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G100 Network Notebook | August 2018

Why Rebels Can Be Your Best Employees

For companies pursuing innovation, managing the tension between experimentation and rigor has traditionally proved tricky. Leaders who do this best, like Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura, identify and embrace “rebel talent” better than others, explains behavioral scientist and Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino. Gino discusses her research on innovation and positive deviance in an interview with NPR:

We really need to shift our thinking. Rebels are not troublemakers. They’re not outcasts. Rebels are people who break rules that should be broken. They break rules that hold them and others back, and their way of rule-breaking is constructive rather than destructive. It creates positive change.

Behind Best Buy’s Resurgence

Bloomberg offers a riveting take on Best Buy’s turnaround, one of retail’s most salient stories. Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly has overseen 4x increase in stock price, thanks to initiatives including in-store showcases with Apple, Google, and Amazon, an improved web experience, and distribution optimization. A key component of Best Buy’s strategy: expanding their in-home tech advisor program, which Joly envisions becoming “to the consumer what a company like Accenture is for a business.” Joly and CFO Corie Barry explain the program:

No. 1: No job is too small. “We’ll come teach you how to ask Alexa questions,” Barry says, offering an example of a current—and common—request for using the Amazon Echo. No. 2: We will come to your home for free. No. 3: Be comfortable not closing a deal by day’s end. “They sound really basic,” Barry says. “But when an organization is built on transactions in the moment and individual goals, it’s a big change.”

How to Scale Retraining

American companies spent more than $1,000 per employee in staff training last year, boosting overall training spend to $91B, almost a third more than 2016. IBM is at the head of massive retraining in tech – a critical mission, says Diane Gherson, head of HR, given that employees skills are now relevant for only three years. The Economist explores how IBM and others are reskilling their workforces, with after-hours online coursework and digital badging systems. The numbers are staggering:

In 2016-18 more than 200,000 IBM staffers earned 650,000 badges and the average employee undertook 60 hours of training a year. … In the past five years, IBM reckons, the proportion of its employees who have advanced digital skills has risen from 30% to 80%.

After Bankruptcy, Betting on Caesars

Nearly a year after leading the casino group out of Chapter 11 proceedings, Caesars Entertainment CEO Mark Frissora is ready to step on the accelerator, focusing on e-gaming, sports betting, and international expansion. In the Financial Times, Frissora reflects on the company’s turnaround, including how a hotel room renovation campaign improved the business’s cash flow and why he believes stabilizing, not replacing, the management team was the right call:

“I’ve always tried to be very careful about not getting rid of people that run operations [and] have the knowledge of the business, because that ends up being the golden goose, oftentimes,” he explains. The people running Caesars knew what ailed it, he adds: “You just go out and interview them.”

The Cyber Threats Inside Your Office

It’s not just your fax machine. On the heels of cyber theft cases at GE and Tesla, cybersecurity experts advise business leaders to pay closer attention to the most vulnerable organizational assets: employees, both malicious and just negligent. In an editorial, Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy warns about the rise of insider threats and how AI can help protect your company’s IP:

A knowledgeable insider using a new generation of hacking tools could steal terabytes worth of valuable IP in a matter of minutes. This is why, according to Raytheon’s 2018 Study on Global Megatrends in Cybersecurity, IT professionals across the globe are more worried about malicious or criminal insiders (36%) than they are about nation-state attackers (30%) or hacktivists (27%).

One solution for more secure internal networks? Be like Google and drop passwords and one-time codes in favor of physical security keys. What feels like a low-tech response to sophisticated email phishing campaigns has proven highly successful, per cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs:

Google has not had any of its 85,000+ employees successfully phished on their work-related accounts since early 2017, when it began requiring all employees to use physical Security Keys … inexpensive USB-based devices that offer an alternative approach to two-factor authentication.

AI in Your Ear

Smart speakers – with devices now in 16% of US homes and counting – were phase one for AI voice assistants. Next up, hearables: tiny, sensor-laden computing devices worn in the ear. Fast Company explores the field through rise and fall of Doppler Labs, an influential wireless earbud startup whose alumni now work on hearables projects at the world’s most influential tech firms:

Amazon, Apple, and Google each have high-priority projects to pick up where Doppler left off. All three are working on products that combine the utility of the hearing aid with the entertainment value of a pair of high-end headphones, and potentially much more, say sources. Since all three have announced plans to get into healthcare, they could easily add fitness and health monitoring sensors for everything from counting steps to measuring oxygen saturation.