A SHORT GUIDE TO BUILDING YOUR TEAM’S CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS

According to a 2016 survey of 63,924 managers and 14,167 recent graduates, critical thinking is the number one soft skill managers feel new graduates are lacking, with 60% feeling this way. This confirms what a Wall Street Journal analysis of standardized test scores given to freshmen and seniors at 200 colleges found: the average graduate from some of the most prestigious universities shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.  There is little agreement around what critical thinking is. From there, it gets even less clear. Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. It’s time to reject the notion that critical thinking is either an innate gift that can’t be developed or a skill learned only through experience. Companies can help their employees harness critical thinking skills by executing, synthesizing, recommending, and generating creative thinking.  Read More >>

HOW WILL THINGS BE DIFFERENT WHEN THIS IS ALL OVER?

We should not expect that the resolution of the Covid-19 epidemic will be a return to a 2019 reality. Many organizations are understandably focused on reacting to and coping with the short term challenges presented by the unfolding epidemic.  A rebound of demand is inevitable, and using high-frequency data proxies for the movement of goods and people, production and confidence, we can see that it is already beginning to happen in China. In China, the stock indices of all sectors dipped sharply in parallel, but after this initial shock, different sectors recovered at different speeds. Some, such as transportation and consumer durables, continue to be depressed; most are already recovering to pre-crisis levels; and others, like software and healthcare equipment and services, have already exceeded their pre-crisis levels.  There is opportunity in adversity in every business. It may seem callous to stress opportunity in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, but leaders have an obligation to look ahead, to anticipate and meet new customer needs, to evolve their strategies and organizations, and in so doing sustain the prosperity of their enterprises.  Read More >>

NEED TO MAKE A CRITICAL DECISION? HERE’S HOW TO ENSURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT INTEL

For business leaders, there are few things more unnerving than making decisions with enormous consequences, only to later discover that key information relevant to those decisions had not been conveyed.  In the military, the stakes are often too high to let details fall through the cracks. So it has developed a robust protocol for ensuring that people across the organization are aware of how they need to share information.  Fortunately, the military’s protocol applies just as readily in the civilian world. The first is to establish specific information priorities (and do so as early as possible). The second part of the protocol is to link those priorities to key decision points.  The third is to communicate information priorities to your team. The final part of the protocol is to revise priorities as new information comes in.  Read More >>

IS YOUR COMPANY CULTURE ON AUTOPILOT?

For startups, the early days can feel exhilarating, even romantic: a handful of dedicated employees all focused on an original idea, solving problems as they arise and growing the business in the process.  But with growth comes a range of leadership challenges: ones it can be easy to overlook until it is too late. The following are three tips for leading a rapidly growing organization. The first is to invest in human resources early.  Startups tend to hold off on investing in a dedicated human-resources function as long as possible, instead handling recruitment on an ad-hoc basis. The second is to not get attached to the original team. It is unlikely that the team a founder starts with will have the exact skills and expertise as the team that should run the organization when it has tripled or quadrupled in size.  The final tip is to be mindful about remaining an attractive place to work. Being thoughtful about culture is not the same as maintaining the early culture at any cost. With more people and more hierarchy, more structure is required. This naturally changes the culture, which may be met with resistance by employees, particularly those who are used to the more free-spirited early days.  Read More >>

YC JUST PUBLISHED A 70-PAGE SERIES A GUIDE SO FOUNDERS DON’T TANK THEIR OWN PROSPECTS

The morning of February 26, 2020, Y Combinator is publishing a 70-page Series A guide based on its work with 190 YC companies over the last couple of years. It’s part of an initiative launched in 2018 to help these alums understand how Series A rounds work — and how to make them work to their advantage. The idea is that Series A rounds were understood on the investor side — that they are looking for ARR, plus profit, then comes funding. It’s entirely possible to raise a great story and no metrics, versus great metrics and no story. There’s a lot of preparation required; they advise against companies going out to market because of a false signal. They also explain how to work through a diligence request by an investor. It’s really important that founders ask instead about what the VC is trying to learn from the diligence request, then call those customers so they are ready. If YC can help companies build bigger companies and level the playing field, that’s just overall good for the rate of innovation in the world.  Read More >>

TAKE 5: THE UPSIDE OF FAILURE

No one sets out to design an unsuccessful product or get turned down for a big promotion. Yet there’s a growing awareness that failing actually has its upsides. One probably messes up more often than they think. Many people like to believe that they miss the mark less than the average person, even when it comes to ethical lapses. Indeed, research from professor Maryam Kouchaki suggests that people tend to experience what she calls “unethical amnesia,” wherein they recall their own unethical behaviors with less-than-perfect clarity. Additionally, one’s career can benefit from their failure. Adversity itself is what can push rejected people to succeed. Failure can also create great stories. Failure anecdotes can show character, reveal leadership skills, and demonstrate drive. It is possible for companies to foster a culture where failure is okay. Additionally, sometimes what looks like success can actually be failure in disguise.  Read More >>

5 SURVIVAL TIPS FOR STARTUPS WORKING WITH LARGE COMPANIES

Because of the fast pace of innovation, many of today’s large companies form partnerships with startups that have the technology or know-how they need.  In theory, the partnerships should be great for the smaller company because the more-established organization has the financial resources, name recognition, and market access the startup needs.  Don’t partner with a company just for its name recognition or its financial assistance, but for how the relationship can help your startup grow. Large companies with layers of bureaucracy move slowly. Some projects take years to complete. Startups need to develop a trusted relationship with knowledgeable and committed employees and managers who are motivated to make the partnership succeed.  If negotiations become too fraught, the relationship becomes uncomfortable, things get bogged down in bureaucracy, or the timing doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to terminate the partnership.  Read More >>

NEW ‘AIR FORCE VENTURES’ SET TO TRANSFORM TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY

The U.S. Air Force has adopted a three-phase strategy to select small, innovative companies outside the traditional defense industry to perform advanced development work and to tap Silicon Valley-style venture capital firms to help taxpayers finance the new technology. Acquisition chief Will Roper is implementing Air Force Ventures, a new method of attracting high-tech startups to the government. U.S. Air Force plans to make 50 large “bets” on technology. New acquisition training to be based on Fighter Weapons School. To prepare, the Air Force is sending acquisition officials back to school. Next year, a cadre of program managers will be enrolled in a six-month course at Stanford University, which will teach the Air Force to manage technology investments like venture capitalists.   Read More >>

ZEBRAS AND CAMELS: NEW ALTERNATIVES TO SILICON VALLEY’S UNICORN OBSESSION

Many investors proclaim to be unicorn hunters. They are not stalking mythical animals but looking for companies that will reach valuations of over $1 billion. “A new kind of startup founder will emerge,” predicted LinkedIn’s co-founding editor Isabelle Roughol in LinkedIn’s 20 Big Ideas that will change your world in 2020. Roughol sites the Zebra manifesto, written by entrepreneur Jennifer Brandel, which makes the case for companies that focus on building sustainable profits at reasonable speed. Brandel chose the zebra to present her point because “zebra companies are both black and white: they are profitable and improve society. They won’t sacrifice one for the other.” Alexandre Lazarow, author of Out-Innovate: How Global Entrepreneurs from Delhi to Detroit are rewriting the rules of Silicon Valley talks about the camel. Camels companies are “organizations that can capitalize on opportunity but can also survive in a drought.” Alternatives are a response to high profile market failures. They are also arising because the Silicon Valley model of fast growth at all costs is simply not available to many entrepreneurs.  Read More >>

MAKING JOY A PRIORITY AT WORK

Human desire is as essential to achieving business goals as ever. Companies are making massive investments in technologies that can more closely link their people to each other, to customers, and to other stakeholders. Joy connects people more powerfully than almost any other human experience. In any team environment, joy arises from a combination of harmony, impact, and acknowledgment. Business leaders can engender all of these in their organizations. When the diverse skills and strengths of teammates are really clicking together and harmonizing, it feels great. Team harmony leads to impact, which further fuels joy. Acknowledging each player’s contributions and cheering for each other powers the entire joy-success-joy cycle. Joy can pack as much practical punch as technology if we allow it to. Technology provides the infrastructure for connectivity, but the foundation must be a culture dedicated to the human experience of harmony, impact, and acknowledgment. In sum, joy.  Read More >>

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