May 20, 2020

A small town in Japan is helping Airbnb evolve its business

Airbnb Samara innovation lab
Brian Chesky Airbnb
Joe Gebbia Airbnb
Nathan Blecharczyk Airbnb
2 min
A small town in Japan is helping Airbnb evolve its business

Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk – the founders of Airbnb – have embarked upon what could be the next stage in the evolution of their online rentals business. They are starting their latest project in a small Japanese town called Yoshino, in the Nara prefecture​.
 

Airbnb is revealing a new division tasked with creating new futures for the company – known as Samara. The company will also be unveiling Samara’s first project: a communal housing project designed to renew a small Japanese town.

After this project is successfully delivered, Airbnb is looking to globally scale its learnings to other towns in decline. Through this initiative Airbnb could be exploring the possibility of playing a major role in urban planning.

"What excites me is that we can apply what we learned over the last eight years to create new types of commerce and new types of social change," said Gebbia, who has spent a lot of time on the project over the past year.
 

Gebbia claimed that the Samara innovation lab will remain a viable part of the business by doubling down Airbnb’s community of users – traditionally where the company derives much of its uniqueness. He said that the company hopes to bring itself even closer to its hosts by encouraging them to use more Airbnb products and services in exchange for financial benefits.  

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SOURCE: [Fast Code Design

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Jun 9, 2021

Q&A: Professor Loredana Padurean, Asia School of Business

DigitalTransformation
AsiaSchoolofBusiness
smartskills
Leadership
Kate Birch
3 min
Teaching the MIT Sloan Executive Education program at Asia School of Business, Prof. Padurean talks innovation, smart skills and digital transformation

As someone who is creating Asia Pacific’s business leaders of the future, what do you believe are the essential skills leaders require?

In many ways, we need leaders who are Renaissance women/men or polymaths, as opposed to specialists of an industry or a field. A polymath is a person with profound knowledge, proficiency and expertise in multiple fields and today’s leaders have to be able to combine various ideas, look at problems in novel and useful ways, and develop a broad and yet still deep set of skills, talents, and knowledge.

You’ve coined ‘smart’ and ‘sharp’ as skills of the future. What are these?

They are replacements for ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills, a concept coined by a US Army doctor in 1972 who observed that his pupils had different skills: dealing with machinery required ‘hard’ skills, while dealing with people and paper were ‘soft’ skills. This concept has served us well since, but I find it too binary, not to mention the semantic implications of the words themselves.

Soft implies gentle, delicate, mild, quiet, tender, weak. However, there is nothing soft in navigating competing perspectives and cultures, handling and delivering critical feedback or dealing with office politics. Instead, I prefer to call these skills ‘smart’. Hard implies rigid, difficult, heavy, static. But how can we think of engineering or software development as static or rigid? I believe ‘sharp’ is more apt as such skills need constant updating or sharpening. 

I think it’s time to reflect on these classifications, because we can drastically change someone’s perspective by how we choose to talk about and frame something. 

How important are smart skills in leadership today?

Smart skills are more important than ever because we live in a world of extreme diversity: generational, ethical, value-based, gender, etc. Gone are the days when giving an order was an effective act of leadership. I personally work with people from five different continents and across five different generations, therefore as leaders, we need to know how to adapt, motivate, inspire and connect. We need to increase our investment in learning about them in action, especially as smart skills are more difficult to develop.

I believe that a successful leader today has to be both smart and sharp. Take cognitive readiness, one of my top 10 smart skills. In order to be cognitive ready, one has to master system dynamics, one of my top 10 sharp skills. Also, did you know that one of the primary reasons why digital transformation fails is not the absence of digital literacy, a sharp skill, but the need for more validation and adaptability, both smart skills. So, instead of thinking of these skills as binary, I prefer to think of them as the yin and yang; co-existing and complementing each other. 

So, you can teach leaders smart skills then?

Yes, you can, via a combination of the classroom experience, plus an action component supported by deeply embedded reflection. At ASB we call this Action Learning, and we teach it both in the MBA and in the executive programs. For example, in teaching a leader emotional maturity as a smart skill, first they need to learn what it is, and then act on it, before reflecting on what we did and how we did it. And then to repeat it, but this time with more expertise and awareness. It’s not easy, but that’s why my favourite mantra is ‘the job is easy, the people are not’. 

Discover Professor Padurean's successful skills for a digital transformation here

 

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