After the recent election, some of us may not feel so thankful as we lead up to Thanksgiving. But at ZEITGUIDE, a consulting company and publisher that guides business and creative leaders through our constantly changing culture, our company is seeing many important mindset changes that took place in 2016 that should make us all feel grateful.
1. The conversation on inclusion and diversity has become louder and more effective
This year, some male CEOs have been fired or stepped down for their misogynist comments. The Academy of Film & Television has been tasked with more actively championing the work of minority filmmakers after #oscarssowhite. For leaders who don't know how to begin building a diverse office culture, GE Vice Chair Beth Comstock gave some advice at this fall's Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit: "You have to set the standards and work hard enough to hire people who are different from you...flood the zone and keep looking until you find them."
2. AI may come to our rescue
Some continue to fear that Artificial Intelligence may transform our world into HBO's Westworld, or cause job losses for many. But AI could be a valuable companion. For years, companies have collected vast amounts of data on customers and the performance of their assets. Now, AI is putting this trove of information to work. IBM has invested billions in its cognitive computing platform, first focusing Watson's data-crunching power on healthcare. In a test conducted on 1,000 cancer patients, for example, Watson offered diagnoses as accurately as the human oncologists--and then recommended treatments human doctors may not have known about. We've also been hearing that the next C-Suite executive could be the Chief AI Officer, who will only oversee the transformation from data to Value but to also make sure the coders of AI are ethical.
3. There's a cure for our email overload
In an effort to end the workplace disaster that is inbox overflow, companies are turning to collaboration tools like Slack, Hip-Chat and Facebook Work. This "slackification" aims to bring the mechanisms of social media to the workplace to facilitate greater coordination and knowledge management in large, decentralized environments. These software tools create a living archive of shared communication and provide a way to track emerging ideas and conversations.
If you're not ready to abandon the email-system so ingrained in our culture, we've learned that the best way to communicate is to send longer, well-thought out emails with specific action points to avoid the need for inbox-clogging back and forth. We also learned from our friend Jocelyn Glei, author of the recent book, "Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done," that we should be batchers, those who process email only during a few discrete focus blocks, not reactors, who track their emails all day.
4. The rise of the 'Chief Mindfulness Officer' will force us to think more about well-being
We've all heard that meditation and yoga reduce stress, but did you know they can lead to 47 to 62 minutes of increased productivity per week? These are results from a study of Aetna employees, and may be one reason that insurance firm hired organizational psychologist Andy Lee as its full-time Chief Mindfulness Officer. They are also giving their employees "sleep bonuses" if they get at least 7 hours of sleep, proven by a Fitbit. Stay tuned as more companies make it a priority to help their employees focus on wellness.
5. The rise of the political entrepreneur
One thing we can learn from Donald Trump's sudden rise is that we are entering the era of the "political entrepreneur," as our friend DJ Peterson and president of Longview Global advisors puts it. Entrepreneurs exploit opportunities to disrupt markets. Now political entrepreneurs will disrupt the public sphere. Clearly, the "establishment" seems tired and ineffective to many voters. So, if you want to be a disruptor and change the way things work, perhaps you shouldn't head to Silicon Valley--but to Washington.