How to Ensure the Success of a Position Your Company Hasn’t Had Before

HBR.org
Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 “Future of Jobs” report, many current organizational roles are likely to be disappear as early as 2022, only to be replaced by new organizational roles. You may already be seeing these changes in your organization. Are some roles (in administration perhaps) becoming redundant? Are new roles sprouting up? Does your organization have a data analytics manager yet? How about a social media specialist? A sustainability manager?

Organizations are increasingly hiring people into novel positions, but often struggle to support these new roles. These new roles do not come with a blueprint, nor can they be copied from other organizations. They have to be built from scratch. Too much structure will stifle creativity and innovation. Too much freedom will lead to ambiguity and chaos.

To better understand the tension between control and freedom in new roles, we analyzed more than 4000 pages of interview data, company documents, and media reports from 21 organizations that recently established a “sustainability manager” position and appointed someone to the role. Our research found that organizations vary in how tightly they structure new positions, but they fall into one of three configurations: too tight, too loose, or just right. This last group of organizations are those that found the “Goldilocks fit” between structural controls and employee freedom.

Too loose

Organizations with this configuration have the least formalized commitment to sustainability. These organizations are just starting to consider social and environmental issues. In the absence of formal structures, managers in the new roles scout for social and environmental initiatives that enhance the organization’s reputation, but they can put forward only a very limited range of sustainability initiatives. The managers struggle to access organization resources and have limited discretion. They have trouble explaining their roles to colleagues and feel lost and adrift. They see themselves as a small child, tugging at someone’s trouser leg, asking for more direction and resources, but receiving scant attention.

Too tight

Organizations with this configuration have highly formalized and centralized sustainability programs driven down from the corporate level. In these organizations, the sustainability managers have to justify their activities to their peers in other functional areas (who resist the sustainability programs as another corporate imposition). Sustainability managers’ roles in these organizations are tightly orchestrated with low discretion. When they suggest initiatives, the projects only get a green light if they fit the formal organizational agenda. To avoid being perceived as a bull in a china shop, these managers learn to curb their passion for social and environmental issues and end up feeling disempowered. They constrain their inner “greenies,” even though their organizational role involves going to bat for environmental issues.

Just right

Organizations with this configuration have a broad overall commitment to sustainability, but the specific sustainability initiatives are not rigidly formalized. Sustainability managers in this configuration have considerable discretion to launch and champion innovative social and environmental initiatives. They leverage their discretion to successfully collaborate with internal (i.e., colleagues in other functional areas) and external (i.e., communities and regulators) stakeholders. Sustainability programs are decentralized, so social and environmental initiatives are not viewed as top-down directives but are embedded in the routine activities of other functions. Managers in this configuration feel empowered. They see themselves as music conductors who work with their colleagues to co-create a sustainable future. The sustainability manager in a mining company with this configuration proudly described how he had worked with his colleagues to successfully embed sustainability in the core activities at his organization (e.g., finance, mineral processing, geology). This embedding shifted the sustainability focus of his organization (from “impacting the environment” to a long-term strategic “reliance on the environment”). A manager at a wine company described how she successfully collaborated with stakeholders both within and outside her organization to roll out an environmental assurance program across the entire supply chain.

If new roles are structured too loosely or too tightly, they are unable to provide the best outcomes for their functions. Organizations with these configurations can, over time, evolve to the “just right stage”, but it is not simply a case of natural progression. This evolution demands organizational and managerial maturity and can take decades. If organizations need urgent progress, they can accelerate this transition by deliberately introducing “structural overlays”. Organizations with the too loose configuration (that are fumbling with creating structure around new managerial roles) can consciously incorporate mechanistic overlays. This will give new roles resources, authority and a clear focus to advance specific projects. The too tight organizations can loosen the iron fist of formalization by deliberately introducing organic overlays (such as “sandboxes” for specific projects that demand innovative and collaborative responses). This will temporarily exempt managers from the organizational bureaucracy and give them the freedom to experiment and innovate. Deliberate attention to structural overlays can help organizations fast track their journey towards achieving that “just right” balance between control and freedom in new roles.

Youngme Moon, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, and Mihir Desai debate whether Microsoft is trending up while Apple is trending down, before discussing the Marriott (Starwood) data breach. They also share their After Hours picks for the week.

Download this podcast

Some recent picks:

Robert Stavins (follow on Twitter) FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data) RBG (Documentary on Amazon Video) The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Video) The Ringer website Janesville (Amy Goldstein) Airtable (software) Small Fry (Lisa Brennan-Jobs) Educated (Tara Westover)

You can email your comments and ideas for future episodes to: harvardafterhours@gmail.com. You can follow Youngme and Mihir on Twitter at: @YoungmeMoon and @DesaiMihirA.

HBR Presents is a network of podcasts curated by HBR editors, bringing you the best business ideas from the leading minds in management. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harvard Business Review or its affiliates.

Business.com
Starting a Business With Nothing: How One CEO Lived on $1K a Month

When I graduated from Brown University in 2011, I turned down the opportunity to make a healthy finance salary right out of college to start my own business and only make $1,000 a month. Many people thought I was crazy – and a lot still do – but seven years later, after multiple rounds of funding, my company is thriving.

I studied entrepreneurship at Brown, where I first developed the idea for my company Premama. Premama started as an alternative to delivery systems for prenatal vitamins, which historically came in as large "horse-pills" that were difficult to consume and often caused nausea. Being a 22-year old, single male with no kids, I admittedly jumped into a market I knew nothing about – but I knew there was a problem within it that needed solving. Today, Premama has 10 products and offers a staged process for conception, from a birth control cleanse, to fertility and prenatal vitamins, to products for lactation. It has helped thousands of families get their start.

The month I graduated, I was fortunate enough to win the Rhode Island Business Competition for my concept of Premama. Not only did that give me initial seed capital, it gave me the confidence to turn down a high-paying finance job in New York and put off the idea of Law School so I could give entrepreneurship a try.

I was again fortunate enough to have $1,000 per month to live on, which we all know is not a lot and well below the poverty line; but I was fine because I was used to living like a college student (broke) and applied that approach to my first few years as an entrepreneur. One can actually stretch that amount pretty far if they follow some of my advice below.

How to live cheap and let your business thrive

One key to my business success, and later my personal success, was being able to put all initial capital ($50K from Business Plan winnings) into the business, and not my pocket. This allowed me to build the product and team I needed to then raise my first-round capital ($250K, of which I only took $18.5K in annual salary), which then led to more growth and later rounds in the millions of dollars.

By focusing investment and grant capital on your business, you signify to outsiders (who could be investors) that you are cash-conscious and put the business before yourself, two very attractive traits to investors. Here are a few tips I used to still enjoy life, with so little:

Do not live in a major city.

While it may be very appealing to move to a big, bustling city like New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles, I would not suggest doing so until your startup is well funded, if ever. Moving to these cities adds value but costs the business much more. In today's world, you can run your business from anywhere; and by avoiding high priced cities like the above, you can focus more capital on growing your business, and less on office space and salaries. I chose to keep my company in Rhode Island, where I could rent a room for $400 per month and still have $600 left over for food and fun – a lot for someone who was used to living like a college student and had maybe only $50 to their name any given week.

Avoid the "golden handcuffs."

By starting your company out of college, you won't be used to a luxurious lifestyle and will likely still enjoy eating Ramen versus The Capital Grille. This will allow you to pay yourself less and put more into ensuring the business gets off the ground. The more successful the business becomes, the more money you can raise and the more you deserve to be paid down the road. If you're used to making a large salary or have a mortgage and family to take care of, it can be much more difficult to take that leap into entrepreneurship. I mentor many entrepreneurial students and often preach that the easiest time to start a company is either in college or when your kids are through college.

Roommates are your friends.

Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely. Having roommates, both in and outside of the office, will not only lower your cost-of-living but also surround you with positive influences and sounding boards in your life.

Stick to your budget and avoid personal debt.

I hoped my salary would increase quicker than it did, but I didn't spend money assuming it would. Having a budget is always a positive, even when you are extremely successful. By creating a strict monthly budget and sticking to it, you can avoid credit card debt and overspending. First pay for shelter, then pay for food, and use what is left for fun. Sometimes this means sacrifice, but as the business grows, while you sacrifice, this will only be a short-term problem.

By being budget-conscious, you will impress current and potential investors, grow the business quicker, and set yourself up for success. Most thriving startups are seen as an overnight success; but in reality, they've worked tirelessly in the background for years. Do not be as concerned about your personal finances today; put the business first and live frugally, and you will see a much greater return on that initial sacrifice in the future.

How to Set Your Office Up for Success

Success: it’s something that we all hope to achieve in this lifetime. There are plenty of components that go into our success. One of the most important, and sometimes overlooked, parts of being successful is having an environment that promotes achievement.

Your office space is where you’ll spend most of your time. It doesn’t matter if you’re working from home, or in a large office with your own cubicle, if you spend 40-50 hours a week somewhere the environment is going to rub off on you, for better or worse.

Instead of letting your workspace drag you down, you should take proactive steps to improve your office space. A good office can improve productivity, give you a better sense of control, reduce stress and make your work day just a little bit easier.

We are going to look at some of the best ways you can set your office up for success. Small changes can make a big difference in your life. Here’s what you need to know. 

Use multiple screens

The first way you can set your office up for success is by investing in a double screen for your computer. Truthfully, the fast-paced world of technology is only speeding up. There is more data to look through, more information to read and more analytics that need to be analyzed in real time – the tasks never stop.

As a result, multiple screens can help you keep track of all this data without cycling through a million tabs at once. If you work at a job that requires you to constantly monitor data while completing other tasks throughout the day, multiple screens can benefit you. 

Furthermore, you can use split screens to set up your tasks for the day. It’s much easier to work from left to right when you see what’s ahead. When you prioritize your work for the day, it can help make you a more productive employee and help you keep your eyes on the prize.

Clear out clutter

You may have heard that clutter is a trademark sign of a creative soul. While there is truth to this, you should still try to keep your office space as clean as possible every single day. Why?  

The National Association of Professional Organisers discovered that disorganization can result in a financial loss upwards of 10 percent of a manager’s salary. That number is no laughing matter, regardless of where you’re working.

Organizing your space is easier than you might imagine. You can follow a 10-minute rule every morning. Before you start work for the day, clean all of the junk lying around on your desk that you’re not going to need for the day.

Small things like having a clean desk can have a huge impact on your overall success.

Focus on lighting

Everyone knows that you need quality lighting to work well, but did you know that different types of lighting can impact the quality of your work?

Harvard University released a full piece explaining how natural light can help increase productivity and reduce stress. Another study revealed that when you use natural sunlight in your office as opposed to an artificial source of light, your health can dramatically improve!

The survey revealed that businesses that use electrochromic glass for their natural sunlight experienced concrete results. Fifty-two percent of people said that they don’t experience eye strain from the natural light. It gets better – 72 percent also confirmed that they would never get headaches due to the use of natural light with electrochromic glass. This compares favorably to the 46-percent mark of those who work in an office that uses traditional low-e glass.

In other words, open those blinds and let the sun in. You’ll see a serious change in how you think and feel, which promotes success in the office space.

Check your seat  

It sounds like common sense, right? You have to be comfortable while you’re working in your office if you want to be successful. Surprisingly, there are ways that you are making yourself uncomfortable without even realizing it.

First, make sure you have a comfortable chair. You’re going to be sitting in this chair for upward of eight hours a day, five days a week. That’s a lot of sitting. You can look into an ergonomic chair that you can sit in comfortably.

A good office chair and ergonomic training can improve your productivity by 17.5 percent. Generally speaking, some traits of a good chair include:

Proper lumbar support

Adjustable seat so your feet can comfortably rest on the floor without straining

Armrests that allow you to position your elbows at a 90-degree angle while typing

Proper neck support

A new chair is worth the investment. It can change the way you work if you’re comfortable and happy while you’re accomplishing your daily tasks. Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to finish the day without back pain and discomfort?

The bottom line

Success is an ongoing process. As you continue working in your home office or business, you’ll discover that small changes can make a world of difference.

When you have the proper lighting, a comfortable seat, the ability to monitor all your data at once, all while working in a clutter-free environment, you’re setting yourself up to be the best version of yourself possible.

As you start making these changes in your office, pay attention to how much you’re getting done daily. Once you realize the full impact of making your office a comfortable place, you’ll begin to wonder how you ever worked any other way.

MIT Sloan Management Review

Managing passwords and user credentials for a host of websites and apps has become increasingly challenging for consumers of digital content and services. To address this annoyance, large online platforms allow unaffiliated websites to authenticate users through a shared log-in — for instance, “Log in with Facebook.” However, such log-ins are more than just a simple solution to ease user frustration. They allow the issuing platforms to track user activity across multiple unaffiliated websites and apps, while the content or service providers adopting the log-ins receive demographic and behavioral data that can help them improve user experience.

Does this setup benefit all parties involved? Sometimes. But in many cases, providers become trapped in a data-sharing dilemma: They may have short-term incentives to adopt such log-ins but suffer negative economic impact in the long run.

The Limits of Data Sharing as a Profitable Strategy

We recently analyzed the competitive dynamics at play by creating a formal game theory model, which rests on the notion that sites adopting these log-ins typically face two types of competition. On the one hand, content and service providers addressing the same special interest (say, sports news websites) compete for users. It is usually this type of competition that prompts sites to use shared log-ins; they do it to offer a better and more personalized user experience. On the other hand, the issuing platform and the special interest providers adopting the log-ins are in competition for targeted advertisements. For example, a sportswear company may increase its advertising intensity on a sports news website or a social network, depending on where it can generate more successful advertising matches. In this case, sharing usage information through the log-in is likely to benefit the issuing platform more than the special interest providers, because more detailed user data provides relatively more help to the platform in increasing its ad-targeting ability. While a special interest provider can readily place targeted ads due to its thematic focus, the issuing platform’s audience is more diverse, which makes it more difficult to select the right ad for the right user.

Our findings point to a strategic challenge in today’s digital ecosystem: While other studies have examined exclusionary practices by major platforms, our research shows that content and service providers run the risk of dependency and exploitation when entering into data-sharing agreements with them. Indeed, in addition to shared log-ins, platforms also offer other services to third-party providers that present data-sharing issues.

For example, Amazon offers a Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service that allows marketplace sellers to ship products to Amazon’s warehouse first, at which point shipping is handled by Amazon. One incentive for third-party sellers to use FBA is that products become eligible for Amazon’s popular Prime program. Prime products are more visible and can be shipped faster, providing the sellers with a competitive advantage. But then Amazon gains valuable information about sellers’ businesses, such as details about manufacturers, product popularity, and customers who have bought the products, even outside Amazon’s marketplace. Sellers thus run the risk that their popular products will soon be sold by Amazon directly and that their customer data will be fed into Amazon’s recommender system.

Another example is Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, which offers websites that adopt this technology a competitive advantage through faster-loading landing pages and prominent placement in Google’s search results. To use AMP, websites must embed a script from Google’s servers that gives Google access to the sites’ connection data. In this way, Google limits the content or service provider’s access to usage data, because users who click on an AMP link do not reach the original website. This hamstrings providers’ advertising efforts and makes it more difficult to perform analytics on their AMP content. Given these limitations, a website’s ability to compete in the targeted advertisement market may even decrease from AMP adoption.

When Is a Data-Sharing Dilemma Likely to Occur?

Small organizations and startups are the most likely candidates to pursue data-sharing relationships with large platforms. Relative to well-established content and service providers, they experience more competitive pressure to enhance ad-targeting capabilities, improve user experience, and increase market share.

Our analysis suggests that shared log-ins are most tempting and most detrimental to adopting sites when the data obtained from the online platform enables a special interest provider to gain a large advantage in the competition for users. Here, the provider has a strong unilateral incentive to adopt the log-in, even if it recognizes that this will lead to a competitive disadvantage in the advertising market. However, the advantage in the competition for users is often short-lived, because competing providers are likely to adopt the log-in as well.

Even without fierce competition for users, the data-sharing dilemma can still occur because of strong competition for advertising. The user data that websites gain through shared log-ins promise targeting advantages over sites that do not adopt the log-in. But again, those advantages may level out as adoption becomes more widespread.

Related Research

J. Krämer, D. Schnurr, and M. Wohlfarth, “Winners, Losers, and Facebook: The Role of Social Log-Ins in the Online Advertising Ecosystem,” Management Science, forthcoming.

How to Mitigate the Competitive Risks

An irony of the data-sharing dilemma is that competitive pressure forces organizations to make strategic choices that, in fact, undermine their competitiveness in the long run. So, managers should weigh the long-term effects of data-sharing agreements, such as exploitation and dependence, against short-term benefits. We offer four strategies that may help managers navigate decision-making when it comes to log-in strategy:

1. Continually monitor benefits versus drawbacks and remain agile. To avoid becoming overly dependent on the (possibly free) services offered by platforms, content and service providers should continually reevaluate adoption decisions and be prepared to quickly reverse course without losing their footing in the market. Companies may also look for ways to minimize data-sharing trade-offs. For example, websites may obfuscate their own URLs to reduce the amount of information that can be inferred by log-in providers.

2. Use data-sharing agreements to increase differentiation from competitors. Data sharing may prove to be profitable in the long term for companies that can exploit the new data sources in ways that separate them from their competitors. For example, a music-streaming service may develop special capabilities to transform user data into improved recommendation algorithms and personalized playlists. If companies gain superior analytical skills or offer novel business models that differentiate them from rivals with access to the same data sources, log-in adoption is more likely to keep paying dividends.

3. Build alliances with competitors. Instead of reinforcing the power of giant online platforms, content and service providers that have been repurposing log-ins may band together to establish their own single sign-on solution. Open and user-driven single sign-ons (such as OpenID) exist but have failed to find wide adoption. However, blockchain technology presents an opportunity to reinvigorate the concept of a decentralized log-in structure, and several software projects are already innovating in this space.

4. Seek data-sharing partners from complementary markets. Companies of the so-called old economy, with well-established customer relationships that are not in immediate competition with advertising-financed online services, may represent attractive partners for alternative data-sharing agreements. Recent activities to this end, such as a newly founded alliance by German firms and new business models introduced by established companies, may offer such opportunities.1

Organizations must navigate data-sharing strategies carefully to find success. In addition to considering the competitive effects, they should assess data protection and privacy issues before adopting a log-in that is managed by a third party or sharing data externally. In a recent hacking attack on Facebook’s log-in, at least 50 million users were affected, and with them thousands of websites that have adopted the shared log-in.2 Clearly, such data breaches and the mishandling of data by partners can quickly erode the trust of users in one’s own services. Once that has happened, it’s hard to recover.

What will it take to become a great leader in the digital economy? What will be the differentiating skill sets (what individuals will need to do) and mind-sets (how they will need to think and behave) that will shed light on what it will take to lead next-generation organizations effectively? We have set out to address these important questions as the foundation for MIT Sloan Management Review’s newest Big Ideas Initiative: The Future of Leadership in the Digital Economy.

Since it is impossible to know the future with certainty, we started by establishing a hypothesis about what skills and attributes this future leader might possess. We laid that hypothesis out in my first blog post, “Leading Into the Future,” in which we indicated that there will be both contextual elements (meaning fit for purpose for the digital economy) and core enabling elements (meaning traits that are so important that they form the cultural fabric of an organization). Merged together, we believe these core and contextual elements will help define what great leadership will look and feel like in the digital economy.

This was a good start, but an insufficient one, because we need to bridge the gap between what we know to be true today and what we believe will be true tomorrow. To help build that bridge, we will soon be distributing a global survey to thousands of practicing managers and leaders from around the world to get their views on this matter. We have also begun conducting in-depth interviews with CEOs, C-suite team members, heads of digitalization, senior line and functional leaders, and other thought leaders in all things digital.

Leadership Characteristics: Identifying the Usual Suspects

Go to any management conference today and you’ll hear a litany of the now-familiar buzzwords about the qualities of the leader of the future. To begin testing our hypothesis that would guide this project, we decided to formulate our own top 10 list of future leadership requirements to see how closely our assumptions about future leadership effectiveness in the digital economy will align with the survey responses and with the views of those whom we’ll be interviewing. Here’s our list, and we’d love to hear how close ours is to yours:

Change mastery: Mobilize resources to do things differently, faster, better, and more efficiently. Managing smart innovation: Launch small, frequent experiments — fail fast, learn, then reset. Execution excellence: Visions are only powerful if executed well for customer value enhancement. Technical/analytical savvy: Understand the power of analytics and design thinking. Nurture relationships: Optimize networks, embrace ecosystem partners, and collaborate to win. Empower to engage: Unleash the energy in your team — next-generation talents won’t have it any other way. Authenticity: Know yourself, be yourself, and bring that person to work every day. Empathy: Diverse, inclusive teams will require new perspectives and approaches to leading. Encourage dissent and transparency: Make questioning everything a two-way street. Clear-minded communications: Make it clear, frequent, honest, and engaging.

How Mind-Sets Enable Skill Sets

I’m guessing that our list comes pretty close to yours. Yet, it’s one thing to rattle off a list of desired leadership qualities and quite a different thing to understand the forces that are driving and enabling these characteristics to take hold in people and, with nurturing, help future leaders grow and flourish. This brings us to the other half of our hypothesis — that the leadership skill sets that will be identified as critically important for the digital economy will have little chance of gaining traction unless they are supported and enabled by a leadership mind-set that will help these new behaviors become the company’s normative behaviors.

This means that people will be less likely to innovate if innovation is not valued and modeled by the company’s leaders. We have identified four of these enabling leadership mind-sets that we believe are critically important for effective leadership in the digital economy. In addition to taking on a demanding set of new skills, leaders in the digital economy will set the tone in their organizations by showing up every day and demonstrating these enabling mind-sets: results focused, resiliency wired, purpose driven, and trust based. Moreover, they’ll need to be passionate about cultivating these mind-sets in their teams.

Why these four?

Results, because customer loyalty is fast becoming a quaint concept from the olden days, whereas achieving superior results never goes out of style. Resiliency, because despite how brilliant you think your business model might be, you can bet there are teams of people dedicated right now to making it obsolete. Purpose, because the best and brightest next-gens are inspired not only by interesting work but also by feeling that their work is contributing to making the world a better place. Trust, because we feel safer taking risks, innovating, and speaking our minds when doing so in trust-based environments.

At first glance, both the skill sets and mind-sets mentioned above could be perceived as important for just about any company, regardless of the level of digitalization of its business model. So, let’s take a closer look at just one of these enabling mind-sets, trust, to see why this is so critical to leading effectively in the digital economy. We will visit the skill sets and the other three enabling mind-sets with this same intent in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

Trust: The Coin of the Realm

“Even though Tencent was born digital, that doesn’t mean we aren’t facing continuous disruption and transformation challenges,” states Arthur Yeung, a senior adviser who sits in the Executive Committee Meeting of the Chinese internet and social media giant. “If you think of it, in a very short time, technology has evolved from typing to touching to voice to thinking. We grew up thinking that the internet was mostly for consumers,” he notes. (Tencent is one of the world’s largest online gaming companies, and its messaging apps, WeChat and QQ, dominate the Chinese user community.) Yeung continues: “But now we see the new opportunity in empowering operational efficiency and customer intimacy for businesses. We need to think about the ABCs: artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud.” But moving from a B2C to a B2B business model holds a number of risks and challenges, not the least of which is betting that the company’s talent pool will be able to make the change to a rapid innovation and experimentation mind-set.

“In the past, companies usually hired leaders who were good at creating standardized processes, formulating five-year strategic plans, and establishing a series of controls for people to follow those plans in order to win in business,” says Yeung. “But now, in the digital economy, we realize we need to hire leaders who can create an innovation-minded culture that fosters creative thinking, agility, and speed. We can’t do any of those things without building a solid foundation of trust and empowerment.”

Yeung’s points ring true. Will Tencent’s talent own up to the fact that their skills might be lacking as the company moves increasingly into the B2B world? Will those leaders who have built their careers and reputations at the company trust that they won’t be cast aside if they acknowledge they need digital upskilling?

Yeung makes one additional point: “At Tencent, we want people to feel and think like owners, not to work like employees under command and control. If people start to lose [the] passion and initiative to create new opportunities, then they won’t be a good fit with our future, but if they are willing to experiment and grow, we will invest in them. Trust is a two-way street.”

Another executive with whom we spoke was Hariolf Wenzler. As chief strategy officer of Baker McKenzie’s German and Austrian offices and the head of the company’s new Innovation Hub, Wenzler co-led one of the firm’s newest initiatives: “ReInvent Law.” Unlike Tencent, which is a company that was born digital, most law firms come with a long heritage and standardized ways of doing business, as one might expect. And with those standardized ways of doing business, standardized ways of working and a culture that hasn’t been kind to those that have tried to innovate have emerged.

The law firm has seen that AI and machine learning are poised to radically transform its industry, and to its credit, Baker McKenzie’s leaders have been pursuing the profile of the “lawyer of the future” for some time now, given the transformative changes in the industry on the horizon. But while Tencent’s transformation was more business model centered, Baker McKenzie’s transformation challenges are more cultural in nature. Wenzler reflects on the qualities of the leader of the future for Baker McKenzie, given the digitalization of the industry: “There is great wisdom in listening to and observing how millennials think and behave, and what they value. They want their voices heard. They want to work in a transparent environment; in fact, they appreciate radical transparency. But we have to understand that to have radical transparency, you must build a culture of radical trust. Trust is the new coin of the realm. Will a young associate speak up if she feels there is a better, more innovative way to serve our clients but also wonders if her bosses might resent her for questioning the status quo? Our accountability used to be to billable hours. For us to break away from our old ways of thinking and working, we need a new accountability, and that is to trust one another even more.”

These two company examples illustrate the importance of embedding core leadership mind-sets, such as being results-focused, resiliency-wired, purpose-driven, and trust-based, to facilitating the development of new skill sets, such as speed, experimentation, design thinking, and empathy, needed to lead effectively in the digital economy.

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