Will the Huawei Arrest Influence the U.S.-China Trade Talks?

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The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of China’s Huawei, by Canadian police upon the request for extradition by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has resulted in confusion regarding U.S.-China trade negotiations.

Some believe hardline national security elements of the U.S. government ordered the extradition request in order to sabotage the trade talks or at least to disregard them in the historic tradition of U.S. national security agencies putting their concerns above trade issues.

Some believe that President Trump ordered the extradition request as a way of bringing pressure to bear on Chinese President Xi Jinping for further trade concessions.

Some believe the U.S. has a vendetta against Huawei and senselessly got carried away by its hatred in a way that may undermine the trade discussion.

As it happens, the truth is almost certainly much less exciting.

Let’s start with the last issue. It is true that the U.S. government has a deep concern regarding Huawei. But that concern is not entirely without foundation. Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications-equipment maker. Its founder came from the People’s Liberation Army  and has had a continuing close relationship with the PLA as well as with other security agencies of the Chinese government. It has been the beneficiary of extensive government subsidies, contracts, protection, and, some say, government-sponsored hacking of foreign technology companies and of the U.S. government.

The U.S. government has charged Huawei with illegally selling U.S. components to Iran, and the FBI has been tracking Huawei executives for some time for purposes of making an arrest. It was fortuitous that Meng happened to be in Canada when she was, but the FBI move was not made in a sudden fit of anger. The warrant for arrest had been out for some time.

Did a group of hawks deliberately try to sabotage the trade talks? The Chinese probably wouldn’t mind if this view were widely believed, but it seems unlikely. In the first place, the real hawks are the administration’s trade negotiators led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Assistant to the President Peter Navarro. They certainly didn’t want to sabotage themselves. Moreover, since the timing of the arrest was fortuitous, it was not something that could have been purposely arranged to sabotage the trade talks.

If it’s true that Trump and Lighthizer did not know of the arrest in advance, it does raise the issue of why no one told them. There are two possible explanations. One is that the FBI was focused on its case and simply didn’t think of the arrest in the context of the trade talks. However, National Security Adviser John Bolton was informed but did not pass the information on to the president. Informing the national security adviser would be a natural thing to do in this kind of a situation.

Why didn’t Bolton inform the president? One possible answer is that he saw it was a case of the FBI simply doing its job and thus there was no reason to interrupt the president who was in the midst of discussions with President Xi. Another is that Bolton is a national security hawk who might prefer a breakdown in trade talks that might relieve pressure within the U.S. government to take more vigorous defense measures with regard to China. Or maybe it was a combination of the two. Take your pick.

What about the notion that the president ordered the arrest precisely in order to wring more trade concessions from Xi? This is unlikely. First, the timing was unpredictable, and the president could not have known in advance that an arrest was even possible. Second, intertwining the arrest with the trade talks would be more likely to undermine the talks than to lead to greater concessions.

Of course, the president subsequently has thrown doubt into the equation by stating that he would intervene to halt proceedings against Meng if he got a really big trade deal from Xi. But the fact is that the president does not have the authority to intervene in the legal proceedings against Meng. So his statement seems to be something he thought of subsequent to, rather than before, the arrest.

A key part of the equation is Lighthizer’s strong insistence that the talks and the arrest are two completely different and unrelated activities. He knows the Chinese would probably like a public perception of some kind of relationship because that would weaken his negotiating hand. So he is emphasizing that the talks and the arrest are not at all entangled. Since Lighthizer would be the big loser in the case of any entanglement, it is easy to believe he was not part of any nefarious scheme.

In summary, it’s highly likely that Meng’s arrest and the new U.S.-China trade talks were not initially related. The degree to which the Chinese government and the Trump administration allow them to become part of the negotiations remains to be seen. I just hope that the Trump administration keeps them separate. Too many times in the past, the U.S. government has needlessly sacrificed crucial trade priorities to the goals or concerns of national security agencies. It would be a shame for that to happen again.

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As you rise in your career and your visibility grows, you’ll likely be called upon to participate in a panel discussion. It’s a powerful way to share your ideas and become recognized in your field, but there’s no question that preparing to speak on a panel can be stressful — you have to figure out what to say, practice being concise, and worry about overlapping with your colleagues.

It’s even more fraught, however, when you’ve been asked to moderate one.

Now you have to bring order to an unwieldy group of strangers and somehow unify their disparate perspectives into a meaningful conversation. As a professional speaker, I give more than 50 talks at companies and conferences each year, participating in everything from keynotes to panels. Here are four strategies I’ve developed to ensure that when I’m moderating, I create the conditions for an insightful exchange.

First, it’s important to prepare your panelists in advance for what to expect. At one recent conference where I was a panelist, my moderator didn’t contact me until the morning of our session. “Unfortunately I couldn’t find your email address in my mailbox,” he wrote me, “and I couldn’t obtain it from the [conference organizers]. They’ve been a bit overwhelmed I guess these last few days. But [fellow panelist] gave it to me this morning and so here is the outline. Let me know if it works and see you later today!”

I’m comfortable improvising onstage, so this wasn’t a problem for me; but for any panelist who might want to prepare before giving a presentation, this would have been panic-inducing. It doesn’t take much to get on the same page with your panelists — one pre-event conference call, a couple of emails asking for their thoughts on the topic, or even sharing your draft questions in advance should suffice. But forcing your panelists to go into the event blind, with only a couple of hours to prepare, is frankly a dereliction of moderator duty.

Second, realize that your sole mission is to ensure a great audience experience. As moderator, one of the hardest — and most frequent — challenges you’ll face is whether to cut off long-winded panelists, and how to do it tactfully. It’s awkward to interrupt someone, especially if that person has stature in your field, and you may naturally worry about offending them. But it has to be done.

The moderator’s sacred responsibility is not to assuage panelists’ egos; it’s to stand as an advocate for the audience, asking the questions they wish they could and ensuring a thoughtful discussion. You want to keep the panel from turning into a platform for someone’s bloviation. If the event organizers had wanted that person to monologue, they would have given them a keynote. Instead, they put them on a panel in order to get their perspective as part of a group conversation, and you’ve been chosen to uphold that intention.

If you’re wondering whether someone is droning on too long, the audience probably thinks they are. It’s crucial to remember that the audience will be rooting for you to stop the soliloquy. I’ve discovered one way to help the verbose panelist save face: cut them off with a positive statement. You can capture their attention by simultaneously making a hand gesture and breaking in verbally, and say something like, “That’s a great point, Joe, and I’d love to hear how Preeti would respond to that.” Cutting them off is a far better alternative than simply sitting there and looking uncomfortable, or making half-hearted attempts to catch the offending panelist’s eye.

Third, don’t be afraid to wield the power you’ve been given. Too many panel moderators seem uncomfortable with the responsibility they’ve been given and take a hands-off approach to the session. For example, they’ll “toss out” questions to the entire panel, without specifying who should respond, resulting in awkward silences, as people try to figure out who should go first — or complete chaos, as the most aggressive panelist dominates the conversation. Maybe the moderator does specify a speaking order, but it’s the rote mechanics of Panelist A, then Panelist B, then Panelist C — the predictability of which will bore the audience by the second round.

Instead, direct your questions to the person who will have the most relevant answers. That means, of course, that it’s important to research the panelists in advance to know enough about which topics are in their wheelhouse. If Panelist A says something incendiary about tech founders, and Panelist C launched a startup last year, don’t wait for Panelist B to respond just because it’s his “turn.” Instead, follow the action and direct the conversation appropriately.

Of course, you want to be fair as moderator and not allow one person to dominate at the expense of other voices. But fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal: if Panelist C gets five questions and everyone else answers three, that’s not the end of the world if that panelist is especially interesting and adds to the conversation.

Fourth, remember that the moderator needs to embrace the role of interlocutor. When panelists say something interesting, or confusing, you should jump in with a follow-up. “Tell me more,” you could say, or “What do you mean by that?” or “Can you explain that in more detail?” That enables the conversation to go deeper, away from the panelists’ typical talking points and into more fruitful territory.

Moderating a panel can be a challenge even for experienced professionals. It’s true that you’re not answering any questions yourself, and you know them all in advance, but there are still unpredictable elements. You have to choreograph the interaction of multiple opinionated leaders, keep everyone on topic, and probe for deeper insights. If you take the steps above to proactively craft a great experience — rather than sitting back and hoping it will take care of itself — you’ll set yourself apart as a uniquely thoughtful moderator.

Youngme Moon, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, and Mihir Desai discuss Verizon’s write-down on Oath (Yahoo, AOL) and the challenges with building a digital advertising business. They also debate the notion of Radical Transparency, before sharing their After Hours picks for the week.

Download this podcast

Some recent picks:

Bloomberg article (“Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo Era: Avoid Women At All Cost“) and Response from Jefferies CEO Richard Handler 21c Museum Hotels The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle (by Leslie Connor) TikTok (phone app) 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

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.

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We simply don’t know for sure whether automation, algorithms, and AI will ultimately create more jobs than they destroy. Opinions are all over the map. One widely cited study predicted 47% of jobs will be automated, and technological change has in fact contributed to declining employment in recent years. Some are already preparing for a world without work.

But automation has been going on for centuries, and jobs still exist: that’s because automation replaces some kinds of human labor while boosting demand for others. Furthermore, job upheaval today is relatively modest. The mix of jobs in the economy is changing more slowly in recent decades than in the 1940s and 1950s, for instance (see the chart below). Today, economists worry that the labor market isn’t dynamic enough: numerous measures of fluidity and dynamism, like migration and job turnover, have been declining for decades.


But this uncertainty should not blind or distract us from other pressing questions about automation that we’re sure to face regardless of whether automation adds to or subtracts from the total number of jobs. Here are five important, overlooked questions about automation and jobs:

Will workers whose jobs are automated be able to transition to new jobs? The pain from automation arises not only from how many jobs are eliminated, but also from whether workers in automated jobs can transition to other work. On Indeed’s site we have data on how some workers in threatened occupations are seeking new opportunities, such as retail workers looking at customer service and sales-rep roles. But transitions may be harder than in the past. Job churn has slowed in recent decades, as firms both hire and fire less than they used to, and because people move less than before. The labor market may be changing less today than in the 1940s and 1950s, but today’s slower employment growth and lower mobility could make transitions more drawn-out and painful.

Who will bear the burden of automation? Regardless of how many jobs are eliminated by automation, the pain will be uneven. The less-educated are far more likely to work in “routine” jobs, which are more susceptible to automation, than workers with a college or graduate degree. Men are more likely to work in routine jobs than women are. And the geographic divide is stark: just one-third of jobs in metro Washington DC and San Jose CA are routine, versus half or more in much of inland California and many smaller southern and Midwestern metros. These regional differences line up with the partisan divide: counties that voted more strongly for President Trump in 2016 have a higher share of routine jobs and therefore are more likely to be affected.

How will automation affect the supply of labor? Automation might affect labor supply, not only labor demand. Just as past technological innovations, like washing machines and kitchen appliances, reduced the time needed to do household work and contributed to the entry of women into paid employment, future technological advances related to automation might also shift how much people are willing and able to work. For instance, autonomous vehicles might turn commuting into productive work time. Or, autonomous vehicles could chauffeur kids to school and activities, freeing up parents to work more hours. Alternatively, automation could boost productivity and lower consumer prices, possibly reducing labor supply since people will need to work less to afford the same items. It’s far from clear which of these effects will win out.

How will automation affect wages, and how will wages affect automation? The pace of automation depends on prices, not just technological feasibility. Just because a robot or algorithm can perform a task as competently as a human doesn’t mean that human will be replaced. Automation depends on the cost of the technology relative to the cost of human labor. In today’s tight labor market, for instance, rising wages and worker shortages might encourage automation and boost productivity. At the same time, automation that replaces workers in some sectors could push them into the labor supply for other sectors, potentially depressing wages, slowing productivity, and aggravating inequality. Again, it’s not clear which force will be stronger.

How will automation change job searching? Artificial intelligence has the potential to predict better matches between job seekers and open positions. Automated screenings and tests can potentially remove human biases that disadvantage certain candidates. However, algorithms might also reinforce human prejudices if the algorithms are trained on biased datasets. Plus, algorithms might be differentially applied to certain groups: one expert warns of a future where “the privileged … are processed more by people, the masses by machines.” Finally, people might be skittish about automated hiring. A recent survey found people less enthusiastic about algorithms evaluating job candidates than about driverless cars or robot elder care-givers, which could slow down their adoption

We don’t need to wait to discover whether automation creates more jobs than it destroys to start answering these questions and acting on the answers. Making job transitions easier, focusing on those most at risk of job loss, and thinking about labor supply, wages, and job search are all essential for navigating these new technologies — whether or not automation ultimately adds to or subtracts from overall employment.

2019 SEO Trends for Your Small Business to Follow

Search engine optimization (SEO) will be more significant in 2019. Like previous years, its importance in serving as the stepping stone for small businesses to find online success continues to increase. In combination with a strong and effective digital marketing campaign, small businesses need an excellent SEO strategy.

Small businesses need to stay at the top of their game by appearing in local search results, not in just 2019, but every year. If you are an up-and-coming business or an established small business that wants to be bigger and do better in 2019, here are tips to improve your SEO practices in 2019. 

1. Deliver content fast

People are always on the go. They're using digital devices while they're on the move. When you’re using your device while you’re out and about, you’re looking for content you can quickly access, read and absorb. To fulfill that customer need, your business need to create coherent, informative and useful content, and you need to deliver the content in the shortest time possible. Most importantly, users should be able to access the content through organic search or internal linking. That too, needs to be a fast process.

2. Optimize content to match users’ search intent

Let's say you need to find information, so you perform a quick search on Google. Several websites come up, and you click on a website from the list, only to go back to searching, as you did not find what you were looking for. This is a problem that small businesses will solve using SEO in 2019.

If you run a small business, you need to increase SEO efforts by optimizing your content to match the users’ search intent. With search engines focusing on improving the user experience, small businesses need to optimize their content for snippets, the knowledge panel and other features introduced by Google. The search engine wants to display relevant content to users, which is why it displays several more video and image packs than before.

If you want your small business to rank for something specific on Google, search the keywords yourself to see what pops up in the search results. If images appear, create an infographic. If videos appear, create video. If videos and images both come up, you need to create a comprehensive article, containing video, text and images.

3. Present smarter information without using queries

Users do not have to put in a query to find the information they seek on Google. This is because the search engine utilizes its knowledge and use of entities, artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP). Therefore, you need to ensure the content you produce uses the schema markup. Google also aims to find the answer to the user’s question by going to extreme lengths by discovering it in the middle of an audio file, video file or an image.

For your part, you will need to create scripts with NLP and entities and include transcripts that match the text. You also need to ensure the search engine can access your audio and video files if you host them on your website via the schema markup and XML sitemap files.

For image files, focus on labeling the pages and files, page placement, schema markup and landing page quality. These types of content are new areas of SEO and Google is working toward making them appear in search results.

4. Voice search for direct answers box

Google Home, a voice search software, takes information from the search engine’s direct answers box and shares it with the users. The popularity of voice search devices will cause small businesses to use SEO to rework content on their website to directly answer questions a user may ask via voice search.

You want to come up in that search box, as it appears above all the results at the top of the page with a link to the website. In terms of using SEO to promote voice search, you’ll need to use 7-9 long-tail keywords. When people converse, they use longer phrases. When they are conversing with a voice-search device, they will do it in a conversational manner.

If you are a small business that needs to kickstart 2019 with a bang, you need to focus on SEO done in a new and better way, one that is in line with today’s Google, new ways of searching and modern devices.

If you do not, you will be left behind in the race to appear on Google, as SEO will become even more competitive in 2019. Make your resolution for 2019 to present relevant information, optimized for SEO, by using various mediums to rank higher in the search engine rankings.

MIT Sloan Management Review

To quote Jeanne Ross, whose article on architecting for agility is featured below, “…it’s not just the number of organizational elements that makes digital strategy execution difficult. Speed matters.” The new digital economy is developing at a rapid pace, and new technology is transforming — and disrupting — the way we manage, organize, and work.

Our readers are at the forefront of changes happening in different industries across the globe — and their reading taste reflects that. The most popular articles from MIT Sloan Management Review this year showcase a focus on preparing for the future of work, leveraging new technology in business, and setting strategic goals and priorities that will empower teams and increase performance.

1. The Truth About Corporate Transformation

Analysis reveals that conventional wisdom about big, risky change initiatives is often wrong. In this article, the authors provide a number of factors that can help large companies beat the odds.

2. With Goals, FAST Beats SMART

There’s a good chance that the conventional approach to goal setting is actually undermining your company’s ability to execute on strategy. To correct course, managers should embrace FAST goals.

3. The Challenge of Scaling Soft Skills

While very deft with analysis and decision-making, machines continue to struggle with “soft skills” (think: empathy, context sensing, and creative thinking). In the future of work, everyone will need to be better versed in these areas as they become more valuable.

4. The End of Scale

New, technology-driven business models are changing the traditional advantages of economies of scale. However, large companies still have strengths to exploit, provided they move quickly.

5. How Big Data and AI Are Driving Business Innovation in 2018

At the intersection of analytics and smart technology, companies are starting to see the long-awaited benefits of AI.

6. Why People Believe in Their Leaders — or Not

This new research looks at credibility of leaders — which hinges on perceptions of competence and trustworthiness. Regaining lost credibility is difficult but can be done.

7. Architect Your Company for Agility

To facilitate innovating at speed, companies must design themselves to minimize obstacles to getting work done.

8. The Mindsets of a Leader

Researchers have identified six distinct mindsets that contribute to leadership styles. By understanding the strengths and pitfalls of each mindset, managers can create better teams.

9. No One Knows Your Strategy — Not Even Your Top Leaders

Research shows that most organizations fall far short when it comes to strategic alignment. In this article, the authors provide steps to close this dangerous strategic-alignment gap.

10. Three Signals Your Industry Is About to Be Disrupted

Disruption may be the word du jour, but it rarely comes out of nowhere. This article looks at common patterns to learn from and three major signals to recognize in evaluating the risk for your industry.

11. Your Organization Is a Network of Conversations

This article describes how aligning three fundamental conversational dimensions could result in greater organizational performance.

12. Five Ways to Improve Communication in Virtual Teams

New research reveals five strategies for conquering distance and improving communication and performance in dispersed teams.

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