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G100 Network Notebook | September 2014

Apple, Culture, and G100

A good primer is this Bloomberg Businessweek interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook that goes beyond recent product announcements to reveal how he transformed company culture. He says:

The lines between hardware, software, and services are blurred or are disappearing. The only way you can pull this off is when everyone is working together well. And not just working together well but almost blending together so that you can’t tell where people are working anymore, because they are so focused on a great experience that they are not taking functional views of things.

Rethinking the Skills Gap

Expect the global skills gap to widen before it narrows, predicts Manpower CEO Jonas Prising. He explains in this brief interview:

As the economy picks up, the demand for talent is going to be increasing. And, as the workforce is really bifurcated between those who have requisite skills and those who do not, the pool of people with the right skills will actually get taxed more.

More provocative is Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli who deems the skills gap a myth born from employers’ underinvestment in training. He adds:

Employers’ expectations – for the skills of new graduates, for what they must invest in training, and for how much they need to pay their employees – have grown increasingly out of step with reality. … The real challenge we face is that if everyone is hiring for the ability to do a job, rather than for the potential to do it well, how does anyone get that initial experience?

How Much Does CEO Fitness Matter?

S&P 1500 companies with CEO marathon runners were 5% more valuable than firms with less fit leaders, says a new working paper from a decade-long study. Benefits were more pronounced for high-stressed CEOs, whose fitness is associated with an 8-10% increase in firm value.

From Drone Skeptic to Business Partner

Box CEO Aaron Levie makes a compelling business case for drones. In a short video from this TechCrunch report, Levie says:

In the enterprise, the next trillion files to be created are going to come from an all new set of sensors. And unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are going to be one of the more significant contributors when you think of a bunch of different industries, like construction, agriculture, energy, and [insurance].

Levie was not always this bullish on drones. Skip to the 0:58 mark to hear what changed his mind.

Seeing Around Corners

What separates average forecasters from master prognosticators? The Good Judgment Project offers some useful tips, says Tim Harford who illustrates the evolving business of prediction. He observes:

Successful forecasters aren’t afraid to change their minds, are happy to seek out conflicting views and are comfortable with the notion that fresh evidence might force them to abandon an old view of the world and embrace something new.

Board Size and Corporate Governance

Major corporations with small boards outperform their larger board peers by nearly 9%, says a GMI Rating analysis of total shareholder returns from 2011 to 2014. Their secret? Smaller boards promote more debate and quicker decision-making, says this report.

[The] results, replicated across 10 industry sectors such as energy, retail, financial services and health care, could have significant implications for corporate governance. Small boards are more likely to dismiss CEOs for poor performance-a threat that declines significantly as boards grow in numbers. … Such boards typically have informal meetings and few committees.

Wearables Go To Washington

A healthy competition has emerged on Capitol Hill, thanks to a surge in fitness trackers. The “political Fitbit fisticuffs” has spurred some surprising behavior changes among “trash talking” lawmakers, staffers, and diplomats, explains this refreshing story:

Elected officials insist on parking far away for meetings to get in their 10,000 steps a day. … Legislative correspondents – underdogs in competitions because they answer e-mails all day – are finding ways to be at their desks less. Boehner’s staff even holds meetings in the Capitol Rotunda while walking in circles, which is not meant to be a metaphor for Washington politics.

What role do business leaders play in national policy? New York Times columnist David Brooks offers a prescription for America’s leadership crisis:

First, we need to get over the childish notion that we don’t need a responsible leadership class, that power can be wielded directly by the people. America was governed best when it was governed by a porous, self-conscious and responsible elite.

Fall Reading

PayPal and Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel recently published Zero to One, a book arguing that entrepreneurs should pursue monopolies to create future value. Thiel’s op-ed explains:

Capitalism is premised on the accumulation of capital, but under perfect competition, all profits get competed away. The lesson for entrepreneurs is clear: If you want to create and capture lasting value, don’t build an undifferentiated commodity business.

These lessons were compiled by co-author and student Blake Masters who transcribed Thiel’s Stanford lectures, on which the book is based.

Via G100 Network.