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G100 Network Notebook | June 2016

How does Best Buy Compete with Amazon?

Constant improvements to customer service online and in-store, says a profile on Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly’s plan to sustain the company’s turnaround. Joly sees a path for growth with more knowledgeable and capable people who can better educate consumers about the rapidly changing world of technology. The company appears on the right track. Already strong online sales, which generate about $4 billion a year, rose a whopping 24% last quarter. Joly says in Fortune:

There is a growing gap between what technology can do and what we as consumers understand what technology can do. … Best Buy wants to be the place that makes it easy for consumer to understand tech.

Minimizing Bias

The push to remove bias from people decisions continues. This time, with Goldman Sachs abandoning its decades-old, on-campus recruiting for a “school agnostic” approach. Bloomberg elaborates on the yearlong effort that addresses bias in recruiting and allows for more interviews with less staff:

The firm will use a technology-based resume screening tool to try and identify traits such as grit, or life circumstances, that executives believe will better predict career success and longevity.

Bias, it turns out, also drives much of the conventional thinking around performance, Wharton Professor Peter Cappelli says in new research. After studying seven years of performance reviews at a Fortune 50 retailer, researchers found employee performance varied to such a degree that it questioned the premise of forced distribution as a talent management tool. For example, Cappelli found:

Little evidence that good performers in one year would be good performers the following year. Knowing one year’s scores across the employees explained only one-third of the next year’s scores across the same employees. … The belief in the A player, B player, C player model is consistent with The Fundamental Attribution Error, a very common bias where we assume that the actions of individuals are caused by who they are rather than [their] circumstances.

Navigating a Healthcare System in Flux

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber, an ER doctor, rose to prominence as a pioneer of healthcare reform that may save Oregon $11 billion over ten years. His recent op-ed offers a balanced take on the forces driving changes to our healthcare system and what they mean for leaders. Kitzhaber says:

Current hospital strategies do not adequately anticipate the politics of an increasingly revenue-constrained environment in which public funding will increasingly be tied to measurable improvements in community health, and Medicare and Medicaid will have become the focal point of federal cost control efforts.

The Biggest Obstacle to Digitization

A risk-averse culture that starts with leaders and flows through the entire organization, says Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih, a director on the Starbucks board. A recent interview with Shih previews her new book, “The Social Business Imperative,” and offers a unique look at how the Starbucks board thinks about digital. She says in The Wall Street Journal:

You have to be where your customer is. If your customer begins their buyer’s journey online or if they want to complete their buyer’s journey on social, mobile and digital, of course, you have to be there too. … People are often on their devices when they’re in the store, so part of the store experience is the Wi-Fi, it’s the content we can deliver through the Wi-Fi, it’s the mobile app.

But what does great digital leadership look like? New insights from Spencer Stuart serve as a useful guide to the emerging leadership profiles in data. For example:

The strongest analytics leaders integrate real-time data from a variety of sources to both raise the right questions and then find the answers in response rates measured in milliseconds. With this sophistication has come the rise of chief analytics officers and senior vice presidents of analytics, many reporting to the CEO and often called to engage directly with the board. The candidate pool for analytics leaders tends to be the broadest and least technical.

A Call to (Dis)arm

Days after the Orlando shooting, General Stanley McChrystal wrote a powerful reflection on our national crisis of gun violence. In New York Times op-ed, he urges fellow veterans and leaders to back common sense reforms that restrict felons, domestic abusers, and suspected terrorists from owning guns:

Some opponents of closing these gaps in our laws will continue to argue that dangerous people will obtain guns in our country no matter what, and therefore that taking steps to make it harder for them is fruitless. That is both poor logic and poor leadership.

An Experiment to Address Income Inequality

One criticism of a universal basic income assumes that recipients will be less, not more productive. But there is little evidence to go on. Y Combinator, the famed startup accelerator in Silicon Valley, hopes to discover how people behave under a pilot that gives select families in Oakland, CA up to $2,000 each, unconditionally, for six to twelve months. Y Combinator President Sam Altman says in his blog:

We hope a minimum level of economic security will give people the freedom to pursue further education or training, find or create a better job, and plan for the future.

Over a decade ago, AEI scholar Charles Murray proposed an ambitious plan to replace our social safety net with a universal basic income. An excerpt from Murray’s recent essay on the need for a UBI plan:

We are approaching a labor market in which entire trades and professions will be mere shadows of what they once were. I’m familiar with the retort: People have been worried about technology destroying jobs since the Luddites, and they have always been wrong. But the case for “this time is different” has a lot going for it.