GE was still haunted by GE Capital, which was former CEO Jack Welch’s creature and the vehicle for his headlong pursuit of pure shareholder value © Bloomberg
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How to Lead

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, features in our sixth edition of our weekly series — for readers who are interested in what makes good leadership. Mr Benioff talks about he took on Silicon Valley’s noxious culture.

Andrew Hill's challenge

The FT's management editor sets a weekly test of your business, strategy and management skills.

Whatever happened to Six Sigma? The management technique — aimed at eliminating defects in processes and products — came to the fore in the 1990s, thanks to Motorola, where it was invented, and General Electric, whose chief executive Jack Welch promoted it across the group. The answer is that it is still going, at organisations as diverse as luxury goods companies (Burberry is a fan) and law firms. But as I've written this week, the discipline did not help GE spot unexpected insurance liabilities. The news last week prompted John Flannery, chief executive, to suggest he could break the company up.

One of Six Sigma's characteristics is a martial arts-inspired system, in which workers train to qualify as "black belt" masters of the technique. My challenge this week is for you to identify three management disciplines that today's team leader or manager should be able to command. From mastery of Slack, to familiarity with millennials' mindset, what would earn a manager a black belt in 2018? Be as humorous — or serious — as you like, and send your concise responses to bschool@ft.com.

In further reading this week, Dan Pink is out promoting his new book When, about the importance of timing — it features on our latest list of books of the month.

Inc has a good short summary of some of the findings, based on hundreds of new studies. They include, to quote the headline, the "86 Best Days of the Year to Make a Fresh Start" — including "Mondays" and your birthday.

Professor's picks

Every week a business school professor or academic recommends useful FT articles.

Kevin Mirabile, clinical associate professor of finance at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, selects:

Prices soar as new bitcoin futures start trading and US regulator gives green light for bitcoin futures trading

The US approved bitcoin derivatives trading in December 2017. Derivatives are very complex products, that can be used for speculation, hedging, arbitrage or all three. Here is an explanation of how they work.

Derivatives are contracts between two parties based upon or “derived” from some underlying or reference asset or liability and factors such as time, dividends, coupons or risk. A futures or forward contract is one type of derivative that obligates one party to buy an asset at a specified price in the future and another to sell it. It has value for the buyer when the contract price is lower than the market price of the reference asset or liability. It has value for the seller when the opposite is true. The difference between your derivative contract price and the current market value is your profit or loss. 

A contract to pay the fractional equivalent of $15,000 for a bitcoin is worth at least $1,000 if the actual bitcoin price is $16,000 any time before expiration in the coming weeks or months. Derivatives prices for futures and forwards also change in value when interest rates rise and fall. 

Jonathan Moules's business school news

The sweeping victory of Emmanuel Macron and his party, La République en Marche, in last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections has transformed France’s political standing internationally.

France’s business schools, which have been battered by reforms in recent years, are hoping that some of the positive energy created by their new head of state can help improve their fortunes too. They can take hope from having one of their own, former Essec dean Jean-Michel Blanquer, in the Macron government as minister of national education.

Although his brief covers primary and secondary education, rather than the work of business schools, many of those in postgraduate teaching are pleased to have one of them among Macron’s trusted lieutenants. Public perception appears to be that it is good to have an expert running France’s schools, even if he has made some controversial policy changes.

I visited Mr Blanquer in his new role at the education ministry building in central Paris to find out how he has made the transition. I wanted to know how the head of an elite business school has been able to adapt to overseeing the mass education of France’s next generation of young people.

Dear Jonathan

Should I choose a large consultancy for my first job? Jonathan Black, director of the careers service at the University of Oxford, answers one of our reader's questions.

Ask the academics

Got a question for leading business school experts? Send it to bschool@ft.com and we will publish the best replies in future newsletters.

Test your knowledge

How good is your grasp of the news? Test your reading of some of the top stories from the previous week with the FirstFT quiz.

Edited by Wai Kwen Chan — bschool@ft.com

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