4/20/12: Leadership Reading to Start Your Week

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Here are choice articles on hot leadership topics culled from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms, to start off your work week. I’m pointing you to articles about leadership, strategy, industries, innovation, women and work, and work and learning now and in the future. Highlights include managing without control, five trends to watch in higher education, three questions to kick off innovation, why corporate boards aren’t more diverse, and open-office backlash.

Be sure to look for dots that you can connect.

Note: Some links require you to register or are to publications that have some form of limited paywall.

Thinking about Leadership and Strategy

From Andrea Coville and Paul B. Brown: Your Business Doesn’t Always Need to Change

“But is constant adaptation always the best policy? Our research indicates it isn’t. Indeed, any company considering an adaptation initiative should first ask itself five questions:”

From Freek Vermeulen: The Two Questions Every Manager Must Ask

“When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. And management techniques, practices, and strategies are no different. When you read a business book or attend a presentation on a particular management practice, it is a good habit to explicitly ask, ‘What might it not be good for?’ When might it not work; what could be its drawbacks? If the presenter’s answer is ‘there are none,’ a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted. Because that’s unfortunately not how life works, and that’s not how organizations work. It relates to what Michael Porter meant with being ‘stuck in the middle’: if you try to come up with a strategy that does everything for everyone, you will likely end up achieving nothing. If you focus your strategy on, for instance, achieving low costs, you will likely have to sacrifice delivering superior value on other dimensions, and vice versa”

From Eric McNulty: Are You Ready to Lose Control?

“Control: It’s the essence of management. We’re trained to measure inputs, throughputs, and outputs in hopes of increasing efficiency and producing desired results. In a world of linear processes, such as in the factories of the Industrial Age, that made sense. But in today’s knowledge economy, where enterprises are complex, adaptive systems, it’s counterproductive.”

Industries and Analysis

From Tyce Henry, Ernesto Pagano, J. Puckett, and Joanne Wilson:  Five Trends to Watch in Higher Education

“Leaders of U.S. universities and colleges are navigating a challenging economic environment. Revenues from enrollment, government, and other sources have fallen, leading many institutions to raise tuition to unsustainable levels and putting a number of the weakest schools at risk of failing.”

From Jasjeet Singh: Healthcare Megatrends: Are Emerging Markets Catching Up Or Taking The Lead?

“It is a well-known fact in healthcare that countries become healthy before they become wealthy! In the last decade, you may have been inundated with headlines talking about the myriad of opportunities in emerging markets for healthcare.  But what was earlier a trickle at best, is now becoming a stream, and will morph into a flood in the near future!!”

From Sara Hastings-Simon, Dickon Pinner, and Martin Stuchtey: Myths and realities of clean technologies

“Don’t be fooled by high-profile setbacks. The cleantech sector is gaining steam—with less and less regulatory assistance”

Innovations and Technology

From Irving Wladawsky-Berger: An Old Friend, – the IBM Mainframe, – Turns 50

“On April 7, 1964, IBM announced the Systems/360 family of mainframes.  ‘System/360 represents a sharp departure from concepts of the past in designing and building computers,’ said IBM’s then chairman and CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr.  ‘It is the product of an international effort in IBM’s laboratories and plants and is the first time IBM has redesigned the basic internal architecture of its computers in a decade.  The result will be more computer productivity at lower cost than ever before.  This is the beginning of a new generation – not only of computers – but of their application in business, science and government.'”

From Theodore Kinni: Innovation Begins with Three Questions

“The starting point of an innovative new business or product is often a question. In December 1943, Edwin Land was on a family vacation in Santa Fe, N. Mex. He took a picture of his daughter, who asked why she couldn’t see it immediately. ‘Why not?’ thought Land. ‘Why not design a picture that can be developed right away?’ That was the genesis of the Polaroid camera and a decades-long stretch of serial innovation that earned Land’s company a place among the Nifty Fifty, a group of growth companies that were high-fliers on the New York Stock Exchange in the 1960s.”

From Rob Roache: Beyond IT: How CIOs Are Boosting Business Through Innovation

“Forget the old notions of what a CIO should be. That’s because in today’s technology-reliant business environment, the role of the CIO is evolving. CIOs and aspiring CIOs — thanks to the rise of  cloud computing,  mobility,  Big Data,  apps, and other  technology — are in prime position to  grow their leadership roles and really make a difference in the business.”

Just for Fun from ReCode: Here’s How Mobile Phones Worked in 1959 (and also 1922)

Women and the Workplace

From Joann S. Lublin: This Is Why Corporate Boards Aren’t More Diverse

“The biggest U.S. businesses are making little progress at bringing more minorities and women into their boardrooms.”

From Joan C. Williams: Sticking women with the office housework

“Housework isn’t just something women are expected to do at home. In interview after interview with professional women for my recent book, ‘What Works for Women at Work,’ I heard stories about what I call office housework: the administrative tasks, menial jobs and undervalued assignments women are disproportionately given at their jobs. They were expected to plan parties, order food, take notes in meetings and join thankless committees at far greater rates than their male peers were.”

From Carmen Nobel: Difficulties for Women Bridging Racial, Generational, and Global Divides

“A symposium at Harvard Business School delved into ‘intersectionality’—the seemingly obvious yet complex idea that gender interacts with other axes of inequality such as race, age, class, and ethnicity.”

Work and Learning Now and in the Future

From Anthonia Akitunde: Open-Office Backlash: Seeking Productivity in a Noisy World

“Like most trends before it, open offices are experiencing a bit of a backlash. Once considered a signpost of innovation and collaboration, these office layouts—which eschew architectural dividers, rows of cubicles and private offices for seating plans without walls—have come under fire in blog posts, think pieces, productivity research and Gchat conversations. It’s a backlash so pervasive, some business owners are wondering what to do about their put-upon employees.”

From Jena McGregor: 9 things you didn’t know about the office cubicle

“Nikil Saval’s new book, Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace (Doubleday, April 22), is a fascinating guide to the intellectual history of the American office. Part cultural history, part architectural analysis and part management theory — with some labor economics, gender studies and pop culture thrown in for good measure — the book is a smart look at the evolution of the place where we spend so much of our lives. It details everything from the role the skyscraper had on the modern office to the secretarial revolt that helped inspire the film ‘9 to 5.’ But the book’s discussion of those fabric-covered, three-walled partitions will be one of its most interesting parts to today’s workers. While many people now work remotely and many organizations have been rethinking the office cube, we still love to hate those corporate boxes.”

From Laura Stack: Improving Worker Productivity through Job Ownership

“Most workers have no interest in changing the world. Most don’t even like their jobs. Increasing employees’ job engagement pays high dividends, so how do you motivate the disenchanted on your team to join the job ownership ranks? Through communication, motivation and reward.”

More Curated Posts by Wally Bock

If you liked these selections, you should check out my other curated posts. Here are the ones from last week.

4/15/14: By and About Leaders

Pointers to posts by and about Sara Blakely, Biz Stone, Bradley Shaw, Scott Petinga, and Brad Smith.

4/16/14: From the Independent Business Blogs

Pointers to posts on leadership reflection, analyzing March Madness, coaching, becoming a positive force in a negative workplace, and clearing the path.

4/18/14: Stories and Strategies from Real Life

Pointers to stories about E La Carte, Alibaba, Blommer Chocolate, Home Depot, and Facebook.

What’s wrong with this picture?” and “After the firing” were popular posts on my blog last week.

Writing well gives you the edge in business and in life. If you want to get a book done, improve your blog posts,
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