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G100 Network Notebook | May

Where eBay Beats Google

This Wired report explains why eBay, not Google, will win the next frontier of computing: language translation. Their secret? eBay engineers use global transaction data, an objective tool Google doesn’t have.

Because eBay’s massive user base is coming to eBay not for esoteric academic or technical conversations but the simple back-and-forth of buying and selling, its translation algorithms are encountering the kind of language people use most often.

McChrystal: Change the Thinkers Into Doers

Take a cue from retired General Stan McChrystal, says this highly relevant Inc. report that draws upon his military experience to explain how business can improve the speed and quality of decision-making. For McChrystal, this requires a leadership and organizational approach that empowers frontline managers:

The old organizational model for the Army, as well as for business organizations, was to have the decision-makers at the top of the hierarchy and the doers at the bottom, taking orders from the thinkers. The key for [McChrystal’s] command…was to “change the thinkers into doers and the doers into thinkers, and everybody became both. Now we could get the information to everybody, and more people could control what they did, which allowed us to do what we call empowered execution.”

Rethink Performance Management

That is the provocative message from this Business Insider interview with Adobe SVP Donna Morris who explains how an informal process can trump annual performance reviews. At Adobe, staff and management set annual expectations jointly, and everyone receives constant feedback measured quarterly:

We want [performance management] to meet the expectations of what is most appropriate for [the] business cycle. … At the beginning of the actual quarter [employees] know what their goals and objectives are. Throughout the quarter they’ll be getting feedback and then at the end of the quarter they’ll get an overall recap of areas in which they were really strong and where they had opportunities for development.

What is Next for Recruiting?

More online tests, suggests this eye-opening Washington Post report about test improvements that drive an increased demand among companies seeking better organizational fits with less recruiting labor.

Providers say the tests hold the promise of leveling the playing field for job applicants by removing the chance of bias that comes with a traditional résumé screening. … “In many cases, algorithms can trump instinct on staffing,” said John Boudreau, a professor in the business school at the University of Southern California, adding that decades of research have found that tests can serve as reliable barometers of certain personality traits, such as conscientiousness.

What the Internet Means for the Future of Marketing’s Daniel Debow argues that the Internet of Things opens up new possibilities to think about relationships with customers:

CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT by 2017, which illustrates this major transformation in how organizations are thinking about technology as a means to connect with people. … The companies that successfully bring together all the information, context, and connections they collect will have a far deeper understanding of their customers and, more importantly, about how their products fit into their customers’ lives.

Team Chemistry: A Prologue to Moneyball

Delightful profile of The Oakland A’s in ESPN Magazine illustrates how, a decade after Moneyball, the team owes its storied success to chemistry, not simply metrics. An excerpt:

The team sometimes asks [players] to fill holes they’re not used to. That means plenty of platoons, which keeps egos in check, and players being asked to change positions. … Overlapping roles, no cliques.

Summers on Inequality: Thomas Piketty Misses the Real Story

Thomas Piketty’s book-length critique of capitalism and income inequality has made this dense, academic work an unexpected literary hit. Lawrence Summers has written one of the best assessments. Summers thinks Piketty’s focus on high executive compensation misses the real concern in the U.S. economy:

My guess is that the main story connecting capital accumulation and inequality will not be Piketty’s tale of amassing fortunes. It will be the devastating consequences of robots, 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and the like for those who perform routine tasks. Already there are more American men on disability insurance than doing production work in manufacturing. And the trends are all in the wrong direction, particularly for the less skilled, as the capacity of capital embodying artificial intelligence to replace white-collar as well as blue-collar work will increase rapidly in the years ahead.

G100 Network in CEO Forum Magazine

This interview with G100 Network CEO Scott Miller addresses the critical-yet-underserved topics of talent and succession. What sets G100 Network apart, Miller says, is an orchestrated balance of learning and networking to help global leaders run their businesses better. Drawing on his ten years with G100, Miller makes this observation about leadership:

The key to any successful leader is two-fold: first, you need to surround yourself with people who are your equals or better. And second, you need to communicate relentlessly. You need to understand where it is you’re trying to take the organization, and then communicate that as often and as frequently as you possibly can.

Memorial Day Reading: Will China Reinvent Government?

Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge, veteran observers of both American corporations and U.S. politics, warn in their new book, The Fourth Revolution, that China is quietly reinventing how government should work:

Better government has long been one of the West’s great advantages. Now the Chinese want that title back. Western policy makers should look at this effort the same way that Western businessmen looked at Chinese factories in the 1990s: with a mixture of awe and fear. Just as China deliberately set out to remaster the art of capitalism, it is now trying to remaster the art of government. The only difference is a chilling one: Many Chinese think there is far less to be gained from studying Western government than they did from studying Western capitalism. They visit Silicon Valley and Wall Street, not Washington, D.C .