How Companies Will Stand Out Post-Pandemic

by Ulrik Juul Christensen

(Hint: It’s Not AI.)

In a post-pandemic world, companies undoubtedly will turn increasingly to advanced technologies — artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and automation — to accelerate growth and improve profit margins. Such an arms race, however, will not be sustainable as even the latest technology will eventually become commoditized. Instead, the true point of differentiation will be well-educated human capital deployed dynamically to tackle challenges so complex that AI and automation will come up short.

To be clear, technology will be the foundation of digital transformation. As two experts from the World Bank wrote in Harvard Business Review, “Increases in efficiency brought about by digital technology can help businesses expand. Digital platforms can create entirely new occupations and jobs.”  Yet that opportunity will not be realized unless people are well-educated, not only when it comes to job-specific technical competencies, but also in 21st century skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, as well as character traits of leadership, ethics, citizenship, and grit.

Based on conversations I’m having with business leaders across multiple industries, and even what I see in our own company, I believe the key to future success — through this decade and beyond — lies in learning engineering. Essentially, that means offering the right learning opportunities to build relevant skills and ensuring that people take advantage of learning and development (L&D). As a chief learning officer (CLO) told me recently, “The pandemic has exposed the fact that L&D is not a ‘nice to have’; it is a ‘need to have.’”

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How to work with every damn Myers-Briggs personality type

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We got experts to weigh-in on how classic personality traits translate to remote work.

The shift to remote work has given many of us a new perspective on how we do our jobs. Without the context of a shared workspace or the rhythm of a typical office day, our own personalities are having far more of a say in our performance.

It follows, then, that the best way to maximize our output in a WFH environment is to better know our personalities – and those of our dispersed colleagues.

An efficient (and intriguing) way to manage this personality wrangling is via the tried-and-tested Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Generally regarded as one of the most accurate personality tests out there, the MBTI is widely applied within the business world, with 89 of the Fortune 100 companies utilising it.

“The MBTI is deceptively simple, but it’s also an extremely useful way to see how team members are inherently different, and how you can work together more successfully,” says occupational psychologist John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at the Myers-Briggs Company. “It’s a means to boost productivity in people, increasing their engagement and making them generally happier in their work.”

In other words, the MBTI might just be the key to turning your remote team into a smooth autonomous unit.

The 16 personality types and their traits

Based on Carl Jung’s Theory of Psychological Types, the MBTI is a self-reported personality survey that has been around in various shapes and forms since the 1940s. Respondents answer a series of simple questions about their feelings and preferences, eventually aligning with one of 16 personality types.

Each of these types is identified by four letters, starting with an E or an I (for extrovert/introvert) followed by S or N (sensibility/intuition), T or F (thinking/feeling), and finally a J or a P (judgment/perception). Each type also has a descriptor, e.g., “the analyst,” to further characterize the personality type in action.

Once you know your team members’ types, the thinking goes, you can better assign them to projects which match their preferences, proficiency, and proclivities. You can also communicate more effectively if you have a better idea of how people process information.

To get started, take the official Myers-Briggs test here (or try a similar free questionnaire, recommended by psychologists here), then check out our expert guidance below on how to work with each personality type. Continue reading

Navigating Office Politics When There Is No Office

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Dorie Clark

Across jobs, companies, and industries, people’s success has always depended not just on what they produce or deliver, but also on their ability to navigate the murky waters of office politics. A great deal of scientific research has explored the hidden potent forces underlying the formal and informal power dynamics in any group or organization, unsurprisingly highlighting the pervasive and sometimes toxic nature of office politics.

But what happens to office politics when you remove the office? Although virtual work has existed for some time now, the pandemic has dramatically changed the context of work by fully removing the office, eliminating interpersonal contact and physical human interaction — and with it, opportunities to engage in tactics of manipulation or impression management. As one of our clients recently lamented: “Without the office, how can I pretend to work?”

Many people have by now recovered a certain degree of normalcy by returning to the office, albeit less often, and without as many colleagues around. In fact, for a large proportion of the industrialized workforce, the big bulk of work continues to be done from home, with most work interactions confined to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. Continue reading

The Psychology Behind Effective Crisis Leadership

by Gianpiero Petriglieri

When I ask groups of managers what makes a good leader, I seldom have to wait long before someone says, “Vision!” and everyone nods. I have asked that question countless times for the past 20 years, to cohorts of senior executives, middle managers, and young students from many different sectors, industries, backgrounds, and countries. The answer is always the same: A vision inspires and moves people. Expansion, domination, freedom, equality, salvation — whatever it is, if a leader’s vision gives us direction and hope, we will follow. If you don’t have one, you can’t call yourself a leader.

This enchantment with vision, I believe, is the manifestation of a bigger problem: a disembodied conception of leadership. Visions hold our imagination captive, but they rarely have a positive effect on our bodies. In fact, we often end up sacrificing our bodies in the pursuit of different kinds of visions, and celebrating that fact — whether it is by dying for our countries or working ourselves to exhaustion for our companies. Visions work the same way whether mystics or leaders have them: They promise a future and demand our life. In some cases, that sacrifice is worth it. In others, it is not. Just as it can ignite us, a vision can burn us out. Continue reading

Keep Your People Learning When You Go Virtual

by Annie Peshkam and Gianpiero Petriglieri

Over the past five years, we have been taking our work online deliberately and at a steady pace. At INSEAD, the business school where we work, we’ve been expanding virtual meetings, ramping up virtual classes and coaching, and introducing digital tools to enhance face-to-face work. Then, in the past few weeks, everything else moved online, too. As in many organizations, the transition happened almost overnight in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis that has disrupted everyone’s private as well as working lives.

In such conditions, organizations and leaders might be forgiven for going into survival mode and putting learning aside. Companies do that all the time: They pause major learning initiatives, such as training courses, and minor ones, such as process checks after team meetings. They slash learning budgets and cancel mentoring sessions in a downturn. In times of upheaval, anxiety runs high and the instinct to preserve the world as we know it takes over. Leaders put aside their intent to include and develop, and revert to command and control. “Forget learning!” the thinking goes. We can’t afford it when we need to secure operations and get the basics done.”

This is dangerous. Like all major crises, and perhaps more than most, the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to leave behind lasting changes in the way work and business take place. Learning will be the foundation of our survival, then, for both organizations and the individuals who make them up. As the world shifts to online work and businesses struggle to reinvent themselves, organizations need to learn what kinds of new products and services will appeal to their consumers and learn how to create them. Leaders must learn how to keep a distributed workforce focused, energized, and attuned to customers’ changing needs. Continue reading