The Lead: Sears Bankruptcy, AI Assistant, South Sudan’s Civil War, 3-D Print Cells

Sears Files for Bankruptcy Protection

Sears, the pioneer of the everything store, now struggles to compete with rivals like Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon. In order to cut its debts and keep operating, Sears is using a Chapter 11 filing in Federal Bankruptcy Court in New York and will close 142 unprofitable stores. Sears has already cut its work force from 302,000 a decade ago to 68,000 today while shutting more than 1,000 stores.

Our View: Maintain employee commitment in uncertain times by remaining committed as a leader. Demonstrate consistency and remain honest, especially when addressing employees’ questions and concerns. Pay close attention to your organizations’ culture and meet often to measure and understand the mindset of your employees. When leaders have a composed reaction to negative events, it sets the tone and creates opportunities for learning.Further Reading

Human-Looking AI Assistant

An augmented-reality startup called Magic Leap recently revealed their new prototype Mica, a human-looking voice assistant that you can see when wearing Magic Leap’s augmented-reality glasses. This advance in a realistic avatar is likely the beginning of a widespread influence on society as Magic Leap encourages computer developers to build similar assistants on its platform. Mica has the potential to change everything about our daily lives, ranging from the way we are educated to how we receive healthcare.

Our View: Technology changes leadership. Technology advances in ways that help monitor employee engagement and customer satisfaction, and leaders can easily reach millions of followers through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Leadership becomes more about influence and less about direct power as communication to a vast audience (and data about them) becomes more accessible. Advances in technology also often speed up efficiency in basic tasks that free up valuable time for leaders to spend more time thinking creatively. Further Reading

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South Sudan’s Deadly Civil War

Experts believe that gaining an accurate death toll of often-overlooked conflict can be a tool for policymakers. According to a new study commissioned by the U.S. Institute for Peace and the State Department, the civil war in South Sudan has killed at least 382,000 people, a number far greater than previous estimates. There has been some pushback to the validity of the new estimate, but Klem Ryan, a former official with the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, said that this calculation seems plausible. For perspective, the new estimate puts the death toll from the violence in South Sudan similar to the impact of conflicts like the war in Syria, where as many as 510,000 people were believed to have died in a significantly larger population.

Our View: Leaders have the responsibility to understand which metrics matter for decision-making and to implement the data collections systems and processes. Top metrics that should influence your business decisions are time, frequency of reoccurring mistakes, cost, and return on investment. Even though they are more difficult to measure, don’t forget about the metrics for things like employee morale, customer satisfaction, and leadership alignment. Find ways to track how your organization is performing in these areas in order to find ways to improve them. Further Reading

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3-D Print Cells to Produce Human Tissue

Scientists are continuously advancing the capabilities of 3-D printing. Recently, they have developed an extremely complicated process to 3-D print cells to produce human tissue such as ligaments and tendons to ultimately speed up a patient’s recovery from injury. “This is a technique in a very controlled manner to create a pattern and organizations of cells that you couldn’t create with previous technologies. It will allow patients to receive replacement tissues without additional surgeries and without having to harvest tissue from other sites, which has its own source of problems,” says University of Utah biomedical engineering assistant professor Robby Bowles.

Our View: Finding ways to speed up recovery after problems is just as essential for leaders at organizations as it is for patients with injuries. Create a narrative after a crisis that exposes an emotional truth and includes yourself in the story. Convey your feelings of commitment to your organization’s larger purpose to inspire people to work towards a quick recovery. This fosters a culture where it is safe to fail fast and learn from mistakes. Further Reading

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Sunflower Inspired Solar Powered House

The increasing use of solar power has the power to reduce global emissions, though it might still not be enough to avoid enormous global disruptions. A new design for a house has been created to maximize its solar energy by physically tilting and turning to follow the movement of the sun, similar to a sunflower.

Our View: Leaders who think outside the box create and inspire more innovation, but exactly how does one think outside the box? The best way to start is by identifying and challenging your assumptions. Promote creative thinking and creative solutions by allowing absurd assumptions. Assume the absurd by asking “what if?” and find ways to make sense of the absurd assumptions. Further Reading

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