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What should you do when you become the boss? HBR’s new advice podcast Dear HBR: has the answers. In this bonus episode, Dear HBR: co-hosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks, an expert on behavioral insights. They talk through what to do when your direct reports are older than you, how to be a likeable leader, and what to say if you’re not ready to be in charge.
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Sophie Blackall/Getty Images One of the great frustrations of being a middle manager is that senior leaders make decisions that go against what you would have done had it been up to you. Sometimes you are part of the decision process, and other times the decision is simply handed down. Either way, you are now responsible for ensuring that the plan is carried out.
A natural reaction in this situation is to begrudgingly go along with the chosen course of action. You might even be tempted to communicate to your peers and supervisees that you’re not convinced this is the right way to go.
Resist that temptation. Your job is to help your organization succeed. You won’t be fulfilling that role if you — intentionally or unintentionally — undermine the decision. Instead, start by asking yourself whether you trust the organization you work for. If — deep down — you don’t feel that senior management makes good decisions, it’s probably time to start looking for another job.
But if you do trust ..
CSA Images/Printstock Collection/Getty Images Eminent industry leaders worry that the biggest risk tied to artificial intelligence is the militaristic downfall of humanity. But there’s a smaller community of people committed to addressing two more tangible risks: AI created with harmful biases built into its core, and AI that does not reflect the diversity of the users it serves. I am proud to be part of the second group of concerned practitioners. And I would argue that not addressing the issues of bias and diversity could lead to a different kind of weaponized AI.
The good news is that AI is an opportunity to build technology with less human bias and built-in inequality than has been the case in previous innovations. But that will only happen if we expand AI talent pools and explicitly test AI-driven technologies for bias.
Eliminating Biases in AI: The People Technology inevitably reflects its creators in a myriad of ways, conscious and unconscious. The tech industry remains very m..
Many employers are paying more and more attention to the well-being of their employees and to how they perceive their current jobs, especially because employee satisfaction is associated with important work-related outcomes such as organizational commitment and job performance, as well as with lower levels of turnover and absenteeism. But what role do unions, historically advocates for the well-being of workers, play in promoting employee happiness? The relationship between union membership and job satisfaction is still disputed vigorously among scholars. Many of the early studies suggest that union members are less satisfied than nonunion workers but are also less inclined to quit their jobs. This surprising finding has been considered an anomaly by many researchers, as unions should achieve better working conditions, which common sense suggests should lead to higher job satisfaction.
My research helps answer this puzzle. In a recent meta-study, I found that unions don’t seem to make..
A senior sales executive I’ll call Daniela was frustrated. She’d been working on delegating more to her team. To her dismay, many were struggling to take on the levels of freedom she’d offered — even though they’d asked for more responsibility. Exasperated, she vented to me, “I thought delegating was supposed to free me up to do more of my own job. But every time they drop a ball I hand off, it takes me twice as long to clean up the mess as it would have taken for me to just do it myself.” Exhausted from failing at one extreme, her natural impulse was to revert back to the other.
As research on decision making shows, our brains are wired to be more reactionary under stress. This can mean that stressed-out leaders like Daniela resort to binary choice-making, limiting the options available to them. In tough moments, we reach for premature conclusions rather than opening ourselves to more and better options. Faced with less familiar conditions for which our tried-and-true approaches won’..
Photo by Christine Roy According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, the number of people in the global labor force will reach 3.5 billion by 2030 — and yet there will still be a shortage of skilled workers. The result is likely to be intensified global competition for talent. Rather than assuming we’ll work in one location, in our native culture, we will need new skills, attitudes, and behaviors that help us work across cultures. Our ways of thinking about careers, colleagues, and collaboration will need to become more flexible and adaptable. My five-year study of the global workforce at Rakuten, the Japan-based e-commerce powerhouse, gave me a close-up look at what will drive success for this new type of global worker.
Prior to 2010, Rakuten had been a multilingual global company. The Japanese employees in the Tokyo headquarters communicated in Japanese, the Americans in the U.S. subsidiary spoke English, and the workers in Asia, Europe, and South America spoke a mixture o..
Photo by Toia Montes In more and more occupations, creativity is part of the job description. Whether you are trying to reconcile conflicting stakeholder priorities, finding a solution to a customer’s issue, or launching a new product line, your solution probably won’t come out of a textbook. But it’s hard to keep having great ideas day after day. What do you do when you run out of good ideas? How do you “get your mojo back”?
One increasingly popular solution is mindfulness meditation. Google, Goldman Sachs, and Medtronic are among the many leading firms that have introduced meditation and other mindfulness practices to their employees. Executives at these and other companies say meditation is not only useful as a stress-reduction tool but can also enhance creativity, opening doors where once there seemed to be only a wall.
To gain a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of short meditation sessions in boosting creativity, we looked first at the literature and then conducted our ..
Climate change risk is rising, and yet behavioral economics research argues that we are collectively underinvesting in protecting ourselves. In The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters, Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther point to several personal traits that expose us to greater risk from natural disasters. First, individuals focus on short time horizons and thus underprepare for future threats. Second, when major disasters do occur, individuals are shocked but quickly begin to let their guard down again. Third, people are over-optimistic and thus underestimate their own risk exposure.
And the risks are real: Zillow’s research predicts that $400 billion dollars of real estate value in Florida could be at risk from climate change by the year 2100.
It might seem, then, that private insurance can be of little help in addressing climate change. There’s concern that for-profit insurers won’t want to insure risky properties, and that individuals won’t have the wherewithal to ..
Photo by Aaron Burson The buzz over artificial intelligence (AI) has grown loud enough to penetrate the C-suites of organizations around the world, and for good reason. Investment in AI is growing and is increasingly coming from organizations outside the tech space. And AI success stories are becoming more numerous and diverse, from Amazon reaping operational efficiencies using its AI-powered Kiva warehouse robots, to GE keeping its industrial equipment running by leveraging AI for predictive maintenance.
While it’s clear that CEOs need to consider AI’s business implications, the technology’s nascence in business settings makes it less clear how to profitably employ it. Through a study of AI that included a survey of 3,073 executives and 160 case studies across 14 sectors and 10 countries, and through a separate digital research program, we have identified 10 key insights CEOs need to know to embark on a successful AI journey.
Don’t believe the hype: Not every business is using AI… y..
Using data science to predict how people in companies are changing may sound futuristic. As we wrote recently, change management remains one of the few areas largely untouched by the data-driven revolution. But while we may never convert change management into a “hard science,” some firms are already benefiting from the potential that these data-driven techniques offer.
One of the key enablers is the analysis of email traffic and calendar metadata. This tells us a lot about who is talking to whom, in what departments, what meetings are happening, about what, and for how long. These sorts of analyses are helping EY, where some of us work, by working with Microsoft Workplace Analytics to help clients to predict the likelihood of retaining key talent following an acquisition and to develop strategies to maximize retention. Using email and calendar data, we can identify patterns around who is engaging with whom, which parts of the organization are under stress, and which individuals are m..
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