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Game-Changing Strategies for Corporate Boards

The process of recruiting members to a board is often mistaken for the actual onboarding. Much is at stake in terms of legal and fiduciary responsibilities, but relatively little attention is paid to creating the conditions within the board to extract the distinctive knowledge of its new members. Three strategies can help boards do a better job leveraging the unique expertise of each board member.

Governments as Facilitators of Value Creation

There is a fundamental humanity to business institutions. Businesses are cooperative endeavors that leverage human work and creativity to create social value. Stable, functional, and purpose-driven businesses are key to real human flourishing. And yet many governments are expected to be neutral about business, acting as either redistributor or regulator. There is a third role, though: facilitator.

Let Your Digital Strategy Emerge

What can digital technologies do to help an organization solve customer problems? And what solutions will customers find valuable? It’s only when leaders wrestle with these questions that a digital strategy can emerge. To get there, organizations need to create a portfolio of business experiments and engage with customers to gain insight into their problems and potential solutions. The intersection between what’s possible and what’s desired is where a business will succeed.

There’s Always a Time Lag (With a Price Tag)

Technology changes faster than society can keep up, a pattern now playing out with artificial intelligence. Many CEOs are taking a wait-and-see approach to AI, while others are anxious to barrel forward. In both cases, there’s little conversation about AI’s human costs. Incremental adaption makes it more likely that AI algorithms shared across organizations and geography are spreading their shortcomings. Leaders must act to mitigate these challenges if AI is to benefit society.

AI-Driven Leadership

Not many companies are there yet, but there’s a developing framework for what it takes to lead an AI-driven company. Leaders at the forefront of AI have seven key attributes: They learn the technologies; establish clear business objectives; set an appropriate level of ambition; look beyond pilots and proofs of concept; prepare people for the journey; get the necessary data; and orchestrate collaborative organizations.

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Explaining the Business Case for Sustainability Again … and Again … and Again

The question “What’s the business case for sustainability?” has come roaring back over the last couple of years. It’s led, in part, by more intense investor focus on the issue: Financial execs are having to become more fluent in sustainability as investors grill them about how their companies are handling climate risks around supply chains and shifting regulatory landscapes and markets.

The Challenge of Scaling Soft Skills

We understand a lot about how to develop the “hard skills” of analysis, decision-making, and analytical judgment, but we know a great deal less about the genesis of “soft skills” like empathy, context sensing, collaboration, and creative thinking, which are becoming increasingly valuable in the workplace. Understanding the obstacles to developing these soft skills and then addressing those barriers is crucial for our schools, homes, and workplaces.

The High Cost of the Actions We Don’t Take

We can choose not to engage in improving the world. We can seize on every advantage available to us and our companies without thought to the consequences. We can act as if the planet and the global economy are not among our most critical stakeholders. We can join the crush of others who are just hoping to play out the string: keep our heads down, meet our numbers, collect our bonuses, and abdicate long-term responsibility to the next generation. But when we make those choices, we do violence against the future.

Gender Discrimination Still Exists — Now What?

In both practice and research, we are doing a better job at bringing attention to the problem of gender bias. But we haven’t established enough tangible suggestions for how to challenge it. New research has begun to investigate the efficacy of ‘scripts’ — a set of words or phrases, such as, “Can you repeat what you just said?” that would signal to a peer that he has crossed a line, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Business, Technology, and Ethics: The Need for Better Conversations

The fusion of business, technology, and ethics is unfolding at a rate that appears to outstrip our ability as citizens to have meaningful and careful conversations about the effects of our actions on others. At the same time, the civic processes that should encourage innovative solutions to new problems appear to be broken. What we need is a commitment to honestly talk about the challenges technology now poses.

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Goodbye Structure; Hello Accountability

Companies will be able to operate as true digital organizations only when they learn how to respond quickly to unanticipated opportunities and threats. But instead of restructuring to increase agility, some organizations are assigning accountabilities for specific business outcomes to small teams or individual problem owners. Tackling new objectives is then built around individual flexibility, market-based resource allocation, experimental mindsets, and coaching rather than managing.

The Ability to Navigate the In-Between Spaces

Efforts to effectively connect decision-makers in large organizations across functions, divisions, and business units — not to mention with other companies, governments, and other external stakeholders — usually require organizational innovations. Several key leadership attributes are necessary for this to work. They include the ability to navigate the gaps not covered by specialists, a record of following through and getting things done, and knowledge of other cultures, including the ability to speak multiple languages.

Blockchain and the Clean, Smart Grid

Some techies think that blockchain and “tamperproof databases” will revolutionize more than money: A blockchain platform for the energy sector could accelerate the transition to renewables. Blockchain can help by making tracking energy more granular, automated, and trusted, which can allow companies to better verify claims of carbon neutrality. It could also streamline financing and insuring new energy projects and even help create a new kind of energy market.

The Need for ‘Techno-Supporting Skeptics’

Digital technologies will increase the high levels of ambiguity that executives must navigate. Aspiring leaders may respond by ignoring the challenge, which isn’t sustainable. A better response is to harbor healthy skepticism of the digital technologies they champion, develop values that will lead to better decisions, and work to institutionalize those values at the organizational level.

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The Impossibility of Focusing on Two Things at Once

Neurological science has demonstrated that brains are not hardwired to focus simultaneously on day-to-day activities and long-term objectives. In the workplace, that presents a challenge: How can employees maximize individual performance while enhancing organizational success? Research into employee behavior underscores the need for organizations to help employees familiarize themselves with perspectives not readily available in their current roles.

The Time for Retraining Is Now

None of us know how our technological future will unfold. But whether there will be a net increase or decrease in jobs overall, it’s clear that these will be different jobs, requiring different skill sets. We need to act now to enable current employers and employees to gain the skills they are going to need in the brave world of AI technology.

Digital Is About Speed — But It Takes a Long Time

The ability of digital technologies to accelerate business is giving rise to new value propositions — new ways to eliminate hassles and create solutions. But research from MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research suggests that while business leaders need to start redesigning their existing systems and roles to better solve customers’ problems, they will not be able to do so quickly. Case in point: The slow and steady digital transformation of Dutch technology company Royal Philips.

How Leaders Face the Future of Work

Some leaders have failed to realize that the daily lives of those who work in their organizations will inevitably be transformed over the coming decades. But it’s the responsibility of leaders to create clarity about the future of work. That means being engaged with creating a narrative about the future of jobs, actively championing the learning agenda, and role modeling work flexibility — for instance, by taking paternity leave or working from home.

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