Flex cover photoThis post is an excerpt from “Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences,” (March 2014, HarperBusiness), by Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee. The book is available at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound.

As individuals we can accomplish only so much. We’re limited in our abilities. … Collectively, we face no such constraint. We possess incredible capacity to think differently. These differences can provide the seeds of innovation, progress, and understanding. — Scott Page, “The Difference”

Two senior-level managers read through the performance evaluations for their team members, preparing for upcoming annual reviews and a rankings meeting. As they comb through the evaluations, they keep in mind a mid-level managerial spot that has recently opened up, scanning for top performers they might tap to fill the position. “What about Ursula?” asks one. “Her numbers are fantastic.”

“Yeah …” The other man pauses. “Maybe. She’s a rock star — don’t get me wrong. (read more…)

Today, most consumer-driven companies are playing catchup in a rapidly changing world. We see mistakes made by their leaders and unexpected changes in companies’ strategic directions. The retail industry has suffered not only from badly thought-out decisions but also from the increasing pressure of online retailers.

While retail companies are trying to catch up and win back customers, I’ve decided to look at the issues from a leadership perspective. What has changed in the capabilities and skills of successful retail leaders? Who can turn things around? Who can be a future game-changer? Mark Cohen, professor at Columbia Business School and former CEO of Sears Canada, helped me with answers to these questions.

Lilia K. Staples: Let’s start with challenges. Today, in your mind, what are the top three issues of retailing leadership of large corporate enterprises?

Mark Cohen: Insuring that the entire organization is properly focused on the strategy of the company and its execution. (read more…)

For those who don’t know the story of Sal Khan and the Khan Academy, a look at the back story and growth rate of the online education portal can be startling. What began as a one-on-one tutoring sessions between Khan and his cousin in 2004 has grown into a platform that touches 200 countries, includes 150,000 educators and welcomes 10 million unique users every month.

Khan’s made a dynamic presentation at CME Group’s annual Global Financial Leadership Conference this week and shared his keen insights on the current and future landscape for education:

On the rising costs of higher education in the U.S.: Khan said an education system where costs grow 5% faster than inflation is not sustainable, adding that the return on investment current students are getting is not good. “The ecosystem is right for alternatives.” Khan says the de-coupling of knowledge and credentials might help solve structural unemployment. (read more…)

Today, emerging markets are leading the global economy. China and India attract most Western attention. But growing domestic demand and unique human capital talent in Latin America make this region just as likely to deliver strong returns as its Asian counterparts. To succeed in this environment, Western organizations must understand the operational complexities, local realities and the “human capital” factor in individual markets in Latin America.

As many corporations seek ways of strengthening the competitive advantage in this market, I asked a leader of the world’s largest beer company – Karl Lippert, president of Latin America at SABMiller, who joined the company in 1992.

Lilia K. Staples: Karl, prior to leading Latin America market, you’ve spent most of your career navigating in several countries in the EMEA region. How is the professional culture in Latin America different from that in Europe and Africa?

Karl Lippert: Every culture has its peculiarities, and people value things differently everywhere. (read more…)

"Startup Rising"The Middle East seems to the casual observer to always be in crisis, and even more so in recent months (and years) in places such as Egypt and Syria, with numerous other countries grappling with spillover effects or domestic crises all their own.

Despite this, Christopher M. Schroeder argues, the seeds of entrepreneurialism have already been planted, are already bearing fruit, and while nothing is certain, the energy, youth and technological advantages that mark the region’s entrepreneurs cannot be ignored.

I recently sat down with him in Washington, D.C., to discuss his book, “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East,” and how this American tech executive and investor came to be so interested in the efforts of those half a world away. He also recently discussed his book on “Charlie Rose” — video here.

Schoeder’s background is in Internet companies of various types, whether running, advising or investing in them, and he also served in the State Department during the George H.W. (read more…)