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G100 Network Notebook | June 2015

Winning with Integrity at Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook turned heads this month with remarks about Google and Facebook, drawing a sharp distinction on privacy and his company’s treatment of customer data. He adds:

I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.

Can Drones Curtail Derailments?

Thanks to a special exemption, BNSF Railway will use drones to inspect more than 32,500 miles of track, a job now done in person, twice a week, sometimes in remote locations. More frequent inspections with drones could go a long way in reducing rail accidents from defective tracks. From Fortune:

Unlike most operators, BNSF will be testing UAV’s outside of direct visual contact with their operator. … BNSF has earned this special right as part of the FAA’s Pathfinder program, an initiative to develop UAV regulation in collaboration with industry that was announced in May. CNN and the drone systems maker PrecisionHawk USA are the other two inaugural participants, and the FAA has invited applicants from other sectors.

Increasing ROI for College Degrees

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, now President of Purdue University, is leading an ambitious – and successful – charge to increase accessibility and accountability of higher education.  An Economist interview with Daniels offers a good primer, revealing what we can learn from higher education abroad:

[India and China] are building new universities at a rapid rate. They are singularly focused on the academic experience. You won’t find a football team at any of those. They still look at us as the top of the higher education pyramid, but we won’t stay there if we don’t learn from them.

That notion of national competitiveness drives a historic partnership between Khan Academy and the College Board to offer free SAT preparation, including unlimited feedback and tutors. In this NPR report, which also briefly explains the revamped test, Sal Khan elaborates on the new online tools:

It’s more about learning the material than traditional test prep. … The best way to perform well on something like the SAT is to have a mastery of the skills — the math, the reading and writing. That’s the goal. And hopefully it changes people’s perceptions about what test prep actually is.

How China Holds Itself Back

A persistent lack of transparency around decision making slows economic growth and jeopardizes improved diplomatic relations with the US, warns Susan Shirk, a scholar on Chinese politics. She adds:

Most economic, environmental, and social policies are decided not by legislation in the National People’s Congress (where a bill becomes a law by a relatively open process), but by a mysterious bureaucratic game that can only be guessed at. It’s a major struggle just for officials in one government agency to get information from another. Outside the government, businesses make inefficient choices because they are confused about which of multiple overlapping regulatory bodies will be responsible for deciding their fate, and they cannot predict how policies might change in the future.

Sustaining the US Shale Boom with Big Data

Ignore skeptics who seize on falling rig counts and low oil prices to predict the end of the US shale revolution. They overlook how big data and analytics increase well production and lower costs, according to new research in MIT Technology Review. For example:

Thanks to new sensing capabilities, the volume of data produced by a modern unconventional drilling operation is immense. … That flood of data can be used to optimize drill bit location, enhance subterranean mapping, improve overall production and transportation efficiencies—and predict where the next promising formation lies. Many oil companies are now investing as much in information technology and data analytics as in old-school exploration and production.

A Growing Talent Concern

The number of employers struggling with a shortage of talent is at a seven year high, a trend that shows no signs of slowing, according to a 2015 global survey from ManpowerGroup. This detailed infographic, which reads like a call to action for employers, reveals the skills most in-demand, the countries with the biggest talent shortages, and ways companies cope. Some good data points

Only 1 in 5 employers provide additional training and development to existing staff.
Only 1 in 10 employers adopt recruitment strategies to utilize untapped talent pools.

For greater detail, check out the comprehensive report, available here.

Rethink Performance Management

A timely Harvard Business Review article offers greater detail on the rich learnings Deloitte gleaned from its upgrade to performance management. Ashley Goodall, the director of leadership development, sums it up

In effect, we are asking our team leaders what they would do with each team member rather than what they think of that individual.

This is not the whole story. Effective performance management also includes strong executive support, clearly set performance goals, and pay conversations apart from performance and development discussions, argues USC Marshal School of Business professor Edward Lawler. He adds in Forbes:

Role modeling needs to begin at the top and it needs to be demonstrated by the appraisals being done on all members of the organization. It can’t be what the middle does to people at the bottom of the organization.

Building a Creative Culture with Design Thinking

Faced with growth challenges and workforce rigidity, Vishal Sikka, the first non-founder CEO of InfoSys, endeavors to build a culture of innovation by teaching workers design thinking. In fact, Sikka spent his first nine months leveraging the firm’s sizeable education apparatus to train 30,000 employees. In a refreshing story from TechCrunch, he says of the old model:

The following of orders, the lack of proactivity is very different from the lack of motivation. It is as if you don’t know it’s OK to think. Nobody told you can bring your creativity to bear.

Disruptive Trends

Extensive analysis in a new book by the McKinsey Global Initiative reveals the four major forces changing how companies and governments operate. Venturing beyond typical factors like technology, the book reveals some surprising areas of disruption, such as an economic shift to cities. Authors say in this op-ed:

By 2025, nearly half of the Fortune Global 500 companies will be based in emerging economies, with China home to more of them than the US or Europe. … Nearly half of global GDP growth from 2010 to 2025 will come from 440 emerging-market cities, many of which Western executives may not even know exist. They are places like Tianjin, a city…with a GDP that is practically on par with Stockholm’s today – and could equal all of Sweden’s by 2025.