“What Is Keeping CEOs Awake at Night?”

There are about a thousand click-bait articles out there with this title – but only one library of compressed knowledge that has enough answers at hand to call those nightmares “a thing of the past” within the next eight (or fifteen) clicks.

“What Is Keeping CEOs Awake at Night?”
Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) asked, and a lot of CEOs answered (the morning after, we guess). Until now, we didn’t know that so many successful company bosses sleep so badly – but when even getAbstract‘s CEO Thomas Bergen said that he lived through the nightmare once in a while, we knew: It’s time to solve this problem!

Let’s go through the list, step by step.

1. How might I use digital channels to engage customers and employees personally, to increase impact and efficiencies?

For starters, we suggest learning from decades of experience in the creation and integration of relevant technologies and processes. In this easy, entertaining read, you’ll find a blueprint for how companies can move from the world of slow legacy systems to the flexible integration of high-speed data. This guidance will help senior marketing, technology and corporate strategy executives understand how to market to customers “in the moment.”

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Data Driven

Learn from the experts how technology can support marketing in the digital era.

Tom Chavez, Chris O’Hara and Vivek Vaidya McGraw-Hill Education

Second course: Employee engagement specialist Emma Bridger says “never mind” to annual employee surveys and advises building a strategic engagement road map, instead. Drawing from academic research and professional practice, Bridger enriches her coverage of the subdisciplines of organizational development and human resource management with case studies and examples.

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Employee Engagement

You can build a happier, more effective organization with the “happiness advantage” of employee engagement.

Emma Bridger Kogan Page Publishers

Last but not least on this topic is an essential read for people working in online marketing, branding, public relations (PR), community building or anyone else who is trying to shape a coherent policy for engaging consumers online.

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Digital Engagement

How do you market your goods online? Click here for a comprehensive discussion of Web marketing techniques.

Leland Harden and Bob Heyman AMACOM

2. How might I use data, analytics, and AI to improve my ability to understand customers and enable better decision making?

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3. How might I innovate to create new products, services, and businesses while improving ongoing operations?

Physicist Safi Bahcall’s original, entertaining take on managing innovation draws on decades of science, economics, psychology and history. He says that new innovations – which he calls “babies” – need protection from big organizations, or “beasts.” However, he adds, the babies also need the beasts to test them, give feedback and put them into action. Well… trust us: It’s worth it.

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Loonshots

Physicist Safi Bahcall presents some of the most important ideas from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Safi Bahcall St. Martin’s Press

The authors of the next book unlock the mystery of successful product innovation with their “Theory of Jobs to Be Done,” a mystery often dismissed as luck. “Jobs Theory” holds that people don’t merely buy goods, they “hire” and “fire” products based on whether those products do the “job” that consumers need done. Companies practicing Jobs Theory know their understanding of consumer behavior helps predict successful innovation. How does it work? Here we go:

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Competing Against Luck

Companies innovate successfully when they understand why customers “hire” products to do “jobs.”

Clayton M. Christensen, Karen Dillon, David S. Duncan and Taddy Hall HarperBusiness

Still in need of a step-by-step, how-to guide to envisioning, building support for and running superior customer experience? Joe Heapy, Oliver King and James Samperi have got you covered:

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Customer-Driven Transformation

Use the principles of design thinking to create systems-based services for a better customer experience.

Joe Heapy, Oliver King and James Samperi Kogan Page Publishers

4. How might I design personalized and value-generating experiences across all channels?

Half-time! Still sweating? This is usually the time when our Customer Success Managers come in and hand over a towel – or some neat abstracts. In this case, they recommend Anand Swaminathan’s and Jürgen Meffert’s manual for anyone embracing digital transformation. The authors argue that digital technology fundamentally changes all business, and they provide tools to help companies adapt as well as a huge variety of examples. They detail how digital communication transforms even heavy industries like steel.

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Digital @ Scale

McKinsey consultants Anand Swaminathan and Jürgen Meffert tell you all you need to know to go digital.

Anand Swaminathan and Jürgen Meffert Wiley

Not in steel? OK. Luxury, anyone? Luxury brands have hesitated to jump into digital technologies for fear of diluting the unique qualities that make them so alluring (does that ring a bell?). Marketing expert Wided Batat illuminates how to employ digital as a delightful extension of your high-end brand’s mythos and values to “enchant” customers. Keep your eyes peeled, here we go:

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Digital Luxury

Luxury brands are bringing that special something to the digital space.

Wided Batat SAGE Publications

5. How might I leverage networks of virtually distributed teams to create ecosystems that increase efficiencies, learning and scalability?

These are probably too many issues at once to be really kept awake – but let’s tackle them anyway.

First, collaboration is one of humankind’s primal dynamics, but formal collaboration inside today’s organizations seldom works. Companies suffer when colleagues can’t get together effectively to develop smart solutions to problems. Leaders might pay lip service to the idea of collaboration, yet few know how to bring it about. As you might suspect, there is a better way. Collaboration expert Gretchen Anderson explains it in practical terms:

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Mastering Collaboration

Formal collaboration inside organizations seldom works. Here’s what does.

Gretchen Anderson O’Reilly Media

Second, the ability to work in teams is a significant human advantage, yet some people seem to abandon their innate teamwork skills at work, and firms often fail to pay attention to how their teams are working. However, companies with a proper plan for improving team effectiveness can boost their productivity and profitability. Here is how it works:

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Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

A team development specialist provides a comprehensive guide to understanding and strengthening your teams.

Simon Mac Rory LID Business Media

Third, around 90% of project teams include one or, often, more workers who operate from different locations than their supervisors and teammates today. Nearly 80% of managers supervise a worker or workers at remote locations. No wonder that many leaders face isolation because their team members are far away. These “long-distance leaders” need to use a variety of tools specifically designed to address distance leadership issues and concerns. Here is their toolbox:

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The Long-Distance Leader

Leaders can create solid relationships with long-distance workers.

Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

6. How might I establish communities of employees, customers, experts, and/or partners to contribute to my organization?

Let’s keep it short and simple here: In The Sharing Economy, Arun Sundararajan explains how social and commercial concerns drive innovative online transactions. New digital peer-to-peer platforms resemble preindustrial marketplaces; reputation and public consensus affect both forums, given that online buyers rate and review their suppliers. Those platforms make use of underutilized labor and assets. So, social relations, not just prices, drive the sharing economy. Sundararajan’s belief that the sharing economy’s impact is comparable to that of the Industrial Revolution may be debatable, but his narrative is perceptive and informative.

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The Sharing Economy

Digital technology has revolutionized person-to-person transactions in the sharing economy.

Arun Sundararajan MIT Press

7. How might I create shared value across my value chain to benefit my community?

The easy answer? Tell a compelling story! One of the experts in this field is Murray Nossel. He knows how to harness the near-magical power of storytelling, because he has spent 30 years helping people to do so. His secret? Listen with care to other people when they share their stories! Nossel’s book focuses on the communication facet of storytelling, not the script, and that’s part of what makes this hands-on manual so helpful.

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Powered by Storytelling

To command the attention of any audience, tell a story.

Murray Nossel McGraw-Hill Education

Not convinced yet? Then take a deep dive into the work of Annette Simmons, who describes the six categories of stories you can use to connect with and influence people. Of course, she offers suggestions on how to become a prolific, entertaining storyteller, too.

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The Story Factor

Don`t recite facts – use narrative. Tell stories to persuade, influence, enlighten and connect with people`s emotions.

Annette Simmons Basic Books

8. How might I transform my organization to stimulate and sustain personal, organizational, and societal change?

OK, we almost made it. But to keep you awake for five more minutes, we saved the most brutal and sleep-robbing question for the end.

Five minutes left: Here’s the elevator pitch on the Science of Change.

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The Science of Change

Is your company among the three of four for whom transitions are less than successful?

Lars Faeste, Martin Reeves and Kevin Whitaker The Boston Consulting Group

Another four minutes before you fall asleep in greater comfort: As you already know, being ordinary gets you nowhere. Companies that drop the status quo and embrace change will rocket past organizations that fear it and end up being irrelevant. Organizational culture strategist Lior Arussy provides a special five-step method for adapting to, managing and even embracing change.

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Next Is Now

In the modern, fast-paced world, change is the one constant.

Lior Arussy Simon & Schuster

If you take Arussy seriously, you need to work on your leadership style, because New Work confronts leaders with disorienting situations and baffling challenges. Figuring out the best route amid change can discomfit even the most level-headed executive – not only at night. When you face turbocharged change, turn to leadership expert John C. Maxwell for the last three minutes. He explains how to adapt and change gears by making “leadershifts” to meet the demands of the future. 

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Leadershift

John C. Maxwell says leaders can deal with baffling new challenges by making important “leadershifts.”

John C. Maxwell HarperCollins Leadership

Still awake? If so, we are proud to present one of the most succinct and clearly written business books you will ever read. A classic not only when it comes to care and precision, delivering the goods without any superfluous jargon, just right for the last moments before your well-deserved, quiet rest on the pillow.

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Managing Transitions

Corporate transitions begin with an ending and end with a beginning. What matters is how you treat people in between.

William Bridges Da Capo Press

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