator, and that is leading to uncertainty and confusion.
In early June the SEC announced the appointment of one of the agency’s veteran attorneys, Valerie Szczepanik, as associate director of the Division of Corporation Finance and senior adviser for Digital Assets and Innovation. This is a welcome development. As “crypto czar,” her job will be to rationalize the application of U.S. securities laws
During Jeff Immelt’s tenure as CEO of General Electric, from 2001 until 2017, the company’s stock price fell by over 30%, a decline of roughly $150 billion in shareholder value. Since Immelt’s departure, GE’s stock is down another 30%, as its new CEO, John Flannery, has struggled to cope with the cash flow drain from years of problematic acquisitions, divestitures, and buybacks. Because of these dubious decisions, GE’s ratio of debt to earnings has soared from 1.5 in 2013 to 3.7 in early 2018, according to Moody’s.
So, during GE’s long and steep decline, where was the company’s board of directors? Composed almost entirely of independent directors, it was a distinguished and diversified group of former top executives and other leaders with relevant experience. In my view, however, the structure and processes of the GE board were poorly designed for effectively overseeing Immelt and
Today’s young professionals grew up in an age of mind-boggling technological change, seeing the growth of the internet, the invention of the smartphone, and the development of machine-learning systems. These advances all point toward the total automation of our lives, including the way we work and do business. It’s no wonder, then, that young people are anxious about their ability to compete in the job market. As executives who have spent our lives assessing and implementing digital technology in every type of organization, we often get asked by them: “What should I learn today so that I’ll have a job in the future?” In what follows we’ll share seven skills that can not only make you unable to be automated, but will make you employable no matter what the future holds.
Communication. In a world where U.S. adults’ total media usage is nearly 12
Rivalry is everywhere. We see rivalries in sports, business, school, and basically any arena where there is competition. Whether it is rivalry between people (Bill Gates versus Steve Jobs; Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal), between organizations (e.g., Ford versus GM), or between nations (e.g., should U.S. soccer fans have rooted for rival Mexico in the World Cup?), there is something uniquely powerful about rivalry that differentiates it from others forms of competition and relationships.
There are many stories highlighting the benefits of rivalry, from how it makes competitors more motivated to how it helps them perform better. For example, the rivalry between the Beatles and the Beach Boys is thought to have pushed both groups to greater levels of creativity and performance in their song-writing. Similarly, the rivalry between Intel and AMD is thought to have helped advance
When I speak to large groups about leadership, one question I often ask is, “How many of you have ever received a compliment from your boss that actually offended you?” Without exception, more than two-thirds of the people in the room raise their hands. When I probe further on what people found offensive about their boss’s praise, the most common responses I hear are “It wasn’t sincere” and “They didn’t know what they were talking about.”
When leaders look like they are just applying some “motivational technique” they read about, people see right through the superficial, obligatory effort. It looks like they are checking off the “I motivated someone today” box. Motivation is not something you do to people. People ultimately choose to be motivated — when to give their best, go the extra mile, and offer radical ideas. The only thing leaders can