Management gemsFind here some gems from our monitoring of the best publications on leadership and management
Have you done your SWOT analysis in terms of geopolitics?
Geopolitical events can greatly affect companies. The war in Ukraine is sad witness to it. Its economical impacts are many: closure of subsidiaries in some countries, disorganization of the supply chains, tensions on some raw materials, soaring costs…
But be careful: confronted with the impact of the crisis, we easily forget that any change can also offer new possibilities. For example, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, whilst disrupting the European energy market, accelerated the transition towards renewable energies. When the parameters that governed a sector are suddenly upset, it is time to wonder. Could what represented a marginal differentiation on the market become an asset to exploit? Isn’t it time to revive an innovation project that was abandoned because of a lack of profitability? Similarly, the constraints on the supply chains boost the emergence of pivotal geographic areas, such as India and Vietnam. Isn’t it time to establish operations there? When a crisis happens, we must of course protect ourselves—but also know how to overcome the ambient pessimism to actively explore the possibilities offered by the new context.
Source: Black swans, gray rhinos, and silver linings: Anticipating geopolitical risks (and openings), Andrew Grant, Ziad Haider, Anke Raufuss, McKinsey, February 2023.Share
Think of imitating nature
What do owls, penguins and kingfishers have in common? All three species have inspired a major technological innovation, the Shinkansen. Indeed, when the engineers at Japan National Railways were entrusted with the development of a train capable of connecting Tokyo and Osaka in two and a half hours, they were confronted with a serious issue: the speed provoked an acoustic deflagration effect at the entrance of tunnels, which was considerably above authorized thresholds! To find a solution, they did not turn to fundamental research but towards solutions adopted and refined for centuries by animal species confronted to similar challenges. Thus, the aerodynamics of the penguin guided the design of the carriages. Engineers also sought inspiration from the fine fringes in owl feathers, which make their flight silent, to design the pantographs that connect the train to the power line, thus reducing noise further. Finally, the shape of the kingfisher’s beak, which allows it to enter the water at high speed, inspired the shape of the locomotive nose.
This anecdote illustrates the power of biomimetics. Rather than always looking for a disruptive innovation, wouldn’t we gain by imitating what works best in what already exists, particularly in nature?
Source: Evolutionary Ideas, Sam Tatam, Harriman House, 2022.Share
Allow yourself to mix seriousness and lightness
When the situation is serious, should you rather show gravity to underline the importance of the challenge, or introduce a touch of lightness to help the teams overcome this difficult time?
At the beginning of 2020, a global lockdown is imposed to try and curb the Covid 19 pandemic. Connor Diemand-Yauman, co-CEO of the NGO Merit America, has to lead his first virtual meeting with the whole organization. People are exhausted and very stressed; the atmosphere is tense. Before handing over after his short introduction, he pretends to inadvertently leave his shared screen on. Everybody can then see him searching in Google: “What do inspiring leaders say in difficult times?”. This trait of humor immediately relaxed the atmosphere. It contributed to fuel the dynamism of the teams in those circumstances.
Of course, humor remains to be used with caution. It is not about laughing at the expense of others or giving the impression that you are treating the situation lightly. Nonetheless, it is proven that laughter binds groups. At the individual level, it releases a cocktail of hormones that appeases and energizes. These are precious effects, especially when times are difficult… Up to you to play!
Source: Why great leaders take humor seriously, Jennifer Aaker, Naomi Bagdonas, TEDMonterey, January 2022.Share
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Thinking of your career as a creative portfolio
As early as 1889 in The Age of Unreason, Charles Handy envisaged that careers would no longer follow a linear path and would instead progress through a variety of different jobs. Indeed, in 2007, Americans were on average changing jobs three times during their career; this proportion rose to seven in 2010, to reach twelve to fifteen in 2019!
This evolution is both stimulating and disconcerting. How can you account for your career in a coherent manner when you have such a diversity of experience? The author of The Art of Work, Jeff Goins, advises us to think of it like artists would their portfolio: each work of art has its own value and constitutes an accomplishment by itself. But combined, they show the uniqueness of the artist and their evolution. Similarly, each experience in a career, even without any apparent link with the others, has its own value and contributes at the same time to defining the professional identity of that person.
To talk about it, identify a guiding principle: which competences, which soft skills or what know-how have you used and developed in each position you have held, and how do they make you unique?
Source: Career Change: The Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Now, Laura Sheehan, TEDxHanoi, June 2018.
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Should mentoring be made compulsory?
Mentoring programs are often part of a range of tools available for staff to speed up their career development. If their value at an individual level is undisputable, what about the return on investment for the company? A study conducted on new recruits at a call center shows that programs that operate on a voluntary basis have a much lower return on investment than those that are compulsory, even if the latter only last a few weeks.
The reason behind this is a bias in the recruitment process of the participants: the people who request to benefit from these programs often already show high levels of self-motivation and a strong awareness of their perfectibility. They thus benefit from mentoring but would probably have found another way to progress. On the contrary, the people who are less clear-sighted about their competences, or less motivated, rarely volunteer for these programs. The latter’s impact on their progression curve would nonetheless be significantly higher—and consequently, the impact on the collective performance would be multiplied.
A learning to keep in mind when designing your mentoring programs.
Source: Why Your Mentoring Program Should Be Mandatory, Harvard Business Review, September-October 2022.Share
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