News

Why the first five minutes of a meeting shape its outcome

Meetings that just happen by default waste precious time, invite poor decisions, add to exhaustion, and fray relationships. Given these risks, I proposed in a previous article that successful meetings are intentionally designed. The basic idea is that to support people and move critical objectives forward, leaders need to ask themselves four questions: Why are you meeting? Who needs to be there? What conversation needs to happen? And how can you create the conditions that will enable that conversation? In my experience, leaders are often able to answer the first three questions with just a little extra effort. But they usually come up empty when it comes to the last one.

The trouble starts before the attendees show up (or log on). Many people arrive at meetings prepared to be disengaged. Whether it is a recurring team call, a project team update, or a longer strategy retreat, participants often lack

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The future of sports fandom

The way most people consume professional sports hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. It’s still chiefly a live, one-way, linear broadcast to some kind of screen. Turn on a game, make some nachos, and watch what comes at you.

But just wait until you can go as an avatar to a Chicago Bears game. You might even get a virtual Buona Italian beef sandwich and feel like you’re at Soldier Field without freezing your face off.

We’re entering a new era in which we’ll unhook sports from its TV traditions and integrate it into more parts of our lives. It’s a change that would’ve come over time but has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic. Shortened seasons, canceled games, weird playoff formats, and empty stadiums have motivated professional sports and their fans to experiment. And some of it is going to stick.

What’s to come? I asked two people who

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Will the C-suite empty out in 2021?

Given the world-turned-upside-down year we just closed out, it is probably wise to steer clear of making predictions. But it can be hard to resist the temptation in January to submit to this traditional exercise of forecasting the future.

We all know that the pandemic has changed the world of work for the long term, but one aspect of that change that may be underappreciated right now is the number of senior executives who are likely to balk at the idea of going back to the office full time. Once most people have gotten the vaccine, and companies decide that they want their leaders back at headquarters, there is likely to be a test of wills. I’ve heard countless stories from executives this past year who have reconnected with their spouses and kids and are healthier because they have more control over their schedule to build in consistent exercise. Flexible

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Practicing strategy in an uncertain world

Kristian Ebbesen Fjelde and his team knew that the executive committee meeting scheduled in mid-2019 to discuss the future strategy of their company was more important than most. Equinor had changed its name in May 2018 from Statoil to signify that it wanted to become a more diversified energy company and take a leading role in the long-term goal of transitioning out of fossil fuels. Equinor was Norway’s biggest energy producer, and its leaders understood that the structural shifts in the market necessitated a radical shift in the business that would require more than a simple rebranding. Instead of putting together a presentation, Fjelde decided to run a “strategic beliefs” card game. His team circulated 16 statements, each describing what might become a core belief of the company. They covered everything from the direction of commodity prices to the impacts of climate change. The executives were asked to reveal one

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When fiction tries to change the facts on the ground

The great French novelist Gustave Flaubert offered some famous advice to writers: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Thomas Lawson evidently never got the memo. For a brief period, around the turn of the 20th century, he was one of the most controversial stockbrokers and muckrakers in America, publicizing Wall Street finagling even as he was participating in it. Lawson was one more thing as well: a novelist. His 1907 Wall Street melodrama Friday, the Thirteenth, a gripping if overwrought page-turner, exemplifies the many works of “panic fiction” that erupted from the financial earthquakes that regularly shook Americans in those days. The book is about — what else? — Wall Street, which is where the author intended to create an earthquake of his own.

Far from following Flaubert’s advice, Lawson led a life that was neither regular

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The stakeholder–shareholder debate is over

The coronavirus pandemic has created significant distortions in our sense of time. But let’s rewind to August 2019, a safer, long-ago era, when arguments about masks were more focused on costume parties than scientific data.

That is when the Business Roundtable published its opinion about the purpose of a corporation, proclaiming that companies should no longer act only in the interests of shareholders. Instead, the group of CEOs said, companies should also invest in their employees, protect the environment, and deal fairly with their suppliers.

“While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” read the statement by the Roundtable, which represents and lobbies for many of America’s largest companies. “We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.”

The pronouncement was widely seen as

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