5 Ways to Focus Your Energy During a Work Crunch

Work invariably ebbs and flows, cycling between steady states, where we feel more in control of the pace and workload, and peak periods, where the work crunch hits us hard. Unexpected setbacks, project sprints, or even vacations and holidays can create mayhem and tension. Maintaining focus and managing energy levels become critical as tasks pile onto an already full load. When you’re in your next work crunch, there are a few things you can do to focus and manage your energy more productively: Accept the situation. When an acute period hits, it’s easy to resist the fact that it’s happening. We wish for things to be like they were last month, or we long for the pace we had during vacation. By not being present to the here and now, we drain our energy by ruminating on the situation. In fact, physicists define resistance as....
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Equifax and Why It’s So Hard to Sue a Company for Losing Your Personal Information

After years of screaming headlines about data breaches, we all know the drill. A major company announces it has been hacked, a brief public outcry ensues, and then… not much happens. Down the road you might read about a government inquiry or a class-action suit being settled. People have become numb to these announcements. We assume our personal information has been compromised in some way, take reasonable precautions like canceling a credit card or instituting credit monitoring, and move on with our lives. The Equifax breach is different. It isn’t the largest (that would be the 2016 Yahoo breach, with over one billion accounts affected), the most embarrassing (Ashley Madison, the affair website), or the one that raises the most national security concerns (North Korea’s hack of Sony). But a couple of key facts give Equi....
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The Grocery Industry Confronts a New Problem: Only 10% of Americans Love Cooking

The supermarket and grocery business is likely to suffer strong headwinds in the future, due to long-term shifts in consumer behavior. Although many people don’t realize it yet, grocery shopping and cooking are in a long-term decline. They are shifting from a mass category, based on a daily activity, to a niche activity that a few people do only some of the time. I’ve spent two decades consulting extensively for consumer packaged goods companies. Early in my career I gathered some data for a client on cooking. This research found that consumers fell into one of three groups: (1) people who love to cook, and cook often, (2) people who hate to cook, and avoid that activity by heating up convenience food or outsourcing their meals (by ordering out or dining in restaurants), and, finally, (3) pe....
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Prioritize Your Opportunities with This Checklist

Photo by Cris Dinoto How do you evaluate a business opportunity? The world is replete with SWOT mechanisms for evaluating a prospective new product offering, as well as with opportunity assessment templates for evaluating a project against overall business goals, customer impact, strategic potential, and competitive urgency. These instruments play a vital role in acquisitions, new products and features, and even the new divisions of business you’d like to deploy. But how do you evaluate the myriad smaller opportunities you come across every day? Should you speak at that event? Author a book? Attend a strategy summit? Some years ago, I learned a fast and effective way to evaluate day-to-day opportunities from Dan Sullivan, the cofounder of Strategic Coach, which I have refined even further for myself. I have taught it to my ....
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How to Help an Employee Who Rubs People the Wrong Way

If you’ve ever cringed in a meeting when your direct report was talking, you know how tough it can be to watch a team member undermine themselves. Maybe the person is interrupting colleagues too often. Or being condescending, or even combative. No matter the specific behavior, your employee is clearly rubbing people the wrong way. As the manager, you know it’s your job to address the issue, but you’re not sure how to start the conversation. What should you say? How do you broach the topic? What the Experts Say “It always difficult to give someone serious performance or behavioral feedback in a way that doesn’t put that person on the defensive,” says Caroline Webb, author of How to Have a Good Day and CEO of the coaching firm Sevenshift. And when the feedback is about an employe....
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Do Tech Companies Really Need All That User Data?

Paul Garbett for HBR The online economy — from search to email to social media — is built in large part on the fact that consumers are willing to give away their data in exchange for products that are free and easy to use. The assumption behind this trade-off is that without giving up all that data, those products either couldn’t be so good or would have to come at a cost. But a new working paper, released this week by Lesley Chiou of Occidental College and Catherine Tucker of MIT, suggests that the trade-off may not always be necessary. By studying the effects of privacy regulations in the EU, they attempted to measure whether the anonymization and de-identification of search data hurts the quality of search results. Most search engines capture user data, including IP addresses and other data t....
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Transcending Either-Or Decision Making

Jennifer Riel, an adjunct professor at the Rotman School of Management, presents a model way to solve problems: integrative thinking. It’s taking the best from two inadequate options to come up with a successful solution. She gives examples from the film industry to show how CEOs have put the process to work. Riel is the co-author, along with Roger Martin, of the book Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking. Download this podcast
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Gordon Ramsay’s Secret Ingredient to Sustained Success - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM HBX

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay shares his advice for achieving and maintaining success. When Gordon Ramsay opened his first restaurant in London, his goal was to win three Michelin stars. He was successful in doing so, but he soon realized that winning them was the easy part. How do you maintain success once you have achieved it? For Ramsay, he needed to develop the team that would run the kitchen when he wasn’t there. Read More from HBX: Atlantic Records Chairman on Ensuring Long-Term Success in a Changing Industry BuzzFeed’s CEO on the Secret to Virality A Startup Veteran on How Aspiring Entrepreneurs Can Best Define Success The 5 Skills Employers Seek in Today’s Digital Economy FBI Negotiation Tips for Navigating High-Pressure Situations Learn more about HBX online business education here.
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The Psychology Behind the New iPhone’s Four-Digit Price

Apple made headlines by announcing that the price for its new iPhone X (a fancy term for 10) will range from $999 to $1,149. These prices are commanding attention because they are significantly higher than the base prices of the two other iPhone models that were also announced, the 8 ($699) and the 8 Plus ($799). The X’s price is also noteworthy because it approaches, and breaches, the key threshold of $1,000. Boosting prices into four-digit territory crosses an important psychological barrier for consumers. Why did Apple push the limits of pricing on the highly anticipated device? A key reason involves using a premium price to set an expectation of excellence in consumers’ minds. This is a pricing strategy similar to the one successfully implemented by the Eagles. The popular Southern California band, whose al....
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What I Learned About Coaching After Losing the Ability to Speak

Marion Barraud for HBR I was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2001. By 2003 I could no longer speak intelligibly or walk, and any muscle control became more difficult as the disease progressed. I knew I couldn’t keep facilitating team meetings and giving strategy presentations — staples of the consulting services I had provided for many years. But I still loved my work and needed to stay active, and my clients were open to trying a new approach, so I began managing my coaching relationships exclusively through written dialogue in instant messages, emails, and other electronic documents. This started out as a tentative experiment. My clients and I were skeptical at best about how it would go. We assumed that the lack of in-person interaction would get in the way of open dialogue. But that hasn’t....
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Toys ‘R’ Us Might Be Dying, but Physical Retail Isn’t

The recent bankruptcy filing at Toys “R” Us has roiled the toy industry. Yet the struggles at the company are not new. The firm was taken private in a $6.6 billion leveraged private equity buyout in 2005, with the aim of turning the chain around, but the resulting debt has proved to be unserviceable. The news is part of a larger trend of closings that some are calling the retail apocalypse. The rise of e-commerce, combined with a shift in consumer preference toward dining out over shopping and with years of overbuilding, has made for distinctly unattractive economics in traditional retail. Take a closer look, however, and the prevailing narrative isn’t quite what it seems. Amazon has made a big push into physical retail, capped off by its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods. Other firms with large digital presenc....
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Equifax, the Credit Reporting Industry, and What Congress Should Do Next

Even for the experts, the recent data breach at Equifax was staggering. The data that undergirds the credit records of 143 million consumers was compromised. Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and drivers’ license records are used to authenticate identity. It is not difficult to change a credit card number, but changing Social Security numbers and birth dates is a whole different matter. Data breaches are on the rise in the United States. It’s time for Congress to act. Why does this require action by Congress? There are at least five major reasons that the private sector cannot handle this issue on its own: Identity theft is one of the top consumer complaints. The Federal Trade Commission reported 399,225 cases of identity theft in the United States in 2016. Of that number, 29% involved the use of persona....
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Lessons from Yelp’s Empirical Approach to Diversity

Beginning in 2013, a handful of tech companies (including Yelp, where some of us work, Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook) began to research and release data on the diversity of their workforces. The numbers were grim. For instance, in 2014 only 10% of Yelp’s engineers were female. Seven percent of Yelp employees were Hispanic, and 4% were black. These figures were similar at other tech companies, most of which had fewer than 20% of their technical positions filled by women and had low representation of black and Hispanic employees. At Yelp and elsewhere, seeing these numbers was a wake-up call. Leaders at Yelp wanted things to change for two main reasons. First, only by bringing in candidates of all backgrounds could Yelp really make sure it was hiring the best and brightest. After all, a company that excludes women and mino....
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Whiteboard Session: How Does Blockchain Work?

The power of a distributed ledger.
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Japan Is Counting on Shareholder Activism to Improve Its Economy

Shareholder activism is a quintessentially American form of investing. In the U.S., CEOs live in fear of activist hedge funds, and politicians worry about their effects on workers. But the case for shareholder activism is perhaps best seen in Japan, where the corporate sector tends to be structurally skewed in favor of employees, at the expense of shareholders and the economy. In Japan several factors combine to help insulate managers from outside influence, including cross-holdings where the company owns shares in a partner firm, docile boards mostly composed of company executives, and a court system historically biased against investment funds. In Japan the worry lately has not been about too much shareholder activism but about too little. Remarkably, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embraced shareholder activism, in a bid to encourage th....
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Research: Consumers Prefer Products Created by Mistake

Mistakes occur more frequently than we’d like. And generally, when they happen, we often don’t go about advertising them to others. But companies can benefit from letting consumers know when they make mistakes with a product. Consumers perceive these products as more unique, because they think mistakes in product creation are more improbable than there being no mistakes. And the perceived rarity of mistakes increases their value. To explore the preference for products made by mistake, we conducted a series of experimental studies and examined market sales data. In our first study, we gave consumers a choice between a new flavor of chocolate and extra money. Before making their choice, consumers learned that a chef — either mistakenly or intentionally — left a batch of chocolate in the oven for an extra f....
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How to Mentor a Narcissist

No workplace is immune to the self-absorbed and self-important employee. You know the one. Preoccupied with status, appearance, and power, narcissists exude a palpable sense of entitlement, often overestimate skills and abilities (while devaluing others), and can be quite comfortable manipulating others for personal gain. They can be hard to spot at first; a sophisticated narcissist can create a terrific first impression. What will eventually be recognized as haughty arrogance and grandiose self-importance might at first be misinterpreted as bold self-confidence. Psychologists define narcissism as a toxic personality syndrome defined by grandiosity, need for affirmation, and poor empathy for others. But developmentally, not all narcissists are created equal. Primary narcissists are what we often call “spoiled” — it̵....
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We Shouldn’t Always Need a “Business Case” to Do the Right Thing

I’ve been a consultant for almost 20 years, advising companies on complex challenges in ethics, risk, and responsibility. Each year several clients raise the same issue: the need to get buy-in from a skeptical senior executive in order to demonstrate a concrete benefit that will follow a proposed investment in an ethical business initiative or function. The executive needs a business case. And so I get asked questions like “What evidence can I provide that doing the right thing will make or save a company money?” and “How can I persuade the organization that embracing integrity is a win-win?” It’s a relief to have finally moved on from the era in which corporate responsibility meant feel-good philanthropic efforts divorced from an enterprise’s main activities. Happily fading from memory is t....
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The 5 Skills Employers Seek in Today’s Digital Economy - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM HBX

Leading scholar Ernie Wilson on the surprising skills that employers look for when hiring and promoting employees. The global economic landscape is perpetually evolving, and companies are adjusting their hiring practices to better fit their needs. Are they searching for more engineers, data scientists, writers, or MBAs? According to research conducted by Ernie Wilson, Dean of the Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California, companies today are on the hunt for individuals who excel in soft skills; he calls these individuals “Third Space thinkers.” Read More from HBX: Atlantic Records Chairman on Ensuring Long-Term Success in a Changing Industry BuzzFeed’s CEO on the Secret to Virality A Startup Veteran on How Aspiring Entrepreneurs Can Best Define Success Gordon Ramsay̵....
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Should Employers Fire Employees Who Attend White Supremacist Rallies?

In the aftermath of the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a social media campaign began circulating pictures of protestors in Nazi and Confederate regalia, asking the public to match names to the faces. As the protestors were identified, attention turned to their employers. These employers were faced with a question they probably never anticipated having to answer: Should we fire people who have been exposed as white supremacists? Some said “yes.” But if (or more likely, when) more rallies occur, should other employers follow suit? One consideration is legal. Whether an employer can legally fire an employee for attending a political rally is a difficult question. The answer depends on the jurisdiction and the particular circumstances. While private employers a....
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Starting a Business Can Increase Older Workers’ Quality of Life (Even When It Doesn’t Pay Well)

Photo by Roman Kraft As a result of declining birth rates and increasing life expectancy, the average age of the global population is increasing. This demographic trend has important implications for the labor market. Aging individuals are not always able to find satisfactory outlets for their abilities. Moreover, finding sufficient funds to maintain the current level of pension and health-care benefits is a major concern for many countries. To investigate these issues, we looked at a group of late-career workers who chose to work for themselves or start small companies instead of retiring or remaining in their current jobs. We found that, despite making less money on average, becoming entrepreneurs triggered a significant increase in their quality of life. Entrepreneurship is not always about the money, and late-career individuals ....
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The Best Senior Teams Thrive on Disagreement

Most team leaders try to build cohesion on their teams. Through team-building exercises and the careful establishment of norms and processes, leaders aim to create a culture of trust, psychological safety, and good feeling. But should enterprise leadership teams also pursue cohesion? To explore this question, over the course of six years, we surveyed senior-most leadership teams 99 times at companies representing a variety of industries, including financial services, food and beverage, energy, technology, healthcare, and retail. Each team member responded to over 110 items that focused on their team ‘s capability and performance. The specific domains of capability and performance were based on previous research, including: Team structure Team processes Team results Team dynamics Most teams (55 teams comprised of 700+ senior execu....
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The Comprehensive Case for Investing More VC Money in Women-Led Startups

Only 8% of venture capital (VC) firms in the U.S. have female partners, and that lopsided gender composition may be hurting venture capital performance portfolios. The evidence suggests that having no female partners makes VC firms less likely to invest in female-founded or female-led firms. But what much of the VC world might not realize, is that female-led firms may have a higher rate of return on average than male-led firms. First Round Capital, for example, touts its success at funding more women entrepreneurs than the national average. According to First Round Capital’s review of their own holdings, female founders’ companies out-performed their male peers’ by 63% in terms of creating value for investors. A study conducted by the Small Business Association determined that venture firms that invested in women-led bu....
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The Most Overused Negotiating Tactic Is Threatening to Walk Away

Professional negotiators and researchers alike hail the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or “walk away” outcome) as a negotiator’s primary source of relative power. But relying on even the best of alternatives as leverage can be tricky business. Your relative power in a negotiation is your capacity to use resources to influence another’s circumstances; and a BATNA’s role in that regard can range anywhere from significant to non-existent. Consider the obvious challenge of a negotiator who thinks she has a very strong alternative, but discovers that the other side has a relatively stronger one. This type of BATNA asymmetry can occur in several varieties (e.g., no BATNA vs. strong BATNA, or deals where the incentives on each side are completely different). A negotiator’s BATNA-based powe....
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The High Price of Overly Prescriptive HR Policies

Recently, one of my colleagues left our firm to make significantly more money at another company. We wanted to keep her, but the commission-based salary offered by the other company was more than we could match. She hadn’t realized how long her new commute would be during rush hour, however, and after three days of long, round-trip commutes during rush-hour traffic, she asked to shift her schedule an hour earlier to spend less time in unproductive gridlock. Her manager denied her request, saying, “If we did it for you, we’d have to do it for others.” It was good news for us; she was back with our team the following Monday. Too many companies’ HR policies are overly restrictive. Such policies are often convoluted and overly paternal, and attempt to control the behavior of regular people through rules designed....
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