You could hear the joy in Francesca’s voice as she told us about her first day on the job. After eight years of working in a European office for a consultancy firm, she relocated to the company’s Peru office to take on a leadership role and invest in her own professional development.
Walking into the Peru office was like walking into a family she said. They had challenging work for her to do, and it was clear they believed in her ability to do the job and wanted to give her opportunities to grow. It was a great senior team from day one.
What Francesca experienced is the differentiator between a good team, and a great team. The differentiator isn’t a welcoming environment, a common vision, or even supportive colleagues. The differentiator is commitment to the personal growth of each team member.
One of the seminal references on the topic of high-performing teams is Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith’s book, The Wisdom of Teams. In it, the authors introduce what they call the “team performance curve.” The curve describes five types of teams, with each type representing a progressively higher level of performance:
1. Working groups: Working groups are collections of people that do not need to work interdependently. They don’t share responsibility for a performance goal or joint work products, so accountability to one another is limited. The members interact primarily to share information. An example of a working group is a sales team, where each director has responsibility for his or her own region and isn’t dependent on other directors in order to succeed.
2. Pseudo-team: Next are what Katzenbach and Smith call pseudo-teams. Though their work is somewhat interdependent, they have not shaped a common purpose that really drives collective performance. As a result, their interactions can detract from each member’s individual performance without really delivering joint benefits.
3. Potential team: Next is a group that is really trying to improve its performance but still lacks clarity around their common goals or ways of working. They lack collective accountability. This group needs leadership to get the team rowing in the same direction; once they develop that ability, they can quickly see gains in performance.
4. Real team: When the goals and ways of working become clear, and the team members have clarity around their own contributions and accountability to make them happen, the group becomes a real team. Katzenbach and Smith define real teams as the “basic unit of performance” in organizations. But it’s not enough for truly high-performance.
5. High-performing teams: To move to the top level of elite performance, teams must meet all the requirements of a real team and do one more thing: invest deeply in one another’s personal growth and success.
Investing in one another’s personal growth and success
To be a high-performing team, Katzenbach and Smith say team members must do what Francesca* noticed on her first day in a new office: authentically invest in the personal growth and success of team members.
We see this in great teams and companies around the world. Service Express, Inc., is a rapidly growing database maintenance firm, headquartered in Michigan. Ask their CEO Ron Alvesteffer what the company does, and he’ll tell you they deliver great service, starting first with the way they serve their employees.
“You tell me your goals, I work for you,” Alvesteffer says to his team members. “If you don’t tell me your goals, then you work for me.”
To make this happen, the company asks each manager to work with team members to identify both professional and personal goals; the manager is then responsible to help the team member achieve those goals, whether it’s earning a promotion, meeting a sales target, buying your first home, or paying for your teenager’s braces. (See this short video on how Service Express supports this effort.)
Creating authentic care for one another’s personal growth at your company
Whether you’re the CEO or an individual contributor, you can push your team toward high-performance by creating an authentic environment of care for your teammates’ personal growth.
How can you do it?
First, know how they want to grow. If you don’t know how the person wants to develop, you can’t invest in making it happen. It’s important that you don’t make assumptions about what your teammate wants. A marketing director may not want to stay in marketing; a financial analyst may see soft skills as her greatest growth opportunity, rather than technical skills. Recently, in consulting with a software development firm, we were surprised to find that the early career web developers were more interested in developing their self-confidence and presentation skills than their management ability. We wouldn’t have known this if we didn’t ask.
Next, look for project-based opportunities to support growth. Whatever growth area your teammates identify, look for opportunities within the existing work to give them experience in this area. Let them shadow another teammate, find a mentor, or take the lead on the next phase of the work.
Support and celebrate are the next steps. High-performing teams are authentically invested in each other’s growth: that requires an emotional investment as well. Show your emotional support by providing appreciative feedback (see here for how to do that) and celebrating growth as it occurs. Celebration doesn’t have to be dramatic; simple recognition of an accomplishment can be sufficient to make someone feel heard and supported.
Finally, be transparent about your own growth opportunities. Give your teammates an opportunity to support you as you grow. This is especially important for the leader of a team, as it provides an opportunity to model collaboration and demonstrate vulnerability.
Why this works
Why is commitment to one another’s personal growth and success the difference maker between good and great teams? It keeps the team in learning mode, which has been shown to contribute a growth mindset that inspires resilience and psychological safety (see Amy Edmondson’s book Teaming for a great discussion of this).
But beyond that, don’t you work harder for people who believe in you? When you have teammates who are invested in your success, you are motivated because you don’t want to let your teammates down. You also have the strong presence of trust: I can trust that my teammates are considering my best interests.
How do you invest in the personal growth and success of your teammates? We’d love to hear your ideas for what works. Tweet to us at @ValuesDriven and share your suggestions or success stories.
You would be hard pressed to find a more depressing financial literature than that of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), the London School of Economics’s Professor Paul Willman says. Depending on who you listen to, mergers have a failure rate of somewhere between 50 and 85 per cent. One KPMG study even found that 83 per cent of merger deals did not boost shareholder returns.
But success can be lucrative – both financially and in terms of prestige – so these facts won’t get in the way of these ambitions. Willman cites eight reasons M&A negotiations can be tricky, including failing to have an established M&A process, issues with public accountability, having contestable future benefits or a high cost of failure. Notably, the other four – not knowing the counter-parties well enough, one party being more committed than the other, diverse shareholder pressures, and sides publicly setting ‘red lines’ – are all centred around communication and relationships.
“The people part can be particularly tricky,” says Professor Willman. “If you don’t anchor the consultants, you don’t anchor the clients; you can suddenly find that you’ve created your own competition.” Andrew Rimmington, Corporate and M&A Partner at Mischon de Reya, agrees: “Put people at the heart of the deal. The difference between success and failure is often connected to how you deal with people.”
You also might find yourself falling into the trap of over-escalating your commitment, whether that is because of the sunk cost fallacy, or lack of accountability, or because of damaging bonus incentives based only on the deal going through.
In order to process and evaluate new information about the M&A as it comes in, “it’s important that you have the discipline in place to make sure you’re not succumbing to these cognitive biases,” says Professor Willman. He recommends using soft as well as hard due diligence, ensuring the interests of managers and investors are aligned, and establishing contract, competence and relationship trust. Professor Willman also stresses the importance of properly engaging the senior management team. A recent Mergermarket report called Creating Value Beyond the Deal found that 89% of sellers believed they could have derived more value from a sale by engaging the management team more closely.
So how do you give your company the best shot at a successful merger or acquisition? “Focus on value creation from the start,” says Rimmington. “Acquirers need to be ready with a comprehensive value creation plan well ahead of signing the deal. Key assumptions should be tested and validated through diligence so the plan can be implemented straight away”, he adds.
As the EY Global Capital Confidence Barometer report published earlier this year showed, the old one-size-fits-all approach to integration just doesn’t work anymore. Value creation plans are no longer just about operational efficiencies and economies of scale, but they now also include the expansion of customer relationships and the acquisition of new technology, talent, product and services.
“The challenges of M&A are significant, but failure isn’t random,” says Rimmington, and that is true especially in regards to having a value creation plan. The importance of a clear and comprehensive plan was highlighted in Mergermarket’s report, which found that of the buyers whose deals lost value, 63 per cent didn’t have a technology plan in place at signing, 70 per cent didn’t have a synergy plan in place at signing, and 79 per cent didn’t have an integration plan in place at signing.
If there’s one word of wisdom Professor Willman would impart to anyone looking into doing a merger or acquisition, it’s that if the cultures of the companies are fundamentally different, the deal will be a lot trickier (65 per cent of acquirers say cultural issues hampered the creation of value, especially in the cases of “asset light” or “people-centric” deals.) Professor Willman recommends asking the two management teams to write a scorecard listing the key performance indicators for the merged organisation. “If they can’t agree on this,” Willman says, “the deal is destined to fail.”
I’ve had bosses and mentors; I’ve been a boss and mentor. This is all to say that I’ve given and taken more feedback than I care to calculate. The feedback I’ve received shaped me into the person I am today, and I trust the feedback I’ve given has helped shape others in positive ways.
Below are lessons learned about the art of giving and receiving feedback.
Sometimes the best feedback is the kind we didn’t know we needed.
My prior boss and sustained mentor once sat me down to deliver feedback about my workplace attire. Mind you, I’d been putting thought, money and effort into my attire with the goal of dressing modestly, only to discover as the recipient of feedback that the bright colors and doodle-printed skirts weren’t suited for sitting at a table of executives four decades my senior.
Receiving this feedback was a pivotal moment for me; I was putting so much effort into dressing conservatively, yet I wasn’t nailing the part. I reached out to female business executives whose style I admired to get advice about how to retain personality while dressing appropriately for leadership in a conservative environment. I subsequently invested in clothing that looked professional (think structured suit jackets) while embodying personal style (think color and form) and made me feel empowered at work.
My boss’ intention was not to change me; rather to offer feedback that he knew would help me succeed. I’ve been CEO of a company for seven-plus years and work alongside many executives whose trust and respect I’ve worked hard to gain. And I still try to put my best foot forward by dressing the part.
I’m thankful that my former boss provided feedback constructively and effectively, without causing offense. The value of knowing that I was messing up when I didn’t previously have a clue was and remains a gift.
Here are a few tips to receiving unsolicited feedback with an open mind so as to not get defensive:
• Say “Thank you” and nothing more. Period. Stop talking. This reaction demonstrates gratitude for the feedback without providing an opportunity to react defensively.
• Reflect on the feedback for a few days. Give yourself space and time to not respond immediately. Often defensive reactions subside with time. Then ask to meet again with the deliverer of feedback with additional thoughts or questions.
• Put your tongue at the top of your mouth where your front teeth meet your gums. It’ll prevent your from talking back (or crying).
Don’t wait until problems become bigger problems.
Often times, you already know when critical feedback is headed your way. For example, you might be aware when your work needs improvement, but changing behavior falls by the wayside until it gets brought to light by someone else.
A while ago, The Global Good Fund’s Board of Directors gave me critical feedback about the way I communicated operational updates. They felt the right people weren’t in place to support this function, and so did I. We decided to change staffing and created more visibility prior to presenting these updates.
The changes set us up to get critiqued privately and, ultimately, to do a better job presenting publicly. I could have solved this problem before it became one, but entrepreneurs have nine million things to think about at any given moment and I prioritized ineffectively.
We are all human and sometimes need a push, especially when we know the task at hand is painful. Know you can do better, and don’t wait for someone else to call you out. Own the challenge.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Most of us have experienced hires who aren’t the right cultural fit. I certainly have. Does the following situation sound familiar? You work with a smart, talented colleague whose ideas are stellar but who delivers these ideas in ways that lead to negative confrontation. I learned the hard way that it’s necessary to have good ideas, but insufficient. It matters most how you say what you say.
If you want to help people grow and improve by turning feedback into action, be kind, ask thoughtful questions and listen. The same points, delivered in the opposite manner, may lead the person receiving feedback to shut down. When taking a position that could be contentious, share facts and ask open-ended questions while providing respectful feedback when appropriate.
Examples of open-ended questions that open the door to provide critical feedback include:
• Why are we doing _________ this way?
• What was the genesis of _________ decision?
• How did you come to _________ conclusion?
Each of these questions could be followed by some version of the statement, “I imagine there’s context I’m not understanding,” which demonstrates humility, reality and openness to learn. Keep in mind that you might ask these questions and receive responses that change the feedback you were prepared to deliver.
At different points in our lives, we’ll be on both the giving and receiving sides of the coin. As CEO, I receive constant feedback and it positions me to better give. Stay encouraged and be encouraging. Feedback unlocks potential.
Have you encountered bias in the working world against mothers? An assumption that perhaps moms are less productive or less committed to their jobs? This bias is so prevalent that it has a name: The motherhood penalty. Research shows that mothers are likely to be offered annual salaries $11,000 less on average than their peers. Well, the 12 women highlighted below, all of whom founded or cofounded their successful companies after they had kids, are here to prove any doubters wrong. Motivated by motherhood, they started eight companies that are making life better for moms and their kids.
1) Sonia Chang and Manisha Shah, Cofounders & Co-CEOs of Playfully
Manisha Shah and Sonia Chang are the cofounders of Playfully, a baby and child development app that helps busy parents promote their child’s development through at-home play. Both are moms of two kids who found their life purpose in building a company that makes it easy for parents of 0- to 3-year-olds to engage with their kids in meaningful ways. Playfully’s users clearly resonate with this purpose, as the company has more than tripled its user base in the first six months of 2019.
When Manisha Shah started taking her premature baby (born at 28 weeks) to see an occupational therapist, her eyes were opened to the importance of play. She began thinking about how to make that specialist’s knowledge accessible to other parents. A Stanford engineer, she was intrigued by the challenge of leveraging technology to deepen in-person connections in the real world. She built the first version of the Playfully app herself while balancing having two young kids at home.
In 2018, Shah reconnected with her Stanford classmate Sonia Chang. Chang, also a mom of two kids, had struggled to find easy, convenient ways to promote her kids’ development. The two bonded over anxieties that many parents have: Research shows that 85% of the brain is formed by age three, and this is the foundation for all future learning. Yet many parents are left guessing at how to best support their baby’s development. They see their baby growing and changing before their eyes and naturally start to wonder what more they should be doing. Shah and Chang designed Playfully to solve that problem.
Shah and Chang didn’t necessarily imagine becoming entrepreneurs, but were inspired to start a company after experiencing the struggles of early parenthood. Now that they are mompreneurs, working on a product that makes them better parents themselves, they cherish the alignment between their personal and professional passions. Often times, the games and ideas they create at home with their kids serve as inspiration for the play activities that go directly into the app. What drives the two is knowing that they are making the lives of other parents easier and having real impact on families around the world.
2) Amber Fawson and Cherie Hoeger, Cofounders of Saalt
The feminine hygiene market is projected to be a $6.2 billion industry in the US and $40 billion industry globally by 2020. Saalt, which creates reusable menstrual cups, is at the forefront of brands making period care sustainable. Cofounders Amber Fawson, mother of four, and Cherie Hoeger, mother of five, believe women need safer and more environmentally-friendly options for period care. Saalt recently launched nationwide at Target, and is available online at fashion retailers like Revolve and Urban Outfitters. As a certified B Corp, Saalt commits 2% of its revenue to donate period care and help fund initiatives in girls’ education, empowerment, and sustainability.
Saalt came to be after Hoeger made a phone call to an aunt in Venezuela. During the call, Hoeger learned that menstrual pads and tampons had not been available on store shelves for years. Immediately, she thought of her own five daughters and what she would do in the same situation. The dependence she and others had on disposables kept her up at night. Three months later, she was sourcing reusable menstrual pads for hundreds of friends, just to be nice. When she went to source a bulk order of menstrual cups, she couldn’t find one that met her ideal criteria. So, she started custom designing her idea of the perfect cup, and the rest is history.
Hoeger says that growing up, she wanted to make a difference in the world. Over time, she found the greatest potential for impact came by empowering girls through education. “I saw what a college education did to vastly improve the life circumstance of my Argentine-born mother, who used her nursing degree to help support our large family,” Hoeger says. “At Saalt, we’re passionate about educating women and girls.”
Fawson loves how Saalt gives a voice to people who represent vast differences in financial security, political views, cultural upbringing, and personal priorities. “I loved finding myself in a circle of women halfway across the world in Kenya talking about periods. Everyone there has the same questions I do. We all laugh about our periods in the same way my friends do. They are excited about the benefits of period cups.”
The two women say they’d like to see more aspiring entrepreneurs embrace their influence to do good in the world through the Benefit Corporation model. “We believe the B-Corp standard is decisively the way of the future. Its focus on conscious capitalism in every aspect of business gives us hope. We hope new entrepreneurs will choose better health for their customers and our planet.”
3) Hanna Chiou and Anne-Louise Nieto, Cofounders of Habbi Habbi
Prior to having children, Hanna Chiou and Anne-Louise Nieto were Stanford, Harvard, Princeton grads with MBAs working as international management consultants. They were also dear friends who had known each other for 15 years. Becoming moms gave them a different perspective and motivation to tackle new challenges. They both left their high-powered corporate jobs in order to start their own company, Habbi Habbi, with a focus on intentional, educational products, play and early childhood development.
As of September 9, Habbi Habbi has launched its own product aimed at making it easy to teach kids Chinese or Spanish. They’re a series of bilingual books accompanied by a Reading Wand that makes them come alive. Kids simply tap anywhere to hear words, phrases or sound effects.
“We’re driven to make something that matters,” says Chiou. “Our friends call us ‘courageous.’ We just think we would regret it if we didn’t try. Everything we do is motivated by our own children.”
The biggest challenge they face is finding balance. Here, they find working together in partnership to be their greatest tool. “We remind ourselves that individually, we are our own harshest critics but to one another, we’re our biggest cheerleaders,” says Nieto.
To aspiringmompreneurs, Chiou and Nieto council that there is no “good time” to start. “Just go for it,” they advise. “Put one foot in front of another and keep going. You’ll be amazed at how much gets done by just being consistent and making daily progress.”
4) Jamie Morea, Cofounder of The Simple Folk
After the birth of their second babies (just six weeks apart), Jamie Morea and a good friend, Abigail Brown, awakened to the realities of the fashion industry. Its tendency to produce cheap, disposable clothes damage those who make them, those who wear them, and the planet. Though the timing was far from logical – they already had four companies, two toddlers, and two newborns between them – they were compelled to change things. They created The Simple Folk, a line of ultra-soft, minimalist, organic, sustainable, and pattern-free clothing made with fair, ethical, and eco-friendly business practices.
While Morea feels called to become her best self and empower others to do the same, she admits that the daily balance of having big global dreams while also striving to be an involved, connected, and present parent is a huge greatest challenge. She has found a sweet spot by delegating many domestic chores, surrounding herself with a talented team, and opting for a modern, distributed organization that offers paid maternity/paternity leave and unlimited vacation, and supports women in leadership roles. Most of The Simple Folk staff are work-from-home moms. “We often breastfeed our babies while on team conference calls,” Morea says. “We’re lifting our veils, setting the bar high, and making a difference in our world.”
To aspiring mompreneurs, Morea says, “Follow your joy and inspiration. Find a way to delegate everything that drains you or that you don’t like to do. When you allow yourself to set your soul on fire for your business, you can build from a completely different place; a place where work is play and where work is an act of self-care that serves your highest good.”
5) Ariane Goldman, Founder & CEO of HATCH
When she was pregnant, Ariane Goldman couldn’t find anything to wear that allowed her to celebrate her changing body instead of hiding behind it. She felt driven to change that. She therefore launched HATCH in order to provide women with stylish maternity clothes and mother-to-be safe beauty products to empower them and enable them to feel confident and beautiful during this rewarding yet challenging time.
As magical as pregnancy is, it can also be a lonely and isolating experience. In addition to providing wardrobe and beauty solutions, Goldman was driven to create a trusted resource and community for expecting women to turn to for advice, information and connection. HATCH hosts regular events in New York and Los Angeles where women can attend doula seminars, birth coaching, mommy and me classes and more.
Her biggest challenge is building out the team and getting great talent. But, says Goldman, the difficulties are worth it. “It’s incredibly rewarding to empower pregnant women and see them embracing this moment in their lives by connecting with each other.”
Goldman advises aspiring mompreneurs to “Just go for it! Think about your business constantly and talk about it with others. Do one thing every day to keep the momentum alive. After a while, you’ll have no choice but to keep going!”
6) Christina Carbonell and Galyn Bernard, Cofounders of Primary
Christina Carbonell and Galyn Bernard started Primary because they were frustrated shopping for their children’s clothes. “Everything sold is from a gender prescriptive!” they say. “We couldn’t believe that in this day and age, you still walk into a store and find pink princesses for girls, and blue fire trucks for boys.” The two moms decided to take a different approach to kids clothing, focusing on simple, classic styles in a rainbow of colors offered in a gender-neutral way. In addition, they aim to keep prices low.
When they first started Primary, Carbonell and Bernard admit that they were unprepared for the intricacies of manufacturing. They ended up with severe out-of-stocks. They considered many ways to improve the supply chain, including almost giving away a big stake in the company to a potential partner. Ultimately, however, they leveraged their network to connect with and hire an industry veteran from the Gap.
“Just get started,” the cofounders say to aspiring mompreneurs. “There will never be a perfect time where you have all the money you need, or your idea is completely perfect. It’s kind of like having a kid: You just have to go for it.”
7) Jane Daines, Cofounder & Chief Product Officer, Lalo
As a mom of two, Daines experienced first-hand how overwhelming it is to shop for a baby. When she connected with her cofounders, Greg Davidson and Michael Wieder, they shared similar frustrations. They felt motivated to develop better products and a streamlined shopping experience. Their mission with Lalo is to be the go-to destination for well-made baby and toddler essentials.
Figuring out the product roadmap for the first year presented a major challenge. “As a small but mighty team at launch, we needed to be thoughtful about where we put our resources,” says Daines. They decided to focus on products families rely on the most. This led them to develop as their first product The Daily stroller. They recently launched a second product, The Chair, a 2-in-1 convertible high chair. It sold out in two weeks.
“Create a product or service which you will use in your daily life,” Daines says to aspiring mompreneurs. “It has been incredibly helpful to create a product that my family and friends use every day. It makes testing and innovation so much easier when the item is already incorporated into your life.”
8) Kim Palmer, Founder & CEO of Clementine
It was upon taking maternity leave from her high-powered marketing job that anxiety took over Kim Palmer’s life. After suffering many major panic attacks, she eventually discovered that hypnotherapy – and not meditation – best improved her emotional wellbeing. She then decided to create Clementine, an app that provides short, guided hypnotherapy sessions to boost confidence, reduce stress and improve sleep.
Available since November 2017, Clementine has been voted one of the ‘Seven Apps Every Woman Should Own’ by The Guardian, as well as Apple’s ‘App of the Day’ twice. It has been included in the Top 100 Women in FemTech and Health Tech by Women of Wearables. Clementine currently engages more than 60K women, 40K through the app. Of these users, 97% allow Clementine to notify them daily via the mantras module.
Palmer’s purpose in life is to support women to be their best selves. She is therefore delighted to have the opportunity with Clementine to offer guidance and support to as many women as possible, since the app is free for download. The biggest challenge she faces is fundraising. “What is required is money and the process of securing funding is tough,” she says.
Palmerencourages aspiring entrepreneurs to identify a problem that needs to be solved and create a solution that your audience will love. “Then you have a winner,” she says. “Also listen, evolve, listen, evolve, and so on. The process of starting and running a business isn’t linear, it’s circular and it should feel like you are constantly tinkering.”
Tech billionaires Elon Musk and Jack Ma put artificial intelligence in the spotlight when they staged a public debate on the future of the technology earlier this month. Musk reiterated his concern regarding the potentially negative consequences AI could unleash on society, while Ma took a markedly more optimistic tone. Both agreed, however, that the technology will inevitably change the way we live and work, perhaps like no other technology has.
The companies succeeding with AI are those that are reorienting their entire business around the technology. Their leaders are finding ways to incorporate advanced data analytics and automation into marketing, business development, customer service, and virtually every other business process. By making AI part of their DNA, these companies are poised to capitalize as advancements continue.
Of course, implementing AI — or any new technology — isn’t without its hurdles, especially for companies without an abundance of in-house technical expertise. But early adopters understand that the technology is still in its infancy and embrace the challenges that accompany integration. They know it’s better to face those difficulties now than to sit on the sidelines and miss the opportunities that AI will present in the near future.
If you’re a business leader planning your own AI implementation, there are several steps you can take to both minimize short-term challenges and maximize long-term value.
1. Align AI use with specific business objectives.
Most chief executives agree that technological change is the biggest external challenge they now face. Unfortunately, many also lack the knowledge necessary to navigate a rapidly changing technological landscape. That’s why it’s critical that today’s executives prioritize IT as a core business function. Doing so will allow your company to be more proactive and agile, and it will ultimately give you an edge over your competition.
A proactive IT posture will also enable you to identify the best AI strategy for your company. Every business is different, but if you know precisely what you’re trying to accomplish and clearly understand what’s achievable with AI, you’ll be able to make better decisions about where to start your integration and what to expect in terms of ROI.
2. Turn existing jobs into “superjobs.”
Thanks to AI, the skills required to perform a wide range of business functions are changing. “There is going to be a huge amount of job redesign,” says Emily He, Oracle’s senior vice president of human capital management. “A lot of the work that’s currently repetitive will be automated through technology.” Time and effort that used to be spent on repetitive tasks is being reallocated to higher-level work. At the same time, companies are increasingly looking for prospective hires who have the ability to work alongside machines.
Business leaders must collaborate with their staff to understand how roles are changing as AI takes on more of the workload. The C-suite and HR must then work together to create job descriptions for these “super jobs” to ensure that new hires have the capabilities needed to perform new kinds of work. “The redesign will be happening through the HR function, through leadership, as well as through the employees themselves,” observes He.
3. Teach your team to work with data and AI solutions.
Modern businesses are currently facing a major shortage of technical talent, which means that many companies could have to upskill current employees rather than hire new ones. Companies interested in integrating AI will first need to ensure they have the data and the employee expertise to actually benefit from these solutions.
Cultivating in-house expertise will give enterprises a major competitive edge. “AI requires large amounts of clean, organized data to inform decisions — something many organizations lack,” says Vince Dawkins, president and CEO of Enertia Software, a developer of enterprise solutions for the upstream oil and gas industry. “By training employees to perform these tasks and giving AI the tools it needs to succeed, organizations are getting an invaluable head start on AI implementation.”
In 2018, the World Economic Forum predicted AI would create 58 million new jobs in the next five years. Inevitably, these jobs will require new skills and beget new business processes, though no one can say for sure what the future holds. Don’t wait five years to see how AI changes your industry. Instead, lead the change by making the technology part of your DNA today.
There’s a buzzing word for companies looking to blend two priorities: innovation and cost savings. “Coopetition”—which signifies collaboration among business competitors—is an idea that’s picking up steam.
The risks of collaborating with rivals might seem daunting, but a study by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute finds the benefits are much more likely to outweigh any disadvantages. The study found that this kind of collaborative competition, when it lasted from three to five years, had more than a 50% chance of mutually reducing company costs.
“Nowadays, the best partner might be your direct competitor,” says Paavo Ritala, a professor of Strategy and Innovation at LUT University of Technology in Finland. “Competitors tend to face similar markets and use similar resources and technologies. They typically have to deal with similar challenges at large. Thus, with rising costs of R&D and globalizing competition, it often makes sense to collaborate with competitors on product development, innovation and joint manufacturing.”
Ritala, who co-wrote a ScienceDirect report on the “coopetition” idea, analyzes Amazon Marketplace—Amazon’s e-commerce third-party selling platform—as a business model that demonstrates coopetition’s efficacy. Ritala says that the partnership is a win-win situation: Amazon.com benefits since it gets a margin of the sales from the Marketplace, while its third-party sellers also benefit by getting access to a “very large customer base and a popular platform.”
Amazon justifies the terms of the partnership as being best for its customers. “Third-party sales are now 58% of our gross sales because we are committed to helping independent retailers meet the needs of Amazon customers around the globe,” said Amazon spokesperson Joel Sider. “This year we are on track to spend $15 billion on tools, services, programs and people to fuel the success of sellers, most of whom are small and medium-sized businesses.”
YouTube and Vimeo have a similar relationship. During an innovation panel at the 2019 ForbesWomen Summit, Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud shared that the video platform joined forces with YouTube, one of its main competitors by allowing creators to publish their videos to YouTube, as well as to other video platforms.
“What it unlocked was actually a totally new strategy for our company . . .one of the biggest value-adds in our product, and it all came from flipping the script in terms of how you think about whether someone is a competitor or a partner, and prioritizing the problem you want to solve,” said Sud.
“Coopetition,” while a contemporary idea, is actually nothing new. More than two decades ago, Yale School of Management professor Barry Nalebuff and NYU Stern School of Business professor Adam M. Brandenburger noticed an increasing number of these kinds of partnerships among rivals, especially in the digital space, and set out to research the theory that turned into their 1996 book, Co-Opetition. Today, the co-authors see the trend continuing in industries from automotive to smartphones.
Among the most striking current examples of coopetition, says Brandenburger, is that between Apple and Samsung. While Samsung’s Galaxy and Apple’s iPhone are competing products, Samsung at the same time continues to be one of Apple’s main suppliers (the company supplies screens to Apple).
Although the idea of coopetition is becoming more accepted, says Brandenburger, “it is still often seen as a last resort.”
Part of the struggle for companies is understanding how and when to implement the strategy, notes Adrian Slywotzk, a partner at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman and the coauthor of a Harvard Business Review article exploring the coopetition trend. Slywotzk’s advice for business owners is to have a clear understanding of the functions that are unique to your company—you of course don’t want to collaborate with a rival in those areas. But where you’re both trying to get the same job done: That’s where he believes competitor resources should be allocated.
“Understand very clearly the dividing line between things that you must be the best in the world at versus those things where you’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to do redundant activities where you’re not going to be better,” says Slywotzk.
A mock up of the cardboard wrapping for Coca-Cola multipacks | Credit: CCEP
Plastic shrink-wrap to hold multipack cans together is to be be replaced with sustainably sourced cardboard
Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the bottler and distributor for Coca-Cola across Europe, is scrapping its plastic shrink-wrap in favour of cardboard packaging, it announced today.
Coca-Cola owns brands such as Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper and Lilt, and sells more than 30 million multipacks in Great Britain every year.
Over the next 18 months all multipack packaging will be shifted to cardboard, which CCEP said is recyclable and 100 per cent sustainably sourced.
CCEP said although the current plastic shrink-wrap is recyclable, only 10 per cent of local authorities will collect it.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to recycle our packaging after they’ve enjoyed our drinks,” explained Leendert den Hollander, vice president and general manager at Coca-Cola European Partners GB. “By replacing shrink-wrap with cardboard, which is collected by virtually every household system in the country, we are eliminating a hard-to-recycle material from our supply chain.”
The move follows in the footsteps of other drinks brands ditching plastic wrapping from multipacks.
Without tackling inequality, achieving the rest of the Sustainable Development Coals will be almost impossible, argues Ben Martin at the Green Economy Coalition
It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of how radical the Sustainable Development Goals really are. Consider what achieving the SDGs would actually entail: a world with no poverty and no hunger, carbon reduced to net zero, a restored and rejuvenated natural world, whole sectors – energy, transport, food, construction – transformed almost unrecognisably. We at the Green Economy Coalition believe the SDGs are a roadmap to a genuinely different world.
But achieving this vision won’t be easy. Legislative tweaks around the margins or a light dusting of CSR won’t get us there. To achieve any one of the SDGs – clean and cheap energy for all, say, or reversing the ongoing extinctions of millions of species, or decarbonisation fast enough to stay under 1.5°C – will require new economic structures, big social changes, and seriously ambitious legislation. To achieve all 17 together will require transformation on an almost unprecedented scale. Existing industries, jobs, and communities will be impacted heavily. And vested interests will put up quite a fight.
So how can we achieve these ambitious, profoundly transformative SDGs, without alienating a significant chunk of voters, employees and shareholders? Turns out, the answer was in the question all along. SDG 10 – reducing inequalities – is the key.
If it’s not fair, it won’t fly
It’s a commonplace to say the SDGs must be achieved all together or not at all. So far, however, most governments and businesses are cherry-picking the goals that they’re already doing the best on, and de-emphasising those that they feel are less relevant. SDG10 is a particular victim of this. After all, when compared to ending poverty, zero hunger, or climate action, merely “reducing inequalities” can seem a bit B-list. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Here’s why. First of all, pro-SDG policies are not automatically popular with the public. It’s not hard to find examples of new environmental and social laws struggling for support – ‘gilet jaunes’ protests against green fuel taxes, Australia’s tussles over carbon pricing, endless Obamacare conspiracy theories, the election of Bolsonaro, Trump, Orbán et al and promises to roll back action on climate, environment and development. As environmental crises mount, and the scale of change ratchets up, these political struggles will only intensify.
Some profess bewilderment at this. Why would voters reject better healthcare, cleaner air and water, a safer world for their children? Are they ignorant, selfish, less educated? Shouldn’t green leaders just ignore these dupes and press ahead regardless?
In fact, these voters are articulating an entirely rational position, based fundamentally around inequality. They are asking – forcefully, repeatedly, and reasonably – that since it is the high carbon, high consumption lifestyles of rich elites that are creating the problem, why should the costs of climate and environmental action fall mostly on the poor?
Tackling inequality to unlock sustainability
Globally, the more unequal societies strongly correlate with those most damaging to the planet, while the world’s richest 10 per cent are responsible for more than 50 per cent of global carbon emissions. Inequality drives envioronmental destruction, but the suffering this causes is distribuited unequally too.
People have an instinctive sense of fairness. They want environmental action to benefit everyone, not just elites, and they want the costs of that action to fall equitably on the shoulders of those most responsible. It’s a simple argument, but an unanswerable one.
Yet all too often, economic policies that are “good for everyone” in the long run still fail to deliver real benefits to those people whose lives will be most affected in the near term. If green politicians shutter the only job you’ve ever had, its cold comfort to be told that it was based on a brown economic model that couldn’t last anyway.
Pressing ahead with a green agenda without addressing justice, equity and inclusion will always be counterproductive. Affected communities – be they coal miners, farmers, or car workers – will reject policies that sacrifice their livelihoods for distant, abstract objectives like “biodiversity” or “decarbonisation”.
Yellow vests and green hearts
The quintessential example here is France’s gilets jaunes protests. The immediate triggers were a fuel tax hike and a lower motorway speed limit, both presented by the Macron government as necessary for France’s “ecological transition”. A narrative quickly took hold in the press that the protesters were reactionary rural bumpkins, addicted to fossil fuels and fast driving – especially when the government dropped the fuel tax in an unsuccessful attempt to restore calm.
But dig a little deeper, and it’s clear that the protesters were motivated mainly by outrage at the economic injustices and inequality of modern France, as well as personal antipathy to Macron. Opposition to the fuel tax was driven, at least in part, by how regressive it is.
A flat fuel tax overwhelmingly hurts struggling workers in rural areas, while the benefits of lower air pollution would mainly be felt by wealthy city-dwellers. The majority of gilet jaunes protestors come from a world of insecure employment, rural poverty, and increasing inequality. It’s not hard to see why the fuel tax became the straw which broke the camel’s back.
SDG10: the key to unlock the transition
The gilets jaunes protestors are a powerful symbol of why social justice must always be at the heart of environmental justice. Green policies must also address equality, or they will be rejected. Unless we achieve SDG10 – not as an afterthought, but as the central plank of any green agenda – then we are dooming ourselves to a “fast yet fragile” technocratic transition, opposed by many and easily undone.
Luckily, policymakers are waking up to the power of a bottom-up approach. Macron dropped the fuel tax, but launched instead a Citizens’ Convention for the Climate, a people’s assembly of 150 randomly selected voters charged with overhauling France’s climate and environmental policies; the Canadian province of British Colombia invests the profits of its carbon tax into social care; community forestry schemes in Nepal, Indonesia and Korea have reduced deforestation while generating income for the poorest. Many more examples can be found in our Green Must Be Fair report.
Corporate leaders too see the writing on the wall. “Business with purpose” is an idea whose time has come, with a new wave of B-Corps, co-ops and social enterprises aiming to benefit people and planet, as well as achieving profit. Representation of employees and even young people on corporate boards is moving from a fringe idea to the mainstream. And the ever-increasing ratio of CEO to worker pay – arguably the defining inequality issue of our time – is coming under increasing public and political scrutiny.
Savvy politicians and professionals alike would be wise to start grappling with the issue of inequality. People need to believe that new policies or business decisions will benefit them, their families, their communities. They need to see that they are valued and represented in the boardrooms and ministries that guide this transition. And they need to know that the green transition’s benefits and costs alike will be shouldered fairly by both rich and poor. Inclusion is how sustainability gets to scale.
No-one said achieving the Sustainable Development Goals was going to be easy. But without tackling inequality, hitting the rest of these radical, laudable goals will be almost impossible.
Ben Martin is communications editor at the Green Economy Coalition.
Concerns remain over the impact of Brexit on environmental standards
Troubled Brexit negotiations could result in weakening green standards and reduction in Europe’s diplomatic influence on climate action, new study warns
Brexit threatens to derail both the UK and the EU’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis, with a “lack of faith” between both parties during current exit deal negotiations putting future cooperation and alignment on environmental standards at risk, a new academic study has warned.
The paper released today by the University of Sheffield highlights the UK’s crucial role as a counterweight to EU member states that have traditionally lobbied against bolder climate action. It argues the UK has in the past helped push the bloc towards stronger environmental, climate, and renewable energy targets and regulations.
It also points to the UK’s recent adoption of its 2050 net zero emissions target, which made it the first major economy in the world to lay down such a level of ambition in law, arguing the country had set a “positive example” to the rest of the world on climate action.
But author of the paper, Professor Charlotte Burns, warned the current “lack of faith” between Brussels and London during difficult Brexit negotiations was putting future climate action at risk.
Moreover, Burns, a professorial fellow in the University’s Department of politics and international relations, said the UK’s efforts to secure a trade deal with the US – which under Trump has sought to exit the Paris Agreement – could further jeopardise relations and cooperation with the EU.
“The climate emergency demands urgent action,” said Burns. “The UK and EU should be working together to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement and set out roadmaps to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across the continent by 2050. But Brexit has created uncertainty and raised the risk that the climate crisis will be pushed off the political agenda at this critical moment.”
Boris Johnson has on several occasions stated his support for the UK’s 2050 net zero goal and has repeatedly insisted the government is committed to “world class” environmental standards after leaving the EU.
However, reports have emerged in recent weeks of the Prime Minister seeking to break away from EU environmental standards after Brexit, despite previous commitments from his predecessor Theresa May to maintaining a ‘level playing field’ with Europe on environmental and social standards.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, yesterday also appeared to confirm that the UK’s negotiating team has been seeking to revisit level playing field commitments on the environment.
Barnier making point publicly UK Government has told him it now wants to revisit level playing field commitments (social, environmental, competition) made by May last year… this will lessen the ambition for a free trade agreement… Consequences…https://t.co/kwneH9to2o
Burns said she was concerned by such signals from Downing Street since Johnson became Prime Minister earlier in the summer, and warned a potential no-deal Brexit would mean there was nothing to stop the UK weakening its own climate regulations after Brexit.
Moreover, she said pursuing a trade deal with the US would further increase pressure on the UK to reduce green standards on goods and services. “Ongoing uncertainty about the Johnson government’s positioning on the environment raises questions about future trade deals and their environmental implications,” her study states.
“As we move towards an election, it is important that the environment and climate breakdown should be high up the political agenda,” said Burns. “Crucially, the risks of a no-deal Brexit for the climate need to be explained and the scope for no-deal to prompt weaker EU climate ambition should not be ignored.”
Environmental groups have long warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the UK’s environmental standards and regulations, given 80 per cent of domestic green laws estimated to derive from the EU.
Concerns have ratcheted up in recent weeks as proposed legislation such as the Agriculture Bill and the Environment Bill – which were due to set out UK’s future green protections and farming subsidy framework – have both been shelved due to the government’s recent decision to prorogue Parliament.
Ministers have repeatedly insisted they remain committed to deliver a “green Brexit”, but at the same time some of their colleagues have publicly and privately made the case for greater environmental deregulation.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.
Former Energy and Clean Growth Minister to give one of her first major speeches since UK was confirmed as co-host for the crucial COP26 Summit in Glasgow
Claire Perry is to provide the opening keynote address at this year’s BusinessGreen Leaders Summit on October 23rd, delivering one of her first major public speeches since she was appointed as President of next year’s crucial COP26 Summit in Glasgow.
The former energy and climate change minister will provide an audience of over 200 leading sustainability executives and green economy stakeholders with an update on the government’s plans for the 2020 UN Climate Summit, which is to be co-hosted by the UK and Italy.
She will also discuss how the business community can engage with the high profile Summit and maximise the economic opportunities on offer, while driving forward their own climate plans.
Perry is one of host of high profile speakers scheduled to appear at the third annual BusinessGreen Leaders Summit, including Dr Alice Bell, Quorn CEO Kevin Brennan, Centrica’s Jim Rushen, IKEA’s Hege Sæbjørnsen, Solarcentury founder Jeremy Leggett, and Climate Group CEO Helen Clarkson.
The Summit, which is supported by headline sponsor Centrica, will take place at The Crystal venue in London’s Docklands. The theme for this year’s Summit is “preparing for a decade of disruption” and through a series of keynote addresses, panel debates, and streamed workshops on clean energy, the circular economy, and the net zero transition delegates will be able to explore how leading businesses are positioning themselves for the most exciting and eventful decade in the green economy’s history.
“We are delighted Claire Perry will join us for what promises to be a fascinating Summit at a crucially important time for the green economy,” said BusinessGreen editor-in-chief James Murray. “As President of COP26 she will be right at the heart of a critical 18 months for the UK and the world’s net zero ambitions and will be able to offer invaluable insights on how the business community can help accelerate decarbonisation efforts and support the landmark UN Summit in Glasgow next year.”
Thanks to the support of our sponsors Centrica and Orsted, the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards is free to attend for sustainability executives and key green economy stakeholders. However, the event is close to being fully booked, so delegates are advised to register their place as soon as possible.
The news comes just days after BusinessGreen also confirmed that chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt is to deliver the keynote address at the inaugural BusinessGreen Technology Festival and Awards on December 5th.
The deadline for entering the BusinessGreen Technology Awards is September 27th. Now in their fifth year the awards offer a unique opportunity for companies from across the burgeoning green technology sector to showcase their cutting edge projects and innovations.
The awards ceremony will take place at the close of the day-long BusinessGreen Technology Festival, providing shortlisted firms with a unique opportunity to hear from agenda-setting speakers, network with top investors and prospective partners, and potentially present their technology through the BusinessGreen Technology Challenge.