> Manageris Blog
 “And at the same time…”: considering paradoxes as opportunities

“And at the same time…”: considering paradoxes as opportunities

We often think of the art of decision-making as a relatively linear analytical process. One would only need to define the problem, identify some options, assess them according to weighted criteria, and then select the best option. But is this really the case?

Reality proves far more complex. The authors of the book Both/And Thinking thus define paradoxes as “contradictory yet interdependent elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time”: two problems that appear antinomic, as solving one makes the other worse. The energy sector is an illustrative case in point: its companies are under pressure to, simultaneously, ensure growth and profitability and reduce their environmental footprint.

Some exhaust themselves, faced with what they perceive as paradoxical injunctions. Others succeed in developing what the authors call a “paradoxical mindset”. These people see paradoxes as invitations to be creative in order to overcome apparent contradictions; it energizes them. Studies have shown that recruiting people who have this vision of things, and training others to take on this mindset, enhances performance in periods of uncertainty. That is how Unilever was able to considerably increase its sales revenue, while also halving its environmental impact.

A new criteria to be integrated into your recruitment and training plans?

Source: Both/And Thinking, Wendy K. Smith, Marianne W. Lewis, Harvard Business Review Press, 2022.

What if the problem wasn’t stress, but rather our perception of stress?

What if the problem wasn’t stress, but rather our perception of stress?

Stress seems to be the ill of the century. And, especially since the Covid-19 crisis, burn-out is inviting itself onto every level of the corporate world, in an increasingly visible way.

In one of his posts on LinkedIn, physician and neuropsychologist Bernard Anselem mentions a study published in the journal Health Psychology that highlights the link between stress and mortality, carried out on 30,000 American adults over the course of eight years. According to this study, when they are subjected to high stress levels, people who believe that stress has a negative impact on their health do indeed suffer excess mortality, whereas the people who have a more neutral perception of the matter can withstand it without any significant impact on their health.

This is in line with other studies devoted to this phenomenon. For one thing, our interpretation of a situation influences our physiological reactions; thus, people who are sensitized to the utility of stress have less pronounced cardiovascular and mental reactions. For another, at the neurological level, the encoding of emotional and memory networks varies according to whether we perceive a situation as good or bad; if we relive the same experience, we will therefore be conditioned to once again perceive it as good or bad.

A scientific explanation of the virtues of a Stoic approach to stress.

Source: Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality, Abiola Keller, Kristin Litzelman, Lauren E. Wisk, Torsheika Maddox, Erika Rose Cheng, Paul D. Creswell, Whitney P. Witt, Health Psychology, September 2012.

Just what do your “tech” employees want?

Just what do your “tech” employees want?

If you employ software developers, cloud engineers, data scientists or SaaS administrators, you are very probably wondering how to attract them—and especially how to retain them.

Indeed, these key profiles receive multiple solicitations from recruiters every month and do not hesitate to change employers. Their unemployment rate borders on zero. And if they lose a job, they know they will find another in less than three months. In such conditions, which are extremely favorable to them, how can we hold on to them?

McKinsey undertook to decode their expectations in a survey conducted in the United States, but which reflects a global trend. It clearly appears that the main factor determining their loyalty to a position, like their choice of a new job, is career development and the potential for promotion—ahead of remuneration, the meaning of their missions and the working atmosphere.

But careful: by this they do not refer to a career in the traditional sense of hierarchical advancement. What is essential for them is to be able to choose between an “expert” career path and a “manager” one—both of these paths enjoying the same internal recognition—and to be able to move from one to the other without obstacles. Now you just have to provide them with such opportunities.

Source: Cracking the code on digital talent, Todd Horst, Kathryn Kuhn, Stephanie Madner, Charlotte Seiler, Paul Roche, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2023.


When diversity complicates feedback

When diversity complicates feedback

Do you want to promote feedback? Good call: in a study conducted by leadership development consultancy Zenger Folkman, 94% of the 2,700 respondents thought that well-presented corrective feedback improved their performance.

Do you also want to enhance the diversity within your teams? Indeed, that is the direction history is moving in. And the company has everything to gain by fostering a more varied mix of viewpoints.

But beware: combining these two ambitions raises some difficulties. A criticism or an advice expressed by a person from another culture often engenders defensive reactions. We feel less secure with someone whose codes we do not master. For example, the American culture seeks to preserve self-esteem, thus the emphasis placed on positivity. An American will therefore be easily rattled by criticism from a colleague hailing from a more direct culture, such as Germany or France—whereas Asian cultures, based on less explicit communication, will find “American-style” criticism brutal…

One solution consists in implementing structured feedback loops, in pairs—or, ideally, collectively, if the team members know one another well.  This positions feedback as a legitimate element of cooperation, and not as an aggression. What’s more, the reciprocity of exchanges helps everyone to better account for the culture of their interlocutors.

Source:  When Diversity Meets Feedback, Erin Meyer, Harvard Business Review, September-October 2023.

Handing innovation over to your clients: the Lego example

Handing innovation over to your clients: the Lego example

In 2008, Lego launched an open innovation pilot project. Fifteen years later, a community of 2.8 million customers is sharing and debating its product ideas. Customers whose ideas are retained earn 1% of the sales generated by that product. For some, such as the inventor of the best-selling “Medieval Blacksmith” model, this represents a small fortune.

How can you inspire yourself from this approach to build your own successes? In addition to the—important—sharing of value, this article reveals two lessons.

First, trust your customers to detect potential successes. Lego compared the predictions of its community to those of its employees and experts. The customers were incomparably better predictors, as long as their responses were sufficiently numerous. At Lego, ideas receiving 10,000 votes or more are the ones that are studied further.

Next, be sure to manage disappointments well. Out of 143 ideas receiving over 10,000 votes, only 23 have eventually seen the light of day. Lego observed that people whose ideas were rejected could become negative and harm the dynamic. The solution consisted in involving them in events allowing them to build personal relationships with other passionate customers, which compensated for the feeling of rejection.

Source: Lego Takes Customers’ Innovations Further, Michela Beretta, Linus Dahlander, Lars Frederiksen, Arne Thomas, MIT Sloan Management Review, September 2023.

Free trial

Discover our synopses freely and without commitment!

Free trial

All publications