The Pile is our weekly guide to what we’re reading to become better managers. You can find earlier installments here and here. Some of the resources we point to may require registration or payment to read.
How’s your Great Recession coming along? Many publications, including MIT Sloan Management Review, are passing on the word that the real risk during a recession is not investing, and the most recent McKinsey Quarterly goes deep on Using the crisis to create better boards. The research at the heart of the report isn’t game-changing — no reader will be shocked to learn that “only half of the 186 directors responding thought their boards had met the demands of the crisis.” What is useful in this article are the three areas (culled from a report by the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles) in which corporate boards need to improve: “the availability of directors for extra board meetings and discussions; the widespread absence of committees for special topics, such as audits, remuneration, nominations, and strategy; and the excessively long service of some directors.” Work on those areas and there’s a better chance you have a board built for these times.
You might not associate a company best-known for decades-old postage meters for the latest in innovation ideas, but, in Integrated Innovation at Pitney Bowes, from strategy+business, you can find some useful and unexpected lessons. After a bit of the convention wisdom we’ve been referencing (“We’ve chosen to increase our innovation spending in this economic downturn.”), Pitney Bowes exec David Dobson gets past the rhetoric and describes what the company is doing:
“We implemented a program called New Business Opportunity (NBO), intended to generate a pipeline of new ventures with significant revenue possibilities. Typically, NBO ventures involve the participation of several of our business units; we provide leadership and small teams, with funding from both corporate and business units. In launching one of these businesses, we do a lot of in-market testing and development; if we find the early results disappointing, we’ll adapt our strategy or simply kill the idea and move on to the next opportunity.”