The Lead: Persuasive Tech, Google’s Earnings, Axis Capital’s Tech Revamp

The Lead, AchieveForum’s weekly brief of leadership news and insights, provides quick clarity into relevant headlines and straight-forward analysis for applying effective leadership tools and techniques.

Persuasive Technology for the Right Reasons

Persuasive technology is a relatively new field that studies how computers can be used to control human thoughts and actions. Trained neuroscientists Ramsay Brown and T. Dalton Combs cofounded the company Boundless Mind to develop new versions of persuasive tools, combine them with machine learning, and sell them to nonprofits and companies promoting education, health, or social welfare. For example, one of their clients (called AppliedVR) provides virtual-reality therapy to patients with chronic and acute pain at 190 hospitals nationwide. Brown and Combs ask questions like “are the actions that drive value for the publisher the same actions that drive value for the user?” to determine if they will take on a new customer.

Our View: Persuasive technology pervades almost every aspect of our daily lives. While many companies want to get us to spend as much time as possible on their platforms, a new field of technology mindfulness is emerging to better evaluate and utilize persuasive technology for noble purposes with increasing regard for human and social health. These improvements aren’t only in the hands of corporate giants and successful startups. Individuals can develop simple habits like turning off notifications and shutting down tabs after copying necessary information to make a big difference in their ability to increase their efficiency, focus, and clarity of mind. Further Reading

Google’s Solid Earnings Report

During its latest earnings report, Google’s parent company Alphabet suggested that the trends that have led it to post over 20% sales growth in recent quarters remain strong, while recent margin pressures remain. PC search and ad sales on non-Google properties did well in Q1, and they also saw solid growth on desktop search. Both a revamped search ad revenue-sharing deal with Apple and the fact that Google Search remains a unique online marketing vehicle are also contributing to its growth in recent quarters.

Our View: Just like surgeries, earnings calls should be scheduled before noon. Timing makes a difference in what we do and how we do it, and learning the science behind perfect timing can increase your performance and yield better outcomes on work projects, exercise routines, and even life in general. In his new book When, behavioral scientist Daniel Pink writes about how understanding the science behind timing can help you optimally arrange your tasks. Interim goals along the pathway to a final deadline can increase productivity and help individuals and teams avoid procrastination. Further Reading

Axis Capital’s Technology Revamp

Leveraging technology for growth and modernizing IT requires both technical and cultural changes. Several mergers and acquisitions made Axis bloated with fragmented technology systems, creating challenges for data to flow freely between business units. Currently, Axis Capital’s insurance division is leading the way for data analytics programs set to generate revenue, and their CIO Darryl Catts credits the success of their transformation with their organization’s ability to align IT and business strategy before beginning their change initiative.

Our View: Outcome driven change is one of the keys to innovation and transformation. Just as IT initiatives should be aligned with business strategy, people should align three very distinct things: their thinking, doing, and feeling. Change, innovation, and marketing leader Braden Kelley says, “when what people do aligns with what they think and feel, then and only then, will you achieve the outcomes you’re looking for.” Further Reading

Walmart’s Deal with Flipkart

Walmart Inc. is working to finalize a deal to purchase a majority stake in India’s leading e-commerce company Flipkart for at least $12 billion, which would give Walmart a substantial base in an emerging market of 1.3 billion people. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, faces increasing competition from Amazon as more customers turn to e-commerce. A Flipkart and Walmart partnership will impact Amazon, and Amazon will likely get ready for the battle ahead by investing more in food retailing and fashion.

Our View: While excellent leaders are effective in all situations, leaders in emerging markets need to exercise different leadership skills. For example, they need to be more hands-on because the talent pool in emerging markets won’t be as deep initially. In order to move an entire operation from an emerging market position to a developed market position, leaders must be prepared to do work below their rank and teach less experienced staff who learn very fast. Further Reading

T-Mobile and Sprint Merge in $26.5 Billion Deal

T-Mobile US Inc. agreed to purchase Sprint in a $26.5 billion merger, and if permitted by antitrust regulators, the deal would rival AT&T to form a company with about $74 billion in annual revenue and include 70 million wireless subscribers. AT&T has $72 billion in annual wireless revenue and 78 million subscribers, while Verizon has $88 billion in annual revenue with 111 million subscribers and is the number one wireless carrier. Deutsche Telekom owns T-Mobile and Japan’s SoftBank owns Sprint, and both companies would have representatives in leadership positions at the combined company.

Our View: The tone for a successful merger is set by leaders at the top. Role clarity and alignment at the top are foundational elements for a prosperous merger. Defining distinct individual roles that work together in a complementary way help merging companies overcome current challenges and set them up for future success. Further Reading

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