Our Guide to the Winter 2024 Issue

These summaries will help you navigate our winter 2024 lineup.

Reading Time: 6 min 


Set Ambitious but Realistic Environmental Goals

Kate Isaacs, Jason Jay, Jeremy Gregory, and Elsa Olivetti

Key Insight: Business leaders should judiciously set interim targets to get early wins and build momentum for sustainability goals.

Top Takeaways: Companies need to grapple with setting critical goals to reduce carbon emissions while continuing to meet business demands. Moving the needle on addressing major sustainability issues requires setting objectives that are ambitious enough to reflect an organization’s vision but sufficiently realistic as well. The authors walk readers through a five-step process for identifying and setting environmental intentions and for managing the tension between the urgent need for climate action and maintaining business health.

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The Hidden Opportunity in Paradoxes

Scott D. Anthony

Key Insight: Adopting a mindset that views apparently irreconcilable objectives as opportunities boosts creativity and organizational performance.

Top Takeaways: Business leaders face an endless array of choices. While some decisions are straightforward, others are particularly hard to make because they involve paradoxes — issues that relate to but appear to contradict each other, such as “listen to and ignore your best customers” and “sustain and disrupt your current business model.” Research shows that organizations that tackle and even embrace seemingly contradictory options expand the scope of what’s possible.

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Get Ready for More Transparent Sustainability Reporting

Richard Barker

Key Insight: Mandatory sustainability reporting will help companies show investors how they intend to manage risk and create value.

Top Takeaways: The rigorous sustainability-related financial disclosure requirements on the horizon represent an opportunity, if organizations can think of the coming regulatory revolution as more than simply an exercise in compliance. New reporting will reveal how leaders see the future, how they are planning to meet it, and what value they expect to be able to create for their companies. Focusing on what investors want can provide a useful lens for corporate planning and risk management.

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Tackling AI’s Climate Change Problem

Niklas Sundberg

Key Insight: Large AI models are big energy consumers and carbon emitters, but best practices for sustainable AI can reduce their environmental impact.

Top Takeaways: The specialized hardware and data centers needed to train and run large language models consume enormous amounts of electricity and generate tons of carbon emissions and e-waste. A single ChatGPT query, for instance, can result in 100 times more carbon than a regular Google search. But there are steps AI leaders can take to make the technology more sustainable, including rightsizing models, choosing more efficient machine learning architectures, and reducing the amount of organizational data that is stored but never used.

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Can Friction Improve Your Customers’ Experiences?

Marco Bertini, Diego Aparicio, and Aylin Aydinli

Key Insight: When e-commerce sites make buying products too quick and easy, they can miss out on deepening customer relationships.

Top Takeaways: Many companies are on a quest to make shopping as hassle-free as possible — especially online, where shoppers are less patient and have short attention spans. But slowing down the purchase process to give customers time to consider their buying decisions can actually produce longer-term benefits. It turns out that when friction enables better decisions, customer satisfaction and loyalty both improve. The authors provide an assessment to help companies determine the degree of friction that will play to these advantages.

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Leadership Development Is Failing Us. Here’s How to Fix It

Hannes Leroy, Moran Anisman-Razin, and Jim Detert

Key Insight: An effective leadership development program will have specific goals, use the most appropriate curriculum and teaching methods, and produce outcomes directly relevant to organizational needs.

Top Takeaways: Leadership development programs are expensive but often fail to produce meaningful results. For that to change, the companies that purchase these programs will have to be more involved upfront. This means asking more relevant questions of providers and demanding better answers. It also means articulating their specific development needs and how they are tied to their organizations’ strategic priorities more clearly.

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Make Better Allies of Your Workforce

Ayse Karaevli and Serden Özcan

Key Insight: Companies that take deliberate steps to include employees when making decisions experience fewer labor disputes and better manage change.

Top Takeaways: The past few years have seen an increase in workforce conflicts, such as strikes and disputes over wages, working conditions, diversity, equal opportunity, and health and safety — along with rising levels of employee disengagement. An analysis of the top public corporations in Germany found that what matters most for reducing conflict is the extent to which C-suite and board leaders actively engage employees in critical strategic decisions. The three approaches leaders can use to include employees are identifying mutual goals and interests, fostering inclusive decision processes, and giving employees strategic responsibilities.

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What Managers Everywhere Must Know About Caste

Hari Bapuji, Kamini Gupta, Snehanjali Chrispal, and Thomas Roulet

Key Insight: Caste, a South Asian sociocultural-economic hierarchy, can affect people’s access to capital, business connections, and job opportunities and result in workplace bias and discrimination worldwide.

Top Takeaways: The system of socioeconomic stratification known as caste can shape inequities and broader interactions in the workplace — not just in countries such as India and Pakistan but in places with many South Asian residents, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia. Leaders need to understand how caste works in order to adequately protect employees from its harmful effects. Companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Dell have recognized the importance of this issue by addressing caste-based discrimination in their corporate policies.

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How to Productively Disagree on Tough Topics

Kenji Yoshino and David Glasgow

Key Insight: Leaders can apply specific strategies to facilitate thorny workplace conversations about identity, diversity, and justice.

Top Takeaways: Divisive workplace interactions range from the safest subjects, where disagreement is expected or even celebrated, to controversial subjects, where the conversation is likely to turn ugly. People in positions of power have the greatest opportunity to transform the dynamics of these interactions, by fostering empathy instead of provoking fear and division. Researching another person’s point of view carefully and finding points of commonality outside of the dispute are two of several strategies the authors recommend for bringing respect to conversations and reining in anger and defensiveness.

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How Ghost Scenarios Haunt Strategy Execution

Trudi Lang and Rafael Ramírez

Key Insight: Executives must confront a strategic planning blind spot: assumptions about their organization’s future business context.

Top Takeaways: Strategic planners often ignore how a business environment’s socioeconomic status quo might change and how that new context might affect their intended outcomes. A scenario-planning mindset that surfaces ghost scenarios acknowledges these implicit assumptions, identifies potential disruptions, and then begins to account for them. Engaging with ghost scenarios could, for instance, mean exploring different ways in which trust in a particular technology might evolve or how regulatory changes might impact specific goals.

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The Real Issues Driving the Nursing Crisis

Donald Sull and Charles Sull

Key Insight: Nurses who work for staffing agencies are, on average, more satisfied than other nurses — and health care leaders need to ask why.

Top Takeaways: The top problems U.S. hospitals face are staff shortages and burnout, and nursing shortages are a particularly acute pain point. The authors’ analysis of employer reviews found that high levels of job dissatisfaction among nurses are driven in part by a view that managers are out of touch with the daily realities of patient care. One bright point is that nurses who work for staffing agencies — who are sometimes referred to as travel nurses — report better working conditions, communication, and trust. The authors’ research details the drivers of job satisfaction that other providers can learn from.

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