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G100 Network Notebook | July 2014

Russia and a New World Order

A thorough accounting of the Ukrainian crisis expects prolonged, far-reaching geopolitical implications from a new competition between Russia and the West. Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center – writing prior to the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 – said:

Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia will be the battleground in the U.S.-Russian fight for influence. … Against the background of mounting tensions in the East and South China Seas and between Beijing and Washington…, a revisionist, resurgent Russia may not be an outlier, but part of an emerging trend of great-power competition succeeding the post–Cold War period of U.S.-dominated world order.

Is It Time To Abandon Myers-Briggs?

The “notoriously inconsistent” personality indicator, used by the majority of Fortune 500 companies, is a poor predictor of job success, says this Vox report. No one can take the test seriously after reading this critique:

“There’s just no evidence behind it,” says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who’s written about the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs previously. “The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you’ll be in a situation, how you’ll perform at your job, or how happy you’ll be in your marriage.”

The Drone Economy

This Wired profile of Skycatch illustrates how commercial drones help big business improve safety and efficiency, particularly in heavy industries such as mining and construction. With the FAA’s tacit blessing, the company leases out drones, ground stations, and software to collect and analyze aerial surveillance data.

A drone launched from a remote landing station shoots video of a blast, and mine personnel play back the video in slow motion to make sure all the charges were detonated. … Instead of sending people in person to measure slag heaps or check air quality data, a tiny drone can simply spend a few minutes in the air taking pictures. At one major construction project, a client is using multiple drones to track how quickly different sections of the project are moving along.

What the Internet of Things Means for Business

A Fortune op-ed by Cisco CEO John Chambers offers a bullish progress report on – and a working definition for – the Internet of Things. He says:

Remember that the Internet of Everything is less a distinct technology than the convergence of multiple technologies: cheap and ubiquitous sensors, tied together by widespread high-speed wireless networks, generating data stored in the cloud, crunched by increasingly valuable analytics and accessible via simple apps by billions of smartphones and tablets.

Where does the Internet of Things create business value? Mike Kravis elaborates in this useful primer:

Some of the most common categories are supply chain management, location tracking, real time financial analysis, remote monitoring and maintenance, energy efficiency, business process automation, and health and wellness.

CEO Retirement and Merger Activity

A new paper finds companies more likely to receive and accept takeover bids when CEOs are close to retirement. Better governance around executive compensation may spur more deals among younger CEOs to create greater shareholder value, says co-author Derek Jenter. For example:

Though golden parachutes are often criticized, their purpose is to offset a chief executive’s inclination to oppose any takeover bid, even if it benefits shareholders, because it threatens his or her job. Looking at the age-65 effect, though, Jenter thinks that Golden parachutes should be bigger for younger CEOs and become smaller as they age. A CEO who is already likely to retire won’t have as much to fear from a takeover and won’t need as big a counter-incentive.

How Congress Can Boost Competitiveness: Immigration and Carbon Taxes

Stanford Law School fellow Vivek Wadhwa argues in Politico Magazine for piecemeal immigration reform that starts with ending our brain drain of skilled, foreign-born workers.

Many of these doctors, scientists and engineers are getting fed up with being in immigration limbo and are leaving the country. … The loser is the United States, because it is limiting its economic growth and creating its own competition. … The Startup Visa alone would create as many as 1.6 million jobs and boost the country’s annual GDP by 1.6% within 10 years.

Equally compelling is this Weekly Standard piece by economist Irwin Stelzer who explains why carbon tax critics have it wrong.

Too many opponents of carbon taxes get caught up in the argument about climate change, which really has nothing to do with the case for a carbon tax. That case is that such a tax can make growth-inducing tax reform easier to achieve, and reduce the need for an expansion of the regulatory state, while protecting the competitiveness of our industries.

Design and Big Data

The Apple-IBM partnership to serve enterprise customers marks a new era in computing when design trumps data, according to this analysis in Forbes.

Siri is a bright young woman, but she’s no Watson! … The vertical big data and analytics apps that Apple and IBM produce could make iPads…ubiquitous in corporations the way Windows PCs still are today. … [Apple] is in a position to now use design to help unlock the value in the big data that companies like IBM have been working to accumulate.

An Optimal Rate for Board Turnover

Top performing companies replace an average of three or four directors over a three year period, says a Spencer Stuart study of board turnover and shareholder returns at S&P 500 companies. Yet, turnover rates fall outside this window for two-thirds of companies, the study found.

Our analysis indicates that a modest amount of turnover tends to be a characteristic of the leadership and governance behaviors that drive shareholder value over time. That stands to reason: New directors bring fresh perspectives and new skills, and they may be more likely than established members to challenge orthodoxy and raise previously unasked questions.

Summer Reading

John Brooks’ “Business Adventures,” a collection of New Yorker stories about US corporations, was re-released recently. The 1969 classic remains a favorite of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Why? It offers enduring business lessons from iconic companies, says Gates who extolls the book here.

Unlike a lot of today’s business writers, Brooks didn’t boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or simplistic explanations for success. … Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters and show how things went for them.

The post first appeared on G100 Network.