Zappos Pushes for National Leap Day … Day

Fast Company: “On February 29, everyone at Zappos will get a paid day off. It’s the first time, since the company opened, that its call center—normally open 24 hours a day, all year—will ever close. Their reasoning: Leap Day is extra time, and we should probably use it for something we normally wouldn’t do.”

“On Change.org, the company is leading a push to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to make Leap Day an official national holiday. Because the petition only ensures that congress and the president will have to consider the idea—and they’ll still need support—they’re also trying to convince other companies to give employees a paid day off, and pushing for states to adopt it as a holiday too.”

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Does Diversity Fuel Innovation?

The Economist: “Ronald Burt, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, has produced several studies which suggest that people with more diverse sources of information consistently generate better ideas … And internal surveys at Google have found that diverse teams are often the most innovative.”

However: “Diversity does not produce better results automatically … It does so only if it is managed well. (Source: David Livermore, author, Driven By Difference). The biggest challenge is to do with trust. Employees need to trust each other if they are to produce their best work … it is easier to establish trust with those you have a lot in common with … Diverse teams … are more likely to produce truly innovative ideas, but they are also more likely to fail completely.”

“A second challenge is to do with culture. Too many companies fail to rethink their management styles as they open their doors to new groups. They issue ambiguous instructions which presume that everyone comes from the same background … They evaluate people on their willingness to speak up without realising that some people—women especially, in many countries—are brought up to hold their tongues and defer to authority.”

“It is easy for companies to think that they have embraced diversity if they appoint the right number of people with the right biological characteristics. That can be hollow if they all come from the same backgrounds … Companies will find it hard to make a success of diversity if they refuse to recognise that it brings challenges as well as opportunities.”

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Whole Foods: New Limits on Local Store Autonomy

The Wall Street Journal: “Whole Foods is shifting more responsibility for buying packaged foods, detergents and other nonperishable items for the more than 430 stores to its Austin, Texas, headquarters. It is deploying software to simplify labor-intensive tasks like scheduling staff and replenishing shelves … The measures are part of a broader push to beat back competition from retailers such as Kroger Co. and Costco Wholesale Corp. that have expanded their range of natural and organic products, and frequently offer them at lower prices.”

Co-CEO John Mackey: “We want to evolve the structure in such a way that we take out redundancy and waste, and at the same time though, we’re not diminishing the culture, the empowerment efforts that make Whole Foods Market special.”

“The relative autonomy Whole Foods has long granted its stores and regional units—now 12—reflects a bedrock principle of Mr. Mackey, who helped open the first Whole Foods in 1980 … The model worked well for Whole Foods for years as it grew rapidly and established itself as the leading retailer of natural and organic groceries … But the need to offer more competitive prices is stepping up the pressure for greater efficiency.”

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Study: C-Suite Women = Higher Profits

Quartz: “New data from the Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY … from 21,980 global, publicly traded companies, in 91 countries from various industries and sectors and showed that having at least 30% of women in leadership positions, or the “C-suite,” adds 6% to net profit margin.”

“The study looked at women in three positions: CEO, board members, and members of the C-suite. It found female CEOs do not systematically outperform their male counterparts. While there is some evidence that female board members are associated with greater profitability, the results are not statistically significant. But the C-suite results were clear: more women translated to higher profits.”

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Does The Jump Shot Wreck Teamwork?

The Wall Street Journal: “It’s impossible to name any one creator of the jump shot, but once it appeared, it brought chaos to a previously controlled game. In the early 20th century, basketball offenses featured weaves and passes until an open player could fire a set shot—both feet firmly planted on the ground—with two hands … Many of the first jump shooters … redefined what was possible. They held the ball over their head as they leapt, making their shots impossible to block.”

“As the popularity of the jump shot spread, basketball turned into a high-scoring spectacle … Consider the impact of the shot on college basketball. Starting in 1939, the first 11 NCAA national championship games featured an average score of 49.1–39.2. By the following decade (1950-59), scoring had increased by an order of magnitude, with the title game averaging 74.9–66.2. Yet critics still ridiculed the tactic.”

“Hall of Famer Dick McGuire … believed that the jump shot gave individuals too much power, robbing the game of teamwork … Former Notre Dame coach Moose Krause … believed that basketball became too easy by 1957 and ‘gets less and less interesting every year.'”

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Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility

Fast Company: “Part of how (Netflix) has transformed so rapidly has a lot to do with its revered work culture,” based on “a 124-page document that’s now been shared over 13 million times on Slideshare … The woman behind Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility was the company’s chief talent officer at the time, Patty McCord.”

“Instead of listing the company’s core values like every other company was doing, McCord decided to write down the things the company valued, what mattered to them, what they expected in their people … The result is a document that demands self-sufficient employees who feel a responsibility to the company. There’s no vacation policy, a nonexistent travel policy, and no annual employee reviews.”

“Not surprisingly, there was no formal process put in place in order to get to Netflix’s no-formal-process culture. While creating the company’s culture, McCord just made sure to shut everything out for years and refused to read about what other companies were doing with their culture … It should be noted that McCord ultimately lost her job at Netflix, thanks to her own system.”

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When Collaboration = Interruption

The Economist: “Why have organisations been so naive about collaboration? One reason is that … any fool can record how many people post messages on Slack or speak up in meetings, whereas it can take years to discover whether somebody who is sitting alone in an office is producing a breakthrough or twiddling his thumbs … A second reason is that managers often feel obliged to be seen to manage: left to their own devices they automatically fill everybody’s days with meetings and memos rather than letting them get on with their work.”

“About 20% of company stars keep themselves to themselves. So organisations need to do more to recognise that the amount of time workers have available is finite, that every request to attend a meeting or engage in an internet discussion leaves less time for focused work and that seemingly small demands on people’s time can quickly compound into big demands. Helping people to collaborate is a wonderful thing. Giving them the time to think is even better.”

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Is The Deck Stacked Against Disruptive Innovation?

The Wall Street Journal: “Anshu Sharma, a venture capitalist at Storm Ventures, thinks he knows why so many companies that should have all the resources and brainpower required to build the next big thing so often fail to do so. He calls his thesis the ‘stack theory’ … the mistaken belief that” building something new is a simple matter of “moving up the stack.”

The “stack” is a “layer cake of technology, one level of abstraction sitting atop the next that ultimately delivers a product or service to the user.” IBM, for example, “moved up the stack from making things that compute to selling the services that computation enables … Google tried to move up the stack from search to social networking.” Apple apparently hopes to move up the stack to make electric cars.

According to Mr. Sharma, failure to move up the stack happen when the company lacks empathy for its customers and doesn’t understand its customers’ wants or needs. It’s generally easier to move down the stack (e.g., Tesla builds its own batteries because it knows its own requirements). Uber would be more likely to succeed at building its own cars than General Motors would be at creating a ride-sharing service. That’s because “Uber has the advantage of knowing exactly what it needs in a vehicle for such a service.”

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