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 management practices that boost company performance, how business processes are learning to hack themselves, the management thinker we should never have forgotten, why re-entrance programs aren’t working, and AI is more like a really smart four year old than a really seasoned manager.
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
“The reenactment made me ask myself why we’ve lost touch with Deming. The point of his red bead experiment is that we often get a false read on workers because we judge them too narrowly. Deming believed that we can improve worker performance only when we improve the entire system they work within. And he believed that managers wrongly apply incentive pay plans, forced rankings, and all sorts of carrots and sticks to create the illusion of control without solving root performance problems.”
“digital disruption is not a new phenomenon. But the opportunities and risks it presents shift over time. Competitive advantage flows to the businesses that see and act on those shifts first. We are entering the third, and most consequential, wave of digital disruption. It has profound implications not only for strategy but also for the structures of companies and industries. Business leaders need a new map to guide them. This article explains the factors underlying these disruptive waves, outlines the new strategic issues they raise, and describes a portfolio of new strategic moves that business leaders need to master.”
From Michael Blanding: These Management Practices, Like Certain Technologies, Boost Company Performance
“Management practice acts exactly as a new technology might in giving companies competitive advantage—and there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, says a new study by Raffella Sadun and colleagues.”
Industries and Analysis
From Kari Alldredge, Brandon Brown, and Max Magni: Playing catch-up: How to partner with the retailer of the future
“There’s no denying that the balance of power in the consumer industry has tilted. Retailers have the advantage over consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) manufacturers—and retail buyers are deftly using their leverage at the negotiating table. Retail buyers are more sophisticated, more analytical, and more demanding than ever. Consider this: each of the top ten US retailers employs dozens of big data professionals who provide buyers with valuable insights. The same retailers have also hired more than 70 executives from European retail companies, known for having more aggressive negotiation styles than their American counterparts. In this increasingly adversarial environment, what’s a CPG key-account manager to do?”
“A few retailers may have grown faster and further than Amazon, but none has had as disruptive an impact on consumer behavior or on the retail sector. Amazon has changed the way much of the world shops. And it continues to innovate, testing and often scaling up new models and services with mind-boggling speed and frequency. BCG partner and managing director Gabrielle Novacek recently shared her views on how CPG manufacturers can win by working with Amazon.”
“The elephant in the room for all retail is Jeff Bezos. His name is incanted continuously as the brand to beat. Or work around. Or just plain knock off. Bezos set the bar pretty high for the next gen of e-commerce entrepreneurs by playing at a massive scale without any real pressure to make boatloads of profit. How is a new kid on the block going to compete with that? And how are the software engineers going to compete with Amazon’s back-office systems and software products that e-commerce start-ups need to support their businesses? But there is no doubt about it, Amazon lives up to its namesake and casts a huge shadow over the rest of the industry.”
Innovation and Technology
“What history tells us about the future of artificial intelligence—and how society should respond.”
From H. James Wilson, Allan Alter, and Sharad Sachdev: Business Processes Are Learning to Hack Themselves
“Now, thanks to machine learning algorithms, it’s becoming possible for smart software to scrutinize data from a variety of sources — sensors on machines or changes in supply chains, for instance — and redesign processes in real time.”
“This is just one result, however, of a broader trend that Fred Benenson, Kickstarter’s former data chief, calls ‘mathwashing’: our tendency to idolize programs like Facebook’s as entirely objective because they have mathematics at their core.”
Women and the Workplace
“With July 4th almost upon us, we’re feeling pretty patriotic. So we compiled a list of female entrepreneurs who are passionate about having their products made in the U.S.A.”
“A study due to be unveiled at a world-leading conference starting in London tomorrow (Tuesday June 28) showed female applicants were 19 times more successful in securing job interviews when pictured in revealing clothing rather than more conservative dress. The research carried out in Paris found that women stood a much greater chance of earning job interviews for both sales and accounting roles.”
“Several years ago, companies started realizing that a substantial percentage of their highly educated, skilled, and experienced female employees were leaving the workforce at some point. Between 2004 and 2009, a study found that 31% of these high-achieving women opted out of work, mostly to care for their children. New York Times magazine called the phenomenon the ‘opt-out revolution’ in 2013.”
Work and Learning Now and in the Future
“Can computers be creative? Ed Rex believes we’re heading towards a world where artificial intelligence will master creativity. Professor Lynda Gratton explains how people should prepare for it.”
“In the near future, humans powered with robotic components could be the norm on the manufacturing floor”
“It’s important to remember that AI is more like a really smart 4 year old than a really seasoned manager. Expect these early forms of AI to generate big mistakes. Unchecked, those mistakes will spiral out of control.”
More Leadership Posts from Wally Bock
George Washington improved himself into the man we admire so much. Here’s how he did it.
My review of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. Don’t buy it.
Pointers to pieces by and about Niklas Östberg, Sir Martin Sorrell, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marvin Ellison, and James Marcotuli.
Pointers to posts by Suzi McAlpine, Kevin Eikenberry, Dan McCarthy, Julie Winkle Giulioni, and Mary Jo Asmus.
Pointers to stories about Amgen, Wells Fargo, Belk, Keurig, and The Sauce King.
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