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What I’m Reading: March 2018 – Strategy, International Order, Information Conflict, Marketing, the Dark Web, and Baseball

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Here are the articles I found most interesting in March 2018:

Two Worlds of Strategy – The Strategy Bridge, 3/6/2018

This was my favorite article of the month. Dr. Mike Hennelly discusses a phenomenon I noticed when I started work on my MBA – that military strategy and business strategy are very similar. Both work down from a vision and deal with putting the right people, processes, and technology in the right place to maximize impact on a competitive market.

Unfortunately, as Hennelly writes, there is not enough sharing of ideas in the right places between the military and business worlds. I hope to write a few pieces to fill that gap soon.

No One Knows Your Strategy — Not Even Your Top Leaders – MIT Sloan Management Review, 2/12/2018

If strategy is important, it is imperative that everyone in the corporation knows or understands it. This is not the case according a study by the MIT School of Management. In many companies, the strategy doesn’t get past the top management team. That leads to miscommunication of corporate priorities and a misalignment of energy, which could cause corporations to waste time or money. Publishing a strategy is a good start, and maybe promotional materials in hallways helps, but getting people to understand the corporate strategy is the real trick.

As with the previous article, this is also a problem in military strategy.

On Anticipating Surprise – War on the Rocks, 3/5/2018

The unexpected is always scary. This article on military strategy discusses how government and military leaders often fail to anticipate the unexpected. The root of this is that government is a huge organization with no direct competition. Hence, it relies more on best practices and less on innovation and thinking out of the box. I love this line:

“The art of strategy ultimately employs forecasting, risk management, and the testing of hypotheses.”

Businesses rely on the same approaches. Often they too get caught flat footed when business is good. But when business is good is when leaders have to forecast for the worst, as the competition is trying to get ahead. In business, when a business fails behind, the worst go out of business, the best adapt, create better methods, and get ahead of their competition. See the critical uncertainties in this article for where the US needs to formulate better strategies and get back to business.

40 Years of Data Suggests 3 Myths About Globalization – Harvard Business Review, 3/2/2018

This article uses the World Inequality Report 2018 to come to some very data-driven conclusions to debunk myths about globalization. According to author Lucas Chancel, while common belief is that there is less global inequality now, statistics prove there is more. Chancel also writes that the WIR 2018 shows income does not trickle down to from the rich to the poorest. Lastly, he cites that when comparing the US to Europe, policy is the cause of most inequality.

There is definitely a lot to dig into here with Chancel providing just the cream of the study. As globalism takes a beating in governments worldwide, it would be important to understand the stats behind its failures or successes and not rely on reactionary politicians.

The Post-World War II Order Is Under Assault From the Powers That Built It – New York Times, 3/26/2018

An interesting editorial by Peter S Goodman, NY Times European Economics Correspondent. In this op-ed, Goodman outlines the struggles international liberal democracy has faced in recent years. 70 years of systems and processes are struggling to maintain their relevance as leaders in various countries opt for more unilateral actions. There are some really smart quotes in this article from really smart academics and global thinkers. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t quote anyone smart who supports taking apart the international system, leading the reader to think that perhaps these people don’t exist. If they do, it would have been nice to get a quote or two for balance.

Living in Trump’s World: The Global Reaction to ‘America First’ – War on the Rocks, 3/27/2018

A very good article on the responses various nations have had to the Trump Administration’s global policies. According to the authors, nations have had several various responses to the Trump Administration, from flattery to hugging to hijacking to assuming leadership. Declining American presence internationally will put strains on the international order, for sure, but who will lead and who will gain power is a situation that is currently unfolding. If you think of power as a pie, the US is walking away from its slice. Other nations are clamoring for the slice or trying to maintain order in the bakery.

The United States is preparing for the wrong war – Washington Post, 3/29/2018

I am a fan of military historian Max Boot’s work. I am a fan of reading about hybrid warfare. So when Max Boot writes about how the US Dept of Defense is falling behind in preparing for hybrid warfare, I am all ears. Unfortunately, this article is way too short. Boot only discusses information war and military guerrilla war. He doesn’t mention US struggles in economic, diplomatic, or cyber conflict. Each of those plays a part in shaping the conflict environment. And the US is falling behind in them as well.

Is the U.S. Hypocritical to Criticize Russian Election Meddling? – Foreign Affairs, 3/12/2018

There is a common refrain that the US is having done to it what it has done to other countries for years. Election meddling and influence operations are not new, but as Thomas Carothers writes, the extent and technology Russia has used for years in various countries makes it different. Russia has used the same disruptive tactics in various nations with the intent of causing distrust in establishments, not to promote an international agenda, as the US did from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Terror, Online and Off: Recent Trends in Islamic State Propaganda Operations – War on the Rocks, 3/2/2018

In 2014 and 2015, ISIS ruled social media propaganda. They were everywhere with their tweets, videos, and proclamations. Since, the organization has had to adapt to coalition military actions. This article looks at trends in ISIS social media with very detailed charts but also warns of ISIS’s capabilities in offline propaganda – influencing person-to-person networks.

Using Analytics to Improve Customer Engagement – MIT Sloan Management Review, 1/30/2018

This is a fantastic (albeit long) article on how businesses are using data to better measure their market and customer’s interactions. As more companies get more familiar with data, they start thinking about other measurable outputs or inputs and sources. While this is providing more insight, the influx of giant databases is slowing down systems and becoming too unwieldy. Companies need to identify relevant data and not overload to the point of paralysis, then turn that data into actionable insights, then act. The article is full of case studies about businesses that used data to get ahead.

Marketers Need to Stop Focusing on Loyalty and Start Thinking About Relevance – Harvard Business Review, 3/21/2018

Interesting article on the evolution of marketing. According to studies, loyalty plans are no longer the way to keep customers. Their value has diminished. In an era where accessibility is king, being relevant is most important. Companies should aspire to be in the now for their customers and achieve the article’s new “Five Ps”: purpose, pride, partnership, protection, and personalization. Letting customers craft their own meaning and involvement in a product or product line is the future for businesses.

False Flags in Cyberspace: Targeting Public Opinion and Political Will – The Cipher Brief, 3/6/2018

This article discusses how groups conduct attacks online and then make them appear to have originated in another country or with another organization. In this particular case, the Russians tried to make a recent attack look like a North Korean attack. Very interesting, but also a very scary development in an unregulated, low-cost, high-impact platform of conflict.

The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News – The Atlantic, 3/8/2016

A report on an in depth study of twitter’s proclivity to spread fake news. According to researchers at MIT, fake news, rumors, and falsehoods travel faster and further on twitter than truth. People are more likely to share emotionally charged ideas, even if they are false, than truths. Although users who tell truths tend to have more followers and are more often verified, the false news travels further. This is a very interesting article that tries to understand how human psychology has been taken over by social media. Our desires for tribalism and self-affirmation have super charged social media and we are at the same being played by media entities aiming to manipulate us. How we reverse this has yet to be solved.

How to Think for Yourself When Algorithms Control What You Read – Harvard Business Review, 3/8/2018

Five very basic tips to vary your influences, step out of echo chambers, and prevent social media algorithms from controlling your input. These steps vary from introducing new elements so the algorithm can’t predict your life to walking away from social media all together for a while. Scary that we need this kind of advice, but if all threw off the algorithms, they would be less effective.

Dark Web Map: Introduction – HyperionGray.com, 3/12/2018

An amazing look and exploration into the Dark Web, including a map of 10% of the crawlable Dark Web. The Dark Web is the Mos Eisley Space Port of the Internet, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Exploring this map, which does not contain actual links to the Dark Web, shows places where users can buy financial information, hacked pictures, bitcoins, and firearms. Scary, indeed.

Assessing Terrorist Financing Through the Lens of the Terrorist Attack Cycle – ACAMS Today.org, 3/20/2018

This article discusses how financial experts can assess and help to contain terrorist actions. By identifying patterns in terrorist funding, financial institutions can work with law enforcement to stop potential attacks. The article describes the financial patterns of lone wolf as well as organizationally funded terror cells.

The Era of Experimentation – Fangraphs.com, 3/14/2018

Although this is a baseball article, I thought it had some very interesting crossover. In the inner workings of baseball, front office staff are analyzing performance and helping players find the best roles for their careers. This might mean adding a new pitch to a pitchers repertoire, helping a better with their swing, or finding them a new position. All for the sake of both the team and the player’s career.

I wonder how this would play in the corporate world. If given stats about performance, how many people would risk tinkering with their career? Would they trust front office advisers? People spend years selecting their career choices, but what if their instincts are wrong? What if they would be better and happier doing something else?

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