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When It’s Smart to Copy Your Competitor’s Brand Promise

Marketers know they should keep their messages simple if they want to cut through the noise and reach customers. The key question is then: Of your product’s attributes, which one should you focus on? New research of ours suggests that companies may want to emphasize the same attribute that their rivals do. Consider bottled water. Evian, one of the most durable brands in bottled water, has cultivated a strong association with purity. Danone, the company who owns Evian, has established this association by emphasizing the purity of its water source: the ageless, untouched glaciers covering the Alps. If you were entering the bottled water market alongside of Evian, following marketing principles might lead you to differentiate your brand on a dimension other than purity. Lifestyle would be a good point of differentiation, wouldn’....
Is Your Team Coordinating Too Much, or Not Enough?

Effective teams don’t just happen — you design them. And two of the most important elements of that design are a.) the degree to which team members are interdependent — where they need to rely on each other to accomplish the team task, and b.) how you’ll actually coordinate that interdependence. This issue arose when I presented a leadership team with survey results showing that its team members had very different beliefs about how much they needed to actively coordinate their work to achieve the team’s goals. Several members believed they were like a gymnastics team: they could achieve team goals by simply combining each member’s independent work, much like a gymnastics team rolls up the scores of individuals’ events to achieve its team score. Others — especially the leader — be....
The Other Kind of Inequality, Explained

Pay gaps are rising between companies more than within them.
Why the Lowly Dandelion Is a Better Metaphor for Leaders than the Mighty Banyan

Banyans are among the world’s largest and longest-living trees — one in India is more than 200 years old and is reported to be the world’s largest tree. Bigger than the average Wal-Mart, it has a canopy of more than 19,000 square meters. Not surprisingly, this visual distinctiveness has come to symbolize magnificence, immortality, and stature — attributes typically associated with strong, stable leadership. Particularly, in South East Asia, where it grows, the Banyan also has deep cultural reverence. It is designated as the National Tree of India.  Leadership Institutes, conferences, and management gurus reference the mighty banyan in their teachings. There are good reasons the metaphor is so popular. Like the banyan, many well-regarded leaders get their start by capitalizing on a nascent opportunity. Similar....
Stop Mindlessly Going Through Your Work Day

How often have you looked at the clock stunned because even though you’ve been scrambling all morning, it’s now noon and you have no idea where the time went or what you’ve actually accomplished? There are sound reasons why it’s so hard for us to stay focused — and fortunately there’s research that shows what we can do about it. One of the most effective tactics for staying on task is to bring purpose to each moment of your work. That might sound daunting — and it does take work — but mindlessly performing tasks (think about slogging through emails or conducting meetings on autopilot) is a recipe for inefficiency, disengagement, and even poor health. On the other hand, the benefits to our productivity, well-being, and health of having a clear sense of purpose — even in our most trivia....
The Rise of Corporate Inequality

Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom discusses the research he’s conducted showing what’s really driving the growth of income inequality: a widening gap between the most successful companies and the rest, across industries. In other words, inequality has less to do with what you do for work, and more to do with which specific company you work for. The rising gap in pay between firms accounts for a large majority of the rise in income inequality overall. Bloom tells us why, and discusses some ways that companies and governments might address it. He’s the author of the Harvard Business Review article, “Corporations in the Age of Inequality.” For more, visit hbr.org/inequality. Download this podcast
Being an Ethical Business in a Corrupt Environment

Most business leaders hesitate to take a firm stand against corruption, even in environments where it is widespread. Some may see benefits from indulging in corrupt practices such as faster processing of permits or less interference from governmental officials. At the same time, the perceived costs of corruption are low, due to poorly formulated anti-corruption laws and ineffective enforcement, which leads to a very low likelihood of prosecution and punishment. As a result, as much as they may detest corruption, most business leaders end up succumbing to it. Indeed, many see themselves as victims of the endemic corruption rather than as its perpetrators – “Everyone else is doing it,” they may tell themselves, “So we have to do it too.” This does not have to be the case, and in fact, it should not be the....
How Utilities Are Using Blockchain to Modernize the Grid

In New York state, neighbors are testing their ability to sell solar energy to one another using blockchain technology. In Austria, the country’s largest utility conglomerate, Wien Energie, is taking part in a blockchain trial focused on energy trading with two other utilities. Meanwhile in Germany, the power company Innogy is running a pilot to see if blockchain technology can authenticate and manage the billing process for autonomous electric-vehicle charging stations. Blockchain has grabbed the attention of the heavily regulated power industry as it braces for an energy revolution in which both utilities and consumers will produce and sell electricity. Blockchain could offer a reliable, low-cost way for financial or operational transactions to be recorded and validated across a distributed network with no central point of author....
Incentives Don’t Help People Change, but Peer Pressure Does

What motivates people to change the way they work? When organizations introduce new processes or systems, or when they want to stimulate performance for certain business practices, they often assemble dedicated task forces, assign them specific goals, and identify deadlines and financial rewards. But once the initiative is completed and the bonus cashed, a question always arises: will behaviors and business practices stick around, or will people drift back to their old ways of working? In a recent study conducted in a California hospital, I found that that the type of incentive matters. In particular, peer pressure appears to go a longer way than money does. In the study, which is currently a working paper, I used hospital data on hand hygiene to study how a temporary intervention would influence the persistence of performance improvemen....
Why Being a Middle Manager Is So Exhausting

There is no shortage of advice for how to navigate power dynamics within organizations — from managing toxic or exceptionally gifted subordinates to dealing with unpredictable and narcissistic bosses. Researchers have devoted entire careers to systematically cataloging the many ways in which those who have power differ from those who lack power with respect to their motivations, behaviors, biases, etc. (a sampling of these findings can be found here, here, here, and here). The problem is that most of these recommendations tend to focus on the experience of leading or following in isolation, while neglecting the unique challenges inherent in having to do both. Despite our fascination with the extreme ends of the power distribution, the reality is that most employees possess a middling amount of power and must repeatedly alternate be....
Blockchain Could Help Artists Profit More from Their Creative Works

Anyone who follows the cultural industries — art, music, publishing, theater, cinema — knows of the tussles between artists and those who feed off of their talents. The traditional food chain in movie-making, for example, is a long one: Between those who create a film and those who pay for it — movie goers, cable subscribers, pay-per-viewers, advertisers, rights licensees, and institutional sponsors such as the National Endowment for the Arts — is a multitude of middlemen: online retailers (Amazon, Walmart), streaming video services (Netflix, YouTube, Hulu), theatre venues (Wanda’s AMC, Regal, Cinemark),  product placement and media agencies (Propaganda GEM, Omicom’s OMD), film producers (Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios, Disney-Pixar), movie distributors (Sony Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros.),....
When Your Toughest Conversations Are the Ones You Have with Yourself

Martin leads the largest division of a global company. You feel his presence immediately when he walks into a room. Not because he’s flashy or full of ego, but because he’s neither. Instead, it’s the unshakable confidence that comes from knowing exactly who you are, and the star power that accompanies a certain kind of seniority. It’s hard to imagine him in a moment of self-doubt. And yet on the inside, he does berate himself. If something catches him by surprise, he’ll think, “You should’ve seen that coming.” After giving a keynote, he tells himself, “Lousy talk!” If a client turns down a proposal, he asks himself the aching question: “What’s wrong with you?” Dominique, an executive at a European company, has a similar kind of inspiring confidence — and ....
What Creativity in Marketing Looks Like Today

What makes marketing creative? Is it more imagination or innovation?  Is a creative marketer more artist or entrepreneur? Historically, the term “marketing creative” has been associated with the words and pictures that go into ad campaigns. But marketing, like other corporate functions, has become more complex and rigorous. Marketers need to master data analytics, customer experience, and product design. Do these changing roles require a new way of thinking about creativity in marketing? To explore this question, we interviewed senior marketing executives across dozens of top brands. We asked them for examples of creativity in marketing that go beyond ad campaigns and deliver tangible value to the business. Their stories — and the five wider trends they reflect — help illustrate what it means to be ....
Rethinking Your Supply Chain in an Era of Protectionism

Most U.S. and European companies have spent the past 20 years concentrating more and more of their manufacturing in East Asia to reduce costs by exploiting labor-arbitrage opportunities and address the promise of that rapidly growing market. It’s time for them to rethink their supply-chain strategies. Adjusting to new economic realities as well as political and economic uncertainties will require making their supply chains much more resilient. There are three reasons a rethink is due: East Asia’s shrinking cost advantage. The fraction of global manufacturing done in Asia (measured by value added) jumped from 29% in 2000 to 45% in 2015. We’ve been warning for years that this shift had gone too far and had urged global companies to rethink their manufacturing and sourcing footprint (see Made in America, Again an....
Research: Junior Female Scientists Aren’t Getting the Credit They Deserve

According to the U.S. National Science Foundation, women earn about half of the doctoral degrees in science, yet they represent a mere 21% of the faculty at the full professor level at research institutions in the United States. In explaining these numbers, a great deal of attention has been given to the “glass ceiling” – the idea that women reach a level near the top of their organizations beyond which they simply cannot advance. But women often meet barriers well before they have climbed to the upper echelons. Our research focused on the advancement of women in the academic life sciences, chiefly biology and medicine. Similar to science more broadly, women earn about half of life science doctorates, but only 21% of them land full professorships and a mere 15% serve as department chairs at medical schools, for example.....
Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It)

When people find out I’m an executive coach, they often ask who my toughest clients are. Inexperienced leaders? Senior leaders who think they know everything? Leaders who bully and belittle others? Leaders who shirk responsibility? The answer is none of the above. The hardest leaders to coach are those who won’t reflect — particularly leaders who won’t reflect on themselves. At its simplest, reflection is about careful thought. But the kind of reflection that is really valuable to leaders is more nuanced than that. The most useful reflection involves the conscious consideration and analysis of beliefs and actions for the purpose of learning. Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, a....
Is R&D Getting Harder, or Are Companies Just Getting Worse At It?

We know innovation drives corporate growth. As Strategy& reported in its 2015 survey of 1,757 executives, “innovation today is a key driver of organic growth for all companies — regardless of sector or geography.” According to that report, the top 1,000 R&D spenders invested $680 billion in R&D that year, up 5% from the prior year. Historically, R&D has been viewed as the engine of national economic growth as well. Despite the importance of innovation to companies, as well as to the broader economy, despite the 250% rise in the number of scientists and engineers engaged in R&D, and despite all the experts dedicated to helping companies innovate, the money companies spend on R&D is producing fewer and fewer results. In fact, my research shows the returns to companies’ R&D spending have d....
Walmart Won’t Stay on Top If Its Strategy Is “Copy Amazon”

Walmart’s recent change to free two-day shipping for online orders, no membership required, is the latest in a series of moves the company has made to fight Amazon and grow its e-commerce business. Last year, it purchased Jet.com and installed Jet’s founder, Marc Lore, as head of its e-commerce division. It has also been acquiring e-commerce niche players, including Shoebuy and outdoor gear retailer Moosejaw, and digital technology companies, such as search experts Adchemy and cloud platform OneOps. Walmart does need to shore up its e-commerce capabilities, but its attempts to out-Amazon Amazon aren’t a winning strategy. For one thing, by offering the new shipping service, Walmart is really only playing catch-up. Lore himself described free shipping as table stakes. And the new shipping offer doesn’....
When You Agree to a Networking Meeting But Don’t Know What You’re Going to Talk About

For some networking meetings, the agenda is obvious: Your companies are considering doing business together, or you’re looking for a job and this person might help you get one. But many professionals find themselves in networking meetings where the goals are murkier. Perhaps a friend thought you’d hit it off with someone and introduced you, or you met the person briefly at an event and they followed up for indeterminate reasons. In some cases, you’ll decline the invitation (see “5 Ways to Say No to a Networking Request” for my tips on how to do it). But if the connection seems promising, you may decide to say yes and see where it leads. Here are four ways to ensure your networking meeting is productive and meaningful, even if the agenda is amorphous. First, it’s important to be clear on your ....
Where Both the ACA and AHCA Fall Short, and What the Health Insurance Market Really Needs

The question of whether the United States will have functioning markets where individuals can buy health care insurance lies at the heart of the current debate about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since about 20 million Americans depend on these markets for insurance — and thus access to health care — their functioning is also essential to the future of the U.S. health care system. To understand the ongoing battles about the individual, or non-group, markets and their reform, three points should be kept in mind. First, these insurance markets were distressed before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Second, the ACA improved their functioning but was not sufficient as passed and implemented to stabilize all of them. Neither, however, is the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the....
Research: Stale Office Air Is Making You Less Productive

How often do you consider the air quality in your office and how it affects employees and their productivity? Chances are it’s not often. There is a tendency to assume that, as long as commonly used standards for air quality are met, it won’t be an issue. But these standards aren’t very high. One common international standard that governs how much air is brought in from outside, “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Quality,” does not even purport to assure “healthy” air quality. In the 1970s, efforts to conserve energy in the U.S. included tightening up buildings and reducing ventilation rates so buildings didn’t have to bring as much fresh air inside. This inadvertently led to a buildup of indoor pollutants and the birth of a phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome,”....
Does Work Make You Happy? Evidence from the World Happiness Report

Since most of us spend a great deal of our lives working, it is inevitable that work plays a key role in shaping our levels of happiness. In a recent chapter of the World Happiness Report — published annually to coincide with the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness — we look more closely at the relationship between work and happiness. We draw largely upon the Gallup World Poll, which has been surveying people in over 150 countries around the world since 2006. These efforts allow us to analyze data from hundreds of thousands of individuals across the globe and investigate the ways in which elements of people’s working lives drive their wellbeing. Subjective wellbeing – often loosely referred to as happiness – can be measured along multiple dimensions. We look primarily at how people evaluate ....
Shutting Down Your Business Gracefully

Much has been written about how to grow a business. Sadly, however, given the daunting business survival statistics, most businesses never get an opportunity to scale up. They start small and stay small, and many eventually shut down, whether sooner or later. Of those few that do begin to scale, the effort to scale up often fails to last, and the all-too-familiar roller-coaster of life in business heads, or threatens to head, downhill. Thus, a far more common challenge is that of scaling down: How to gracefully scale down and close a business – with your reputation, trust, and dignity intact – and live build another business, in another arena, on another day. To examine how key constituencies — clients, suppliers, employees – can be fairly dealt with, we will deconstruct the story of a company (founded by one....
Rethinking the Corporate Love Affair with Change

Managers have a tendency to belittle the people we see as “resistant to change” – the employees who don’t change fast enough. But this bias toward speed and change – and above all, speedy change — belies humanity’s innate, and often advantageous, embrace of a blend of change and stability. The effective executive knows this to be true, and welcomes change into some parts of the organization, while holding it at bay from others. Consider Amazon: The company has almost single-handedly transformed major parts of the retail, logistics, and internet sectors in just two decades. It has kept up a feverish pace of change in its consumer offerings, shaping how we shop for everyday goods (online), who influences our purchase decisions (anonymous fellow customers), what we read (ebooks), when we expect to r....
The Pros and Cons of Competition Among Employees

Competition between employees is an inescapable part of most people’s work lives. Whether overtly or otherwise, most companies create a dynamic in which employees compete against each other for recognition, bonuses, and promotions.  After a close look at workplace policies across corporations, banks, law firms, and tech companies, the New York Times called grueling competition the defining feature of the upper-echelon workplace. Some research studies suggest such competition can motivate employees, make them put in more effort, and achieve results. Indeed, competition increases physiological and psychological activation, which prepares body and mind for increased effort and enables higher performance. However, employees can achieve their results in different ways. At Wells Fargo, for example, empl....

TECHNALINK HIGHLIGHTS
The OM Factor received the prestigious honor of the Bronze Medal from The Axiom Business Book Awards as one of the best business books of 2016.
  

In celebration of women role models in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), STEMconnectortm unveils in hard copy and online its inaugural 100 Women Leaders in STEM publicatin. The heroines included in 100 Women Leaders in STEM share stories about their commitment to serving as mentors and sponsors of those who are next in the stem jobs pipline.
           
Mclean, VA - Technalink, Inc. is excited to announce that Alka Dhillon, Founder & Chief Executive Officer has been selected as a winner for the 2012 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement Award Presented by SmartCEO.
    
Alka Dhillon, Founder and CEO, Technalink (McLean,VA) Recognized as one of the leading female CEOs in the Washington, DC, area, Ms. Dhillon is known for her irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for giving back to the community.

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