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Can Charisma Be Taught?

Brain GamesThe Charm HackerMatterOlivia Fox Cabane is an introvert who was an outcast in school. Today she earns six figures teaching people, mostly up-and-coming Silicon Valley leaders, how to be charismatic. Her story is not only an inspiring one of adapting self-help narratives and neuroscience to "trick" her own mind; it’s also a tale couched in almost a century of management thinking about who can and can't be a leader. Sixty years ago, Matter's Teresa Chin writes, "somebody like Olivia would have been better off seeking a profession in which she could mostly avoid people." It was, in part, the rise of the technology industry that gave charm a new urgency, because tech companies needed managers on the inside who were "technical and charismatic." Indeed, "perhaps only in Silicon Valley would a group of engineers think they coul....
Why Entrepreneurs Will Beat Multinationals to the Bottom of the Pyramid

C.K. Prahalad and Stuart Hart’s seminal book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid gained a wide audience when it was published in 2004 and has continued to be widely read ever since. Its iconic phrase, “bottom of the pyramid,” entered the English lexicon. The book was a call to action to the world’s largest companies to develop new products for the four billion people living on $4 a day or less—a market representing what was in effect the new frontier for corporate expansion. What was the result of this stirring cry a decade ago? On the fifth anniversary of the book’s publication, Professor Prahalad was interviewed by Knowledge@Wharton. He was asked “what impact have your ideas had on companies and on poor consumers?” Prahalad asserted that the impact had been “profound,” citing the $200 laptop computer, th....
Midsized Firms Can’t Afford Bad Bets

CEOs of midsized companies who make big bets can lose the farm. The executives of Fortune 500 companies might be able to lose the same bet with impunity, and the founders of venture capital-funded startups are only renting the farm (with the VC’s money) anyway. But for a midsize company, an ambitious investment that you don’t have the wherewithal to execute on can be fatal. These travails don’t just happen to declining midsized firms making the business equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. In fact, rapidly growing midsized companies are even more vulnerable to running out of cash while gunning for growth than are shrinking firms. Even what appears to be a small investment risk can turn into a big one, especially when information technology comes into play. That was the case at a toy importer that was pressing the growth pedal to the....
Your Tendency to Put Things Off May Have Been Inherited

46% of the trait of procrastination is due to genetic influences, according to a study of hundreds of sets of twins. The research also lends support to a theory that procrastination, in its tendency to undermine adherence to long-term goals, is a byproduct of impulsivity, which may have had an evolutionary origin: Hunter-gatherers had an advantage if they acted swiftly to satisfy their survival needs. Your genetics don’t necessarily condemn you to a life of procrastination: The 46% figure means procrastination is only “moderately heritable,” according to the researchers, led by Daniel E. Gustavson of the University of Colorado.
Privacy Is a Business Opportunity

Technology innovation and the power of data analytics present tremendous value, but also new challenges. While a digital economy requires businesses to rethink priorities and practices, this doesn’t have to be a burden. Instead, privacy protection should be a practice as fundamental to the business as customer service. Privacy is an essential element of being a good business partner. It may take time for this idea to sink in at the highest executive levels of some companies, but the conversation is advancing rapidly after a number of recent high-profile data breaches. Consumers are now not only second-guessing the security of their personal information when they make routine shopping trips, but are also extending this lack of trust to how they perceive the stores and brands they once preferred. Discussions of privacy and security ....
Best of the IdeaCast

Featuring Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz, Francis Ford Coppola, Maya Angelou, Nancy Koehn, Rob Goffee, Gareth Jones, Cathy Davidson, and Mark Blyth. Download this podcast
How to Have an Honest Data-Driven Debate

Malcolm Gladwell of bestselling Tipping Point and Outliers fame proposed a delightfully provocative way to begin his onstage debate with Sports Gene author David Epstein about whether practice or genetics is the better guarantor of professional success. But instead of launching directly into argument, said Gladwell, they’d start by summarizing their opponent’s best arguments. The exceedingly careful, precise and thoughtful characterizations of each other’s position that followed proved remarkably entertaining and informative. More importantly, it facilitated one of the best-reviewed and most absorbing panels at MIT Sloan’s highly-regarded Sports Analytics Conference. Gladwell’s gimmick of forcing people to fairly communicate their rival’s case is rhetorical old hat. But the rise of Big Data a....
Help Your Employees Find Flow

Holacracy. Results-Only Work Environments. These new, more flexible ways of working may be a step too far for many organizations. Still, greater employee freedom can create a better sense of “flow,” which enhances engagement, retention, and performance. This can be achieved by loosening your grip on work practices — but you don’t have to let go completely: remove obstacles, set boundaries and meaningful goals, then let work take its course. Stefan Groschupf, founder and CEO of Datameer, a big data analytics company, talked with me about how he tries to reduce negative interruptions and increase “flow.” His industry is one of the most pressured to recruit and retain top talent. He’s finding that the organization is more productive (e.g., has more leads generated in marketing or has engineers moving through projects m....
The Secret Ingredient in GE’s Talent-Review System

GE is often highlighted as an organization that develops some of the most effective leaders. Most companies have a version of the talent-review system we use at GE. But judging from what I hear from managers of companies that visit us to benchmark our system, the difference between our approach and theirs does not lie in forms, rankings, tools, or technologies. It lies in the intensity of the discussion about performance and values. The debate, the dialogue, and the time taken to have an exhaustive view of an individual − evaluating them based on both what they accomplish and how they lead − are far more important than any of the mechanics. The heart of our system has always been about the enormous time commitment the organization and the leadership devote to the conversation about people. As the custodian of the talent-review ....
The Two Questions Every Manager Must Ask

When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. And management techniques, practices, and strategies are no different. When you read a business book or attend a presentation on a particular management practice, it is a good habit to explicitly ask, “What might it not be good for?” When might it not work; what could be its drawbacks? If the presenter’s answer is “there are none,” a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted. Because that’s unfortunately not how life works, and that’s not how organizations work. It relates to what Michael Porter meant with being “stuck in the middle”: if you try to come up with a strategy that does everything for everyone, you will likely end up achieving nothing. If you focus your strategy on, for instance, achieving low costs, you will likely have to sacrifice delivering super....
Easing the Load of the Battery-Powered Soldier

Batteries account for about 30 of the 90 pounds of gear carried by U.S. soldiers and Marines, Navy official Roger M. Natsuhara tells the Wall Street Journal. That’s because a lot of their equipment, from infrared viewers to communicators, is powered. The military has now developed unrollable photovoltaic panels for recharging batteries, so that fewer batteries are required and, thus, fewer have to be thrown away—an important security issue, because a trail of dead batteries shows the enemy where soldiers have been.
Why the Financial Services Industry Is Showing More Women in Its Ads

Financial services firms want to reach more women; so I conclude from data presented by Pamela Grossman of Getty Images at SXSW this year. According to data collected by Getty, financial firms are buying 20% more stock photos of women today than they were five years ago. At the same time, the share of men shown in their advertising has declined. Of course, we live in a wildly diverse world; we want to be inclusive and broad minded ourselves; and we therefore want our providers of financial advice, energy, and technology to reflect those values. We prefer Morgan Stanley or CitiGroup to be talking to all of us, showing us that they have transcended their traditional, mostly white and male clientele. According to Chris Edwards, former Group Creative Director for Arnold Worldwide, we also want visual evidence that the professionals at th....
The Quick and Dirty on Data Visualization

Displaying data can be a tricky proposition, because different rules apply in different contexts. A sales director presenting financial projections to a group of field reps wouldn’t visualize her data the same way that a design consultant would in a written proposal to a potential client. So how do you make the right choices for your situation? Before displaying your data, ask yourself these five questions: 1. Am I presenting or circulating my data? Context plays a huge role in how best to render data. When delivering a presentation, show the conclusions you’ve drawn, not all the details that led you to those conclusions. Because your slides will be up for only a few seconds, your audience will need to process them quickly. People won’t have time to chew on a lot of complex information, and they’re not likely to run up to the....
Bonuses Should Be Tied to Customer Value, Not Sales Targets

Why would you eliminate sales targets as a way to evaluate, motivate, and reward your sales staff? That is perhaps the most frequent question I’ve received since 2011 when GlaxoSmithKline changed the link between the bonus pay of our pharmaceutical sales professionals in the United States and the numbers of prescription sold for a particular medicine. It is after all a well-established incentive plan used across a spectrum of industries. But at GSK and across the pharmaceutical industry, we have a very special responsibility to patients and caregivers. They depend on us to do more, feel better, and live longer. It is that responsibility and the crucial importance of trust in our relationships that means we are judged to a higher standard than many other industries. I have seen the good that our industry does in transforming the li....
Clumsy Feedback Is a Poorly Wrapped Gift

People on your team offer you gifts – not just at special occasions, but all year. These gifts aren’t tangible, and they’re not wrapped up in lovely boxes with beautiful bows. These gifts are nicely wrapped in a compliment, or, more often, not-so-nicely wrapped in a criticism or complaint. Effective leaders open these gifts, regardless of the wrapping, to learn what they are doing that’s negatively affecting others on their team. For example, when your boss says, “You did a great job on that presentation,” the compliment is the wrapping. You can go past the wrapping and open the gift to learn more by saying something like, “Thanks. I’m curious, what did I do that was great? I want to make sure to keep doing it.” Many of us judge a gift by its wrapping, so when it’s poorly wrapped – when it looks bad, sounds bad,....
Ever Notice That UPS Trucks Rarely Make Left Turns?

An estimated 90% of the turns made by UPS delivery trucks are right turns, and that’s intentional, according to the Washington Post. Left turns are seen as inefficient, because they leave trucks sitting in traffic longer. The logistics company says a policy of minimizing left turns has helped it save more than 10 million gallons of fuel over the past decade. Left turns (in countries where people drive on the right) are dangerous, too: New York City officials say left turns are 3 times more likely than right turns to cause a deadly crash involving a pedestrian.
How GE and IBM are Playing Global Development to Win

Most big corporations follow global development trends. Where there is economic growth, there is opportunity, and the companies that can predict where growth will take place are better positioned to take advantage of it. That is the reactive approach to economic development. In the last few years, a more powerful dynamic has gained traction. CEOs are proactively engaging with emerging market government to spur economic development and create opportunities for their companies. In the fast growth markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America, national governments are responding to a more empowered citizenship, and looking for corporate partners to achieve their development goals. Companies that fill that need effectively are doing more than reacting to development. They are playing development to win. General Electric is a good example. Fo....
Prototype Your Product, Protect Your Brand

Designers and entrepreneurs have been experimenting with live prototyping — putting unfinished product ideas in the context of real markets and real customer situations — for years, and now bigger businesses have begun to catch on. Many executives, eager to avoid over-investing in the wrong ideas, are intrigued by this approach, but they’re leery of putting unpolished products and services out in the market. Might we tarnish our brand? Will customers trust us less once they’ve experienced the rough edges of our prototype? Might we expose our strategy to competitors? The concern can be valid, but by answering a few questions, and playing with a few variables, you can usually find a way to conduct market experiments that does not put your relationship with customers at risk. A good first step is to get a sense of your customer....
To Tell Your Story, Take a Page from Kurt Vonnegut​

In the 1989 movie Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams, playing the iconoclastic English teacher John Keating, dismisses the notion that you can judge the perfection of a poem mathematically by plotting how artfully it employs meter, rhyme, and metaphor against how important the subject is. Rather than have his students think they could graph the relative merits of, say, a Shakespeare sonnet against a poem by Alan Ginsberg, he has them rip up their textbooks. Data can’t tell us anything about stories, he’s saying, as pages of Understanding Poetry, by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D., fly all over the room. Businesspeople are often advised to turn their data into stories to make them more persuasive. And that is certainly good advice. But they are given precious few tools to help them do that. It turns out though, John Keating notwi....
How to Override Your Default Reactions in Tough Moments

“It’s 9:00am, you’re across the table from a colleague who doesn’t like you or the changes you’re proposing, she’s pushing all your hot-buttons and resisting your efforts to get her to support the change. What’s your typical reaction?” I recently posed this question to a group of executives. About two thirds of the executives admitted that their typical behavior is competitive: return the aggression and argue to win. The other third said they typically do the opposite:  retreat, recoup, and try again later. But either way, it was a default reflex – not a strategic response. We all have default behaviors. And when we are in the moment, trying our best to perform well, how we handle these automatic reflexes can be the difference between success and failure. It’s these moments that add up to the larger tasks and pro....
Your Business Doesn’t Always Need to Change

Evolve or die. If it ain’t broke, break it. If you don’t like change, you are going to like obsolescence even less. By now, the idea that organizations must adapt in order to maintain both relevance and market share in a rapidly changing world is so ingrained that it’s been reduced to pithy sayings. And there are many organizations — from Blockbuster to Kodak, print-only newspapers to pay-phone makers — that no doubt wish they’d followed the advice. But is constant adaptation always the best policy? Our research indicates it isn’t. Indeed, any company considering an adaptation initiative should first ask itself five questions: Do your customers really want you to change? The offerings from privately-held Berger Cookies in Baltimore have been the same for 179 years. The company’s continued success shows that people cr....
Your Ability to Size Up a Face Probably Isn’t Based on Experience

If adults assume that their ability to discern trustworthiness, or the lack thereof, in strangers’ faces is a skill honed over a lifetime, they’re wrong. Children ages 5 and 6 made very nearly the same judgments about the trustworthiness of computer-generated faces as adults, and children ages 3 to 4 were off by just a few percentage points, says a team led by Emily J. Cogsdill of Harvard. People make inferences—right or wrong—about strangers’ characters within 50 milliseconds of viewing their faces, prior research has shown.
The Indispensable Power of Story

Some people have a way of making the complex clear.  They know who they are, why they do what they do, and where they want to go. Because they have internalized all this, they are able to sharply crystallize ideas and vision. They speak in simple, relatable terms. And they can get a lot accomplished. Making your words understandable and inspirational isn’t about dumbing them down. Instead, it requires bringing in elements such as anecdote, mnemonic, metaphor, storytelling, and analogy in ways that connect the essence of a message with both logic and emotion. Almost everyone leading or creating has a vision, but the challenge is often expressing it in ways that relate and connect. Quick, think of some former Presidents of the United States and presidential candidates. Which ones are most memorable? Which ones are most likable? Whic....
Why Amazon Is Copying Zappos and Paying Employees to Quit

Last week, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos released his annual letter to shareholders. As is the case every year, it is a tour de force of ideas and initiatives about the customer experience (Amazon Prime), disruptive technology (Fire TV), fast-growing product initiatives (Amazon Web Services), and strategic consistency. (As he does every year, Bezos attached his first letter to shareholders from back in 1997 to underscore the company’s long-term commitments.) Still, for all these big, cutting-edge innovations, it was a small, pre-existing idea, something that Amazon borrowed from one its subsidiaries, that generated the most public attention. Bezos’s letter unveiled his well-named Pay to Quit program, in which the company offers fulfillment-center employees one-time payments to leave Amazon. Each employee gets the offer once a....
Heartbleed, the Branding of a Bug, and the Internet of Things

One week later, and the Heartbleed Bug news cycle is winding down without any known reports of catastrophic damage. A case of security wonks crying wolf? No, says cryptographer and security expert Bruce Schneier, who is known for measured, thoughtful responses to vulnerabilities and called this one “catastrophic.” HBR spoke with Schneier about what he considers the surprisingly effective response to Heartbleed, how difficult security is because of humans, and why he’s happy Heartbleed wasn’t discovered in the near future, when the Internet of Things will make it much more difficult to fix bugs. You’re not known for hyperbole, but on your blog you called Heartbleed ‘catastrophic’ and said that on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s an 11. What makes it so bad? Heartbleed is a vulnerability that affected ....

TECHNALINK HIGHLIGHTS
  

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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