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How GE Applies Lean Startup Practices

We are all lean now — or soon will be. As the world becomes more digitized, generating more information surrounding products and services and speeding up processes, large and small companies in every industry, even manufacturing, are starting to compete more like the software industry, with short product lifecycles and rapid decision-making. GE has responded to this drive for speed and need to align more closely with customers’ needs by using a new technique called “FastWorks.” It’s a framework for entrepreneurs, building on “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. The Lean Startup is an approach to developing new products that came out of “Agile” software development, with “sprints” (quick deliverables) and fast learning. It’s now being tried in manufacturing since GE and others believe that rapid learning cycles wit....
To Enhance Your Learning, Take a Few Minutes to Think About What You’ve Learned

Research participants who did an arithmetic brain-teaser and then reflected on their strategies for solving it went on to do 18% better in a second round than their peers who hadn’t set aside time to reflect, according to Giada Di Stefano of HEC Paris, Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano of Harvard Business School, and Bradley Staats of the University of North Carolina. The unconscious learning that happens when you tackle a challenging task can become more effective if you deliberately couple it with controlled, conscious attempts to learn by thinking, the research suggests.
Think Beyond “Mobile” vs. “Desktop” Shoppers

We all know the story of mobility’s meteoric rise in the last several years. From flip-phones to smartphones to an expanding galaxy of different connected screens and devices, we can safely say that access to the world’s information on-demand will be part of our lives now, and for the foreseeable future. We’re at the end of the beginning. At Google, I meet with companies of all sizes to discuss how connectivity has changed consumer behavior, and what this means for their business. At the core of this shift is customers’ control over their shopping experience. Connectivity gives your customers the ability to engage with your business any time, and the expectation that you’ll be there. Some businesses were ahead of this curve, and some were behind. Regardless of where your company falls, the challenge of getting constant conn....
What Makes the Best Infographics So Convincing

A great infographic is an instant revelation. It can compress time and space. (Good gosh – Usain Bolt is that much faster than all the other 100-meter gold medalists who’ve ever competed?) It can illuminate patterns in massive amounts of data. (Sure, we’re spending much more on health care and education than our grandparents did. But look how much less on housing.) It can make the abstract convincingly concrete. (Which player was ESPN’s SportsCenter most discussed during the 2012 football season? Tim Tebow — and by a colossal margin. Seriously?) These intriguing revelations come from a short trip around The Best American Infographics, 2013. Spend serious time poring over graphs, pie charts, bar charts, flow charts, timelines, interactive diagrams, maps, cut-away diagrams, and narrative illustrations, as Gareth Cook did....
Why I Tell My Employees to Bring Their Kids to Work

I am the CEO of a fast-growing high-tech company. I’m also a mother of three boys, ages 9, 7, and 4, and I pride myself on being very involved in their lives. I have had to juggle kids and career for the last 10 years, and I cannot separate work and home life, as I’ve found that creates too much stress and pressure. Instead, I integrate both, bringing kids to work and work to home as I need to. This has worked so well for me, and Palo Alto Software, that it has become part of our company culture. No, we don’t bring our children into the office every single day, and by no means have we used this freedom as a daycare replacement. But, when the nanny needs an afternoon off, school is suddenly canceled, or someone’s child is not feeling great, we welcome and encourage them to spend the day in the office. We even have a room desig....
How Midsized Companies Can Avoid Fatal Acquisitions

Big-company corporate development departments dream of acquisitions that substantially boost revenue or bring assets that turbo-charge growth. CEOs of midsized companies I’ve come to know over the last 30 years share the same dream. But they are far more cautious, as they should be. Unlike a Fortune 500 company that can casually take a write-down, a midsized firm often can’t recover from a strategic acquisition that goes up in flames. And plenty do. Acquisitions are more likely to go sour for midsize companies than for bigger firms for two reasons: a smaller financial cushion and fewer internal acquisition experts. The second reason is more important. Most midsize companies lack the breadth and depth of skilled corporate development professionals whose jobs are to source, make, and integrate acquisitions. General Electric’s cor....
Forget the Strategy PowerPoint

I have for decades watched CEOs and other executives try to explain a corporate strategy to a small group of senior managers or to a much larger group of staff. For the most part, it has not been a pretty sight. In the case of senior managers, I usually hear 3 or 4 different interpretations of what the boss said, or disagreements about what they thought he or she said. In either case, no alignment at the top. In the case of a larger group of staff, often many people look on blankly during the presentation. They may appreciate a CEO’s willingness to share crucial plans. But because they don’t have the context or experience, they can’t even begin to understand what is being thrown at them in a thick PowerPoint deck. And what they do see certainly doesn’t make them want to get up in the morning and come to work. ....
If You’re Thinking of Soliciting Donations in Bulgaria…

People living in cultures that are more accepting of inequality in power or wealth are less likely to donate money to charitable causes or help the needy, according to research by Karen Page Winterich of Pennsylvania State University and Yinlong Zhang of the University of Texas at San Antonio. The finding may help explain why the most generous countries—Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States—have relatively low scores on a measure of inequality acceptance, while the least generous—Bulgaria, China, India, Russia, and Serbia—score higher. Acceptance of inequality may reduce people’s perceived responsibility to aid others, the researchers say.
The One Thing Every Business Dies Without

George Carlin always called people on their BS. He once railed against the idea of “saving the earth,” pointing out that the Earth will be fine with or without us. “The planet isn’t going anywhere. We are! … The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.” All that would be left of us, he said, was maybe some Styrofoam. The idea that the earth needs humans to thank it and care for it is kind of funny. So Earth Day is kind of a quaint idea. And also strange to think that we might only value the spinning ball we’re totally reliant on for a single day each year. Imagine if you only appreciated your mother on Mother’s Day, or your significant other on Valentine’s Day. It would not bode well for your relationships. As many pundits will point out every year at this time, we need to value Earth every day. And th....
To Create Change, Leadership Is More Important Than Authority

Aspiring junior executives dream of climbing the ladder to gain more authority.  Then they can make things happen and create the change that they believe in.  Senior executives, on the other hand, are often frustrated by how little power they actually have. The problem is that, while authority can compel action, it does little to inspire belief.  It’s not enough to get people to do what you want, they also have to want what you want — or any change is bound to be short lived. That’s why change management efforts commonly fail.  All too often, they are designed to carry out initiatives that come from the top.  When you get right down to it, that’s really the just same thing as telling people to do what you want, albeit in slightly more artful way.  To make change really happen, it doesn’t need to be managed, but em....
Why You Have to Generate Your Own Data

This is it. You’ve aligned calendars and will have all the right decision-makers in the room. It’s the moment when they either decide to give you resources to begin to turn your innovative idea into reality, or send you back to the drawing board. How will you make your most persuasive case? Inside most companies, the natural tendency is to marshal as much data as possible. Get the analyst reports that show market trends. Build a detailed spreadsheet promising a juicy return on corporate investment. Create a dense PowerPoint document demonstrating that you really have done your homework. Assembling and interpreting data is fine. Please do it. But it’s hard to make a purely analytical case for a highly innovative idea because data only shows what has happened, not what might happen. If you really want to make the case for an inno....
Even Good Employees Hoard Great Ideas

One of the most heated debates involving innovation revolves around how to best incentivize people to develop and implement new ideas. Research on this issue offers a wide range of conclusions. For example, one recent research report suggested that offering financial incentives only raised the number of mediocre ideas and had little impact on breakthrough innovation. On the other hand, an MIT study concluded that group incentives and long-term rewards do have a positive impact on innovation. And still another survey of 20 companies from different industries found that 90% of the respondents thought that incentivizing and rewarding innovation was “something we should be doing better.” Driving this debate is the fear that employees will not develop and bring forward creative ways to improve the business unless they are given someth....
Study: Female Executives Make Progress, But Mostly in Support Functions

Sixty percent of the top U.S. companies now have at least two women on their executive committees. Eight companies (including IBM, Pepsico, Lockheed Martin and General Motors) have a woman CEO.  But closer inspection shows there’s a long way to go. My gender consultancy firm, 20-First, has just published its annual Gender Balance Scorecard (pdf) of the top 300 companies in the world across the US, Europe and Asia. As usual, we try to broaden the focus from the current buzz around corporate boards to the more relevant metric of the gender balance of executive committees. By focusing on the top management of a company – people who have worked their way to the top and have executive responsibility for its results – the report offers a clear picture of the attitudes and environments that companies have built – or haven’t – ....
China Shows a Decline in Workers’ Share of Economic Output

In many industrialized areas in China, the labor force’s “share” of GDP, meaning the proportion of provincial output that is distributed as wages, rather than going to capital and government, fell between 1997 and 2007, say Wei Chi of Tsinghua University and Xiaoye Qian of Sichuan University. For example, in Guangdong, it fell from 49% to 39%; in Chongqing, from 57% to 48%; and in Sichuan, from 56% to 46%. Past research has shown a connection between low labor share and widening inequality in China. Moreover, a low labor share poses problems for China’s goal of transforming its economy to rely on consumption rather than exports.
Don’t Let Incumbents Hold Back the Future

Like many other people, I thought the (thankfully temporary) decision by the French Council of State to force Uber and other app-based car summoning services to bake in a 15-minute delay, so as not to compete unfairly with taxis, was a classic example of Eurosclerosis, of Gallic dirigisme run amok, and lots of other bad and un-American things. But then I read James Surowiecki’s recent column about the regulatory barriers that geek chic car company Tesla is facing as it tries to set up its own showrooms in New Jersey and many other states, and I became a lot less confident that we in the U.S. are doing a great job of letting innovation flourish without counterproductive meddling and stonewalling. Surowiecki quotes Yale economist Fiona Scott Morton as saying that “There isn’t a rational argument for why a new company should h....
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....

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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