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An Inflection Point – Harvard Business School

By: Dennis Karpovitch

Over the past few weeks, BizTech members have had the chance to attend a few different conferences that offered insights into innovation and emerging technologies. Here’s what they saw!

An Inflection Point – Harvard Business School

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In October, BizTech had the chance to attend Inflection Point, the annual Technology Conference at Harvard Business School. During the Opening Keynote, Andy Ellis, Chief Security Officer of Akamai, discussed the importance making smart decisions for internet security and risk management in the digital world. Andy talked about the OODA loop, a process map he created for addressing all the critical checkpoints in making a decision. The loop starts with the observation a problem; this is driven by attention and fast information flow that allow a person to establish the urgency or novelty of a situation. Next, process models allow individuals to orient themselves by establishing a context and framing expectations for the future. In making a decision, the executive position must be willing to take on the risk associated with obscure costs and complex returns. After choosing the best option, coordinated action is necessary to carry out the decision effectively. The OODA loop can be an effective tool in solving complex problems and can help teams be more cohesive in their decision making.

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During a live video presentation, Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, talked about the qualities a good leader should have when forming relationships with their employees and building teams. Based on her professional experience, Kim argues that the most effective way to solve problems is by operationalizing good feedback. Her framework assesses feedback based on two key metrics: inclination to care personally and to challenge directly. The “care personally” dimension is based on an individual’s orientation to others and their propensity to “give a damn.” The standard of professionalism in today’s business environment often breeds an apathetic environment that can degrade people through office politics. However, radical candor allows an individual to bring their whole self to work and ultimately stimulate an environment where everyone can show their true selves. The ability to “challenge directly” dimension is rooted in a person’s “willingness to piss others off.” Many of us have a moral obligation to challenge people when we see them making a mistake, but failing to be mindful can appear as obnoxious or aggressive. If feedback lacks personal care and a direct challenge, it can translate into manipulative insincerity through passive aggression, false apologies, and political backstabbing. More commonly we see that leaders care too much personally without challenging directly enough. This can turn into ruinous empathy when a leader does not hold an employee accountable for their shortcomings. Radical Candor means challenging directly while showing that you care personally and it will help any team to work their best.

Throughout the day, the conference also broke out into various panel discussions on topics such as 3D Printing, Autonomous Vehicles, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Cryptoassets, Venture Capital, Augmented Reality and more! The conference highlighted the increased influence that technology has had on our lives, especially in the face of recent scandals at big tech companies. Staying true to its name, attendees left the conference considering whether or not we’re at an inflection point in the way we allow technology to shape our lives.

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