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Welcome to the FT Business school newsletter, a weekly serving of management wisdom, reading recommendations and business-related challenges. FT subscribers can sign up here to receive the newsletter by email every Monday. If you have any feedback about FT Business school, please email email@example.com.
Andrew Hill’s challenge
The FT's management editor sets a weekly test of your business, strategy and management skills.
Enthusiasts for the blockchain technology, that underpins Bitcoin, imagine it could help undermine the traditional corporate organisation, as I explain in my column this week. I'm sceptical — it seems that some of the touted benefits of the blockchain could be achieved more easily by using old-fashioned databases. Companies, in any case, are already pursuing the admirable goal of decentralising authority and flattening hierarchy by other means.
My challenge this week is to imagine one limited way in which new technology — from the blockchain to artificial intelligence — could be applied (or perhaps is being successfully applied) to revolutionise or reform traditional approaches to management. I await your concise suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, I asked for your suggestions for ensuring fair dealing between powerful customers and the many relatively powerless individuals and micro-enterprises who now supply them in the gig economy. Alam Kasenally came up with an intriguing idea: "a data-driven solution [for instance, a mobile application] that protects anonymity in isolated instances but, in the case of repeat offences, reveals identities publicly". The same app could allow "members of the platform to chat openly about their experience" and provide "a mechanism to collectively take the incident public".
For this week's further reading, Sarah Kaplan's article on the need to reframe gender equality as an innovation challenge, in the current edition of Rotman Management magazine, is thought-provoking — and a good corrective to the usual approach (sometimes advocated by me) of making a "business case" for gender equality. As Prof Kaplan points out, the academic evidence linking diversity to improved performance remains mixed. "It will be hard to make further progress if we continue to do the same old things within the same old system," she writes. "What if, instead, we thought of diversity as an innovation problem — making this challenge as exciting as other innovation challenges?"
Every week a business school professor or academic recommends useful FT articles.
Baback Yazdani, dean of Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, selects:
Tech utopias can drive workers to distraction This covers the impact created by companies when they design work spaces that are a reflection of who they are – or what they want to be.
Work environment affects how we work. John Gapper questions the wisdom of creating work space to engineer social behaviour in the way people work. He covers Apple’s meticulously designed $5bn circular building for 12,000 staff against the context of what other tech campuses are doing.
The tech industry believes that open-plan leads to more cooperation, and surrounding people by excellence will lead to designing excellence into their products. There is some truth in that.
Jonathan Moules' business school news
Two weeks ago, my colleague Jonathan Moules wrote about business school graduates changing careers when their Plan A did not work out as hoped.
Switching jobs is a time-consuming process involving scouring adverts and endless meetings with recruitment managers. What if algorithms can lend a helping hand? Alicia Clegg looks at how AI is helping employees switch careers without leaving their organisation. IBM has launched an AI-powered tool to help its employees search for new roles within the company. 'The software crunches data about each applicant ... and recommends suitable openings.' But what are the pros and cons of using machines in job hunting, as well as in the hiring process?
By Wai Kwen Chan
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Edited by Wai Kwen Chan — firstname.lastname@example.org