Self-regard: You are not special

24. May 2015

Date: 24-05-2015
Source: The Economist

How to get from narcissism to thoughtfulness

The Road to Character. By David Brooks. Random House; 300 pages; $28. Allen Lane; £17.99. Buy from

PEOPLE are too full of themselves, says David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times. Joe Namath, a star quarterback of the 1960s, once shouted to his bathroom mirror: “Joe! Joe! You’re the most beautiful thing in the world!”—with a reporter watching. But it is not just celebrities who puff themselves up, and the evidence is not just anecdotal. The proportion of American teenagers who believe themselves to be “very important” jumped from 12% in 1950 to 80% in 2005. On a test that asks subjects to agree or disagree with statements such as “I like to look at my body” and “Somebody should write a biography about me”, 93% of young Americans emerge as being more narcissistic than the average of 20 years ago.

With the rise in self-regard has come an unprecedented yearning for fame. In a survey in 1976, people ranked being famous 15th out of 16 possible life goals. By 2007, 51% of young people said it was one of their principal ambitions. On a recent multiple-choice quiz, nearly twice as many middle-school girls said they would rather be a celebrity’s personal assistant than the president of Harvard University. Read the rest of this entry »

Green skills

23. May 2015

Davide Consoli, Giovanni Marin, David Popp, Francesco Vona 22 May 2015, voxeu

The greening of our economies is expected to bring about long-term benefits in the form of reduced environmental damage but, also, significant opportunities and challenges. A growing concern is that the diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies and organisational practices may trigger labour market disruptions such as faster obsolescence of worker know-how and a rapid acceleration of the demand for existing and new competencies that, if in short supply, would lead to skill gaps. As a consequence of such concerns, the catchword ‘green skills’ has become common parlance in policy circles, even more since government interventions like Europe’s 2020 strategy, or the Green Jobs Act in the US, have committed substantial resources to support ‘green jobs’ for sustainable economic growth (OECD/Cedefop 2014). Read the rest of this entry »

Managing partners

21. May 2015

Date: 21-05-2015
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

The pressure on companies to form alliances with rivals is growing inexorably

IN THE run-up to the British election this month, it was taken for granted that politics was entering an age of alliances. No party would win a majority; that much seemed certain. The question was whether the Conservatives or Labour could put together a winning coalition. David Cameron’s surprise victory on May 7th put paid to this talk. But in many industries it is still May 6th: companies are casting around for alliances that can complement their strengths, make up for their defects, hedge their bets, add to their store of knowledge or extend their reach.

There is nothing new about businesses forming either joint ventures (in which they establish jointly owned subsidiaries) or looser alliances. There are ample studies to show how often they have been tried—and how often they have ended in tears. However, despite the difficulties of making partnerships work, firms are under a number of pressures to keep trying.

The first is that, in some industries, the cost of new technologies is so crippling that even the largest companies cannot bear it alone. Carmakers, for example, are having to spend fortunes developing electric, hybrid, hydrogen fuel-cell and other forms of propulsion, while also investing heavily in their petrol and diesel engines as they struggle to meet regulators’ ever-stricter targets for carbon-dioxide emissions. Even Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, is having to swallow its pride and work with rivals such as BMW on fuel-cell technology. Ford is collaborating with its Detroit arch-rival, GM, on high-efficiency gearboxes. Daimler is increasingly co-operating with a long-standing alliance between Renault and Nissan, into which AvtoVAZ of Russia has also been incorporated. Read the rest of this entry »

Moore’s Law Keeps Going, Defying Expectations

20. May 2015

Date: 20-05-2015
Source: Scientific American

Moore ccIt’s a mystery why Gordon Moore’s “law,” which forecasts processor power will double every two years, still holds true a half century later

SAN FRANCISCO—Personal computers, cellphones, self-driving cars—Gordon Moore predicted the invention of all these technologies half a century ago in a 1965 article for Electronics magazine. The enabling force behind those inventions would be computing power, and Moore laid out how he thought computing power would evolve over the coming decade. Last week the tech world celebrated his prediction here because it has held true with uncanny accuracy—for the past 50 years.

It is now called Moore’s law, although Moore (who co-founded the chip maker Intel) doesn’t much like the name. “For the first 20 years I couldn’t utter the term Moore’s law. It was embarrassing,” the 86-year-old visionary said in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman at the gala event, held at Exploratorium science museum. “Finally, I got accustomed to it where now I could say it with a straight face.” He and Friedman chatted in front of a rapt audience, with Moore cracking jokes the whole time and doling out advice, like how once you’ve made one successful prediction, you should avoid making another. In the background Intel’s latest gadgets whirred quietly: collision-avoidance drones, dancing spider robots, a braille printer—technologies all made possible via advances in processing power anticipated by Moore’s law. Read the rest of this entry »

How to join the 1%

15. May 2015

Date: 15-05-2015
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

A book on the persistence of elites is an unexpected guide to getting a good job

MANAGEMENT consultants, investment banks and big law firms are the Holy Trinity of white-collar careers. They recruit up to a third of the graduates of the world’s best universities. They offer starting salaries in excess of $100,000 and a chance of making many multiples of that. They also provide a ladder to even better things. McKinsey says more than 440 of its alumni run businesses with annual revenues of at least $1 billion. The top ranks of governments and central banks are sprinkled with Goldman Sachs veterans. Technology firms, though they are catching up fast, have nothing like the same grip on the global elite.

Which raises a pressing question: Read the rest of this entry »

Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs: The Strategies They Shared

13. May 2015

Date: 13-05-2015

Source: The New York Times

In retrospect, things look easy, even obvious.

Microsoft, Intel and Apple each rose to dominance as if their fates were inevitable.

Of course, it never looks so clear as it’s happening. Shelves full of books have been written about these three companies and the outsized personalities who built them — Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs. In a new book, David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School, and Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, are adding to that literature by applying a strategic framework to the corporate handiwork of the three, and find common themes. They call these shared features “Strategy Rules,” which is also the title of the book.

Mr. Yoffie and Mr. Cusumano have been studying these companies for nearly three decades and have been collaborating off and on for decades.

Initially, Mr. Yoffie was a specialist in corporate strategy, while Mr. Cusumano was an expert in software development and managing product teams. “David was developing high-level strategy, and I was focused on, O.K., how do you get this stuff done,” Mr. Cusumano recalled.  Read the rest of this entry »

Toward a new HR philosophy

7. May 2015
Article|McKinsey Quarterly

HR should empower managers to decide on standards, hire how they choose, and develop company-wide leaders.

April 2015 | byPeter L. Allen

What is the appropriate role for the human-resources function? Many companies view it as merely administrative, with little or no strategic impact. Of course, HR leaders bridle at this perception and regularly seek ways to have a seat at the table. In the quest to be viewed as more strategic and more important, HR often tries to take on greater responsibility. (For more, see “Getting beyond bureaucracy in human resources.”) Yet the gap between HR’s aspirations and actual role persists.

I’ve observed this gap in a variety of organizations, both as a consultant and as an in-house manager at several multinationals. Fundamentally, I believe, the gap arises from two complementary causes. First, executives and managers often think their job is to get financial results rather than to manage people. Second, when executives and managers neglect people management, the HR function worries about lapses and tends to “lean in” to right them itself. On the surface, this approach seems to meet an organization’s needs: management moves away from areas it views as unrewarding (and perhaps uncomfortable), while HR moves in, takes on responsibilities, solves problems, and gains some glory in the process.

But this approach is based on erroneous thinking. It is bad for management and bad for the company as a whole. When HR sees itself as manager, mediator, and nurturer, it further separates managers from their employees and reinforces a results-versus-people dichotomy.1 That’s why many HR teams refer to the rest of the company as “the business”; too often, they don’t really perceive themselves as a core part of that business. Read the rest of this entry »