In judging their prospects for promotion in up-or-out professions like law, academia, and consulting, everyone pretty much does the same thing. They size themselves up against their peers, and if it looks like the odds are against them, they leave. This seems egalitarian, but forthcoming research from Wharton professor Katherine Milkman, together with her mentor from HBS, Kathleen McGinn, suggests that when it comes to women and underrepresented minorities, the dynamic plays out in unexpected ways.
As [email protected] reports, workgroups with high numbers of women and minorities at the law firm they studied displayed high levels of social cohesion, as they expected — but also higher levels of attrition. That’s because they judged their peers to be their fellow women and minorities, and when grouped together, they gauged their chances of promotion to decrease owing to greater competition for the same small number of partnership slots. A better approach to nurturing these individuals, Milkman concludes, is to diversify workgroups and provide role models by creating associations of similar peers across the company who are not vying for the same promotion slots.
Trying to coax a risk-averse boss to innovate? Stanford business professor Baba Shiv has two pieces of advice for you. First, he suggests, don’t come in with a polished pitch. Presenting the “perfect” solution only inspires critiques, whereas a rougher idea will inspire people to see potential and make suggestions. But not all people, apparently. Drawing on from research from his Stanford neuroscience colleague Robert Sapolsky, Shiv argues that the instinctual brain is governed by something called the “X framework” — in essence, a predilection to move either from anxiety to contentment (the type 1’s) or from boredom to excitement (the type 2’s). So his second piece of advice is this: If the manager you’re targeting is a type 1, give up. Go up the hierarchy until you find the first type 2, make your (imperfect) pitch that that person, and let authority trickle down.
By 2020, BCG calculates, China’s and India’s consumer markets will roughly triple to reach an astounding $10 trillion annually. To gain their fair share of that $10 trillion pie, Western companies need a big-bet mind-set. Don’t be distracted by today’s slower growth numbers. When it comes to China and India, BCG warns, you need to ask, “Have I set a bold enough overall aspiration for myself and my organization? Is our level of investment sufficient — in size, scale, and timing — so that in 2020, we will have no regrets, no hesitations, no “should have, could have” conversations around the boardroom?”
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