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  • Trust, Safety, Leadership

    "Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank." So says Simon Sinek in this recent Ted Talk. Sinek studies leadership. In this talk he shares some of what he learned in researching and writing Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action .
  • Unilever CEO on Sustainability and the Future of Capitalism

    Unilever chief executive Paul Polman has a new commentary for the McKinsey Quarterly . It's not quite a manifesto, but it is a strong, direct call-to-action. Polman argues that the future of capitalism depends on businesses rethinking their approach to growth. Sustainability can not be an after-thought. It must be part of strategy from the first step. Here is an excerpt in which Polman shares some of what he and his leadership team at Unilever have learned about thinking long term: Thinking in the long term has removed enormous shackles from our organization. I really believe that’s part of the strong success we’ve seen over the past five years. Better decisions are being made. We don’t have discussions about whether to postpone the launch of a brand by a month or two or not to invest capital, even if investing is the right thing to do, because of quarterly commitments. We have moved to a more mature dialogue with our investor base about what strategic actions serve Unilever’s best interests in the long term versus explaining short-term movements. That’s very motivational for our employees. We may not pay the same salaries as the financial sector, but our employee engagement and motivation have gone up enormously over the past four or five years. People are proud to work on something where they actually make a difference in life, and that is obviously the hallmark of a purpose-driven business model. We’re getting more energy out of the organization, and that willingness to go the extra mile often makes the difference between a good company and a great one. Let me be clear, though: a longer-term growth model doesn’t mean underperforming in the short term. It absolutely doesn’t need to involve compromises. If I say we have a ten-year plan, that doesn’t mean “trust us and come back in ten years.” It means delivering proof every year that we’re making progress. We still have time-bound targets and hold people strictly accountable for them, but they are longer than quarterly targets. Often they require investments for one or two years before you see any return. For instance, one of our targets is creating new jobs for 500,000 additional small farmers. We had 1.5 million small farmers who directly depended on us, and we’ve already added about 200,000 more to that group. It’s a long-term goal, but we still hold people accountable. The same is true for moving to sustainable sourcing or reaching millions with our efforts to improve their health and well-being. All of this is hardwired to our brands and all our growth drivers. You can read the full commentary here . And watch Polman discuss his argument below:
  • Workplace Culture and the Challenge of Remaining 'Quick and Nimble'

    You may be familiar with Adam Bryant for his Corner Office interviews with the New York Times . Earlier this year, Bryant released a book based on the hundreds of interviews he did with CEOs, called Quick and Nimble . In the book, Bryant shares valuable insights into the challenges companies face as they grow. It is important to remain "quick and nimble," like a start-up, as the company scales. But doing so takes special leadership skills and company-wide self awareness. Bryant shares some of the key takeaways from his work in this Big Think video:
  • Dan Ariely on the Cost of Dishonesty

    Most organizations have problems with dishonesty. Not necessarily big acts of cheating (those exist, of course), but rather a lot of little acts of cheating. Those little acts don't seem so bad when looked at one at a time. But added up they are problematic. Dan Ariely 's latest book is The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone -- Especially Ourselves , and he has spent a lot of time examining the costs of dishonesty. He speaks openly about the experience in this conversation with Knowledge@Wharton 's Adam Grant .
  • McKinsey Insights: Leading Companies Out of Crisis

    Given the state of the global economy over the last seven years, a person who knows how to manage companies through crises is highly valued. Doug Yakola runs "recovery programs" for McKinsey. He shares ten tips for leading companies out of crisis for McKinsey Insights . Here is the list: 1. Throw away your perceptions of a company in distress 2. Force yourself to criticize your own plan 3. Expect more from your board 4. Focus on cash 5. Create a great change story 6. Treat every turnaround like a crisis 7. Build traction for change with quick wins 8. Throw out your old incentive plans 9. Replace a top-team member—or two 10. Find and retain talented people Read Yakola's full explanation of these tips here . And watch him discuss what he has learned helping companies through crises:
  • Business Strategy and Curation of Big Data

    Philip Evans starts this recent Ted Talk by urging us to recognize that "assumptions about technology" have always been central to business strategy. He then proceeds to argue that past assumptions about technology have been invalidated, and that successful business strategy today requires a contemporary understanding of how to use big data, and of "curation of these kinds of horizontal structure, where things like business definition and even industry definition are actually the outcomes of strategy, not something that the strategy presupposes."
  • 'What Makes a Great Leader in the 21st Century'

    Want to be a great leader in today's digitally-driven, global business world? Ask yourself these three questions: Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life? hat is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network? Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past? Boston Consulting Group's Roselinde Torres studies leadership, and those are three questions she poses in this Ted Talk . They are part of what she calls "preparation practice" for leaders of forward thinking organizations.
  • McKinsey Quarterly: Disciplines for Leaner Management

    In the 21st century's smaller, faster, more efficient business climate, organizations have been able to increase revenue share by paring down their operations, thanks to advancing technologies. McKinsey's David Jacquemot argues that smart companies can also reap rewards by paring down management. In the McKinsey Quarterly , Jacquemot shares four "integrated disciplines" for leaner management: •Delivering value efficiently to the customer. The organization must start by understanding what customers truly value—and where, when, how, and why as well. It must then configure how it works so that it can deliver exactly that value, no more and no less, with the fewest resources possible, improving coordination, eliminating redundancy, and building quality into every process. The cycle of listening and responding never ends, as the customer’s evolving needs reveal new opportunities to attack waste, create new worth, and build competitive advantage. •Enabling people to lead and contribute to their fullest potential. The organizations that get the most from their people provide them with support mechanisms so that they can truly master their work, whether at the front line or in the boardroom. Revamped physical space fosters collaboration, visual-management techniques let everyone see what needs to be done, targeted coaching builds capabilities, and simple “job aids” reinforce standards. These and other changes enable employees to own their own development, without leaving them to figure it out by themselves. •Discovering better ways of working. As customers, competitors, and the broader economic and social context change, the whole enterprise must continually think about how today’s ways of working and managing could improve. To guide the inquiry, people will need a clear sense of what “better” means—the ideal that the organization is reaching toward—as well as an unvarnished view of current conditions and the ability to work with others to close gaps without fear of reprisal. Problem identification and resolution must become a part of everyone’s job description, supported by structures to ensure that problems flow to the people best able to solve them. •Connecting strategy, goals, and meaningful purpose. Organizations that endure operate from a clear direction—a vision of what the organization is for, which in turn shapes their strategy and objectives in ways that give meaning to daily work. At every level, starting with the CEO, leaders articulate the strategy and objectives in ways that their people can understand and support. The final step aligns individual goals to the strategy and vision, with the result that people fully understand their role in the organization and why it matters. Read the full article here.
  • Keith Ferrazzi: 'Relationships Power Growth' in Today's Global Economy

    Some people may define success as being able to get what you want. But in order to get that, Keith Ferrazzi says, you need to focus on "what's in it" for them --your customers and colleagues. Because success in today's global economy is all about building relationships. Keith Ferrazzi describes his company as a "research institute on relational and collaborative sciences." In this interview with Knowledge@Wharton 's Adam Grant , Ferrazzi shares some of his findings into the how and why of relationship building. Spoiler alert: turns out it is more important for leaders to project authenticity and vulnerability than charm and power.
  • MThink Infographic: Global Risks

    We highlighted the World Economic Forum's 2014 Global Risk Report last month . Now the team at Mercer's MThink have put out an infographic that shares the reports highlights in a new way. Take a look (go to the full-size image at MThink here ):
  • Foster Cooperation, Improve Productivity

    Yves Morieaux wants to know why workers are so miserable. He says he has worked with more than 500 companies, and all of them share a big problem: workers are disengaged and that has a negative affect on productivity. To fix this problem, he wants us to throw out a lot of what we know. Forget the standard org chart and reporting lines. Instead, focus on the "interplay" between colleagues. In this Ted Talk ,he lays out six steps to improve cooperation and increase productivity.
  • World Economic Forum 2014 Global Risk Report

    The World Economic Forum 's annual report on top global risks is out, and there are a few changes at the top of the list this year. The top five risks in the 2012 and 2013 report were almost exactly the same. In 2014, the extreme weather events, and unemployment and underemployment come in at numbers 2 and 3. Take a look at the top five risks for each of the last eight reports: The report explores how the top global risks "could systematically play out" over the next decade, but it focuses on three areas: – Instabilities in an increasingly multipolar world: Changing demographics, growing middle classes and fiscal constraints will place increasing domestic demands on governments, deepening requirements for internal reform and shaping international relations. Set against the rise of regional powers, an era of greater economic pragmatism and national self-protection might increase inter-state friction and aggravate a global governance vacuum. This may hinder progress on cross-cutting, long-term challenges, and lead to increased inefficiencies and friction costs in strategically important sectors, such as healthcare, financial services and energy. Managing this risk will require flexibility, fresh thinking and multistakeholder communication. – Generation lost? The generation coming of age in the 2010s faces high unemployment and precarious job situations, hampering their efforts to build a future and raising the risk of social unrest. In advanced economies, the large number of graduates from expensive and outmoded educational systems – graduating with high debts and mismatched skills – points to a need to adapt and integrate professional and academic education. In developing countries, an estimated two-thirds of the youth are not fulfilling their economic potential. The generation of digital natives is full of ambition to improve the world but feels disconnected from traditional politics; their ambition needs to be harnessed if systemic risks are to be addressed. – Digital disintegration: So far, cyberspace has proved resilient to attacks, but the underlying dynamic of the online world has always been that it is easier to attack than defend. The world may be only one disruptive technology away from attackers gaining a runaway advantage, meaning the Internet would cease to be a trusted medium for communication or commerce. Fresh thinking at all levels on how to preserve, protect and govern the common good of a trusted cyberspace must be developed. The World Economic Forum's multimedia team provides this helpful video summary of the report: You can access the full report here .
  • The Value of Debate To Effective Management

    Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky is in charge of 130,000 or so employees. And he doesn't want them all to agree with him at any one time, or any of them to agree with him all the time. In this interview with Knowledge@Wharton 's Michael Useem and Adam Grant , Gorsky explains his leadership style, and shares his belief that debate is healthy. Of course, you have to first make sure you hire smart people and give them the tools to do their jobs and develop informed opinions.
  • Mercer: The Value of Leadership

    Mercer/Think researchers have put together an infographic on "monetizing leadership." The argument: that the best way to drive up the market valuation of a company is to convince investors that your management team possesses top leadership and strategic skills. Take a look ( go to the Mercer site to see the full size infographic).
  • The Importance of Resource Reallocation, Crisis or No Crisis

    Change is hard. Change takes time. And in the short run, change can seem like a lot of work that distracts people from their daily work. And yet, long term success depends on regular change. In good times or in bad, companies that reshuffle or reallocate their assets with regularity outperform their competitors, according to research shared in the latest McKinsey Quarterly . Analysis by Mladen Fruk , Stephen Hall , and Devesh Mittal covers the last two decades. When we looked at companies sector by sector, the same broad pattern emerged: whether in basic materials, energy and utilities, information technology, or consumer products and retailing, the median TRS was consistently greater for the high reallocators than for the low ones. A similar story is apparent in the corporate-survival statistics. Over the new, longer period of our study, the survival gap between high and low reallocators increased to 22 percent, up from 13 percent in the original period. In addition, since our data now cover both of the major global economic downturns of the past 20 years (for our purposes, 1999 to 2002 and 2007 to 2010), we can divide companies into those slow to respond by reallocating resources in the two crises, those that actively reallocated in only one, and those that did so in both. The results speak for themselves (Exhibit 2). On average, a company that was a high reallocator during both downturns had a TRS 3 percent greater than a company that was a high reallocator in only one and 4.5 percent greater than a company that wasn’t in either. Realizing the benefits of resource reallocation during a downturn often requires shifting capital and other resources from one existing business to another: when times are tough, there is generally less new capital around, either in the form of growth in retained earnings or of new debt and equity capital. From 2007 to 2010, for example, the volume of new capital available to corporate-management teams in our sample declined by over 15 percent. In these circumstances, it is more incumbent than ever on companies to make difficult trade-offs between the funding of promising growth opportunities (which require nurturing with more capital) and of mature or underperforming ones (which may need pruning). We found that high reallocators in our sample tended to reallocate existing and new resources equally; low reallocators, by contrast, had a much harder time taking resources away from existing lines of business and tended predominantly to reallocate new resources. The willingness to rob Peter to pay Paul is one of the hallmarks of a dynamic top team. Read Never let a good crisis go to waste here .
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