Skip to main content

the Shortlist

Welcome to the Shortlist: new ideas on timely topics, plus a few insights into our people. Get it in your inbox on Fridays
Sign Up

Your company’s transformation: This time it’s personal

September 13, 2019 – If you’re looking to make big changes at your company, there’s no polite way to say it: you’re a lot more likely to fail than to succeed. Whatever the undertaking—digitization, reskilling staff, transforming operational processes, or integrating recently acquired companies—pitfalls abound.

How to solve the M&A mystery

September 6, 2019 – “There’s often a sense of mysticism about M&A,” says Michael Carr. As the coleader of global mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs, he would know. Still, it’s possible to penetrate the muzzy aura enveloping corporate deal making without breaking out the Ouija board.

Wealth inequality in the US: A path forward

August 16, 2019 – Income inequality is hardly new, though it has reemerged as a social and political flash point in recent years, signaling growing public discontent. But what the term encompasses, how it’s evolving, and how to address it can be harder to articulate.

China and the world: Is the engagement on or off?

August 9, 2019 – Statistics show that China’s economic engine is cooling down. Yet the country is still firing up one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the world. For instance, this year China will add the equivalent of the entire Australian economy to its GDP.

Future of global trade: New research and the G7

August 2, 2019 – Perhaps it’s good that the upcoming G-7 summit will be held in Biarritz, an elegant coastal city in southwestern France, later this month. The languid beach views might encourage cooler heads to prevail when addressing one of the meeting’s key objectives: to strengthen globalization “through more fair and equitable trade, tax, and development policies.”

Global banking’s brightest spot: Latin America

July 26, 2019 – In the past decade, the global banking industry has forged ahead at a steady though decidedly ho-hum pace—moderate growth, moderate profits—except for in one region. When it comes to banking success, Latin America has been exceptional.

Dream of reaching the C-suite? It’s a tale of resilience

July 19, 2019 – It’s summertime and the living is easy—unless your demanding job keeps you from wallowing in all those long days and even longer weekends. This week, we take a look at how young leaders develop the stamina and resiliency today to make it to the C-suite tomorrow.

Happy work life = happy life

July 12, 2019 – If you’re happy and you know it … make a graph? It’s actually not a silly idea, says Lord Richard Layard, program director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. “We’ve got to get away from happiness being thought to be a fluffy concept, or slightly frivolous, or a curiosity, to taking it seriously,” he told McKinsey recently.

How to school yourself on talent

June 28, 2019 – Your organization recruits, trains, and promotes the best people. Your HR department is hard at work and the C-suite is engaged, confident that you have the right talent to maximize your company’s value. But could you be too confident—in the same, uneasy way that three of four drivers believe they’re above average?

Your supply chain: Weak link or strong defense?

June 21, 2019 – Car parts from Mexico. Rare earths from China. How should companies manage supply-chain risk in a global environment that is, let’s say, unsettled?

Want to survive a downturn? Look to ‘the resilients’

June 14, 2019 – The last big economic downturn kicked off more than a decade ago. Even as financial markets wonder whether another one is brewing, many C-suite executives are already quietly gearing up. For them, the question isn’t whether to prepare, it’s how.

Women’s work: What’s the jobs picture in the automation age?

June 6, 2019 – What will rapid technological change mean for women in the workplace? The answer, in a nutshell: women who navigate the automation transition could get more productive, better-paid work; those who don’t could see a growing wage gap or wind up leaving the job market entirely.

Be nimble, be quick: Asset-heavy industries get agile

May 31, 2019 – How agile do you have to be in this disruptive technological era? It’s a central question for companies across industries. This week we look at how asset-heavy industries like energy, chemicals, and metals and mining are answering it.

What do customers want? Let them tell you.

May 17, 2019 – Not everyone’s going to be a CEO, but pretty much everyone’s going to be a customer. So, thinking like a customer should come naturally, right? Perhaps, but executives tell us their organizations struggle with this concept, even though the benefits of a customer-centric perspective are apparent.

Fast decisions: When they help (and hurt)

May 10, 2019 – Do you want your people to make fast decisions or good ones? Trick question: the choice isn’t binary. Not only are fast decisions often the best ones, but decisive organizations also are consistently at the head of the pack. And slow decision making can result in missed opportunities.

AI is a double-edged sword—keep away from the blade

May 3, 2019 – It’s clear that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and advanced analytics promise a future of utmost convenience and efficiency. In addition to generating trillions of dollars across industries each year, advanced analytics and machine learning are already helping to tackle many of the world’s problems.

To meet customer expectations, get out of your silos

April 26, 2019 – Today’s consumers have high expectations: efficient, even inspired, interactions with companies; convenient, reliable product deliveries, including real-time location tracking; and, of course, more bang for their buck.

Battery storage: Helping us charge into the future

April 19, 2019 – What’s more exciting than battery storage? If you said “a lot,” you’ve been missing out on the market’s breakneck, if somewhat stealth, expansion over the past few years.

Culture clash: Why M&A can be so hard

April 12, 2019 – Global M&A activity was strong in 2018, and it’s expected to remain healthy this year. As companies go forth and integrate, what do they need to know about successful mergers?

Private markets: From the fringes to the mainstream

April 5, 2019 – There’s something interesting afoot in private markets. While annual fundraising slid 11 percent in 2018, it still pulled in $778 billion of new capital. And global private equity (PE) net asset value has grown more than sevenfold since 2002, outpacing publicly traded shares.

Wind, solar, and molten salt? Renewables branch out

March 29, 2019 – Last week we delved into how McKinsey experts see the global energy transition unfolding in the coming decades. (In short: less oil, more efficiency.) This week, we’re looking at the related issue of sustainability. Here are just a few of the innovations that are expected to shape new technologies.

Global energy shifts: Closer than you think

March 22, 2019 – A historic shift away from fossil fuels. The coming dominance of solar and wind power. The rise of electricity in road transport. Energy systems around the world are changing rapidly, which will transform the way we fuel our cars, heat our homes, and power our industries. That’s the conclusion of McKinsey’s Global Energy Perspective 2019, a detailed outlook across 146 countries, 55 energy types, and 30 sectors.

What ‘lighthouse’ factories can teach their peers

March 15, 2019 – During the first industrial revolution, innovations in steam power drove work from hand to machine. Electrification largely powered the second revolution, with telephone lines and light bulbs connecting and illuminating people across the globe. A century later, the third began the process of digitizing the world, with the spread of PCs, the internet, and sophisticated IT.

Optimism and opportunity in Africa

March 8, 2019 – With more than 50 countries, 2,000 languages, and countless growing markets, Africa can hardly be summed up as a single entity. But one thing can be said about the birthplace of humanity: it’s young.

Keeping up with fashion-industry trends

March 1, 2019 – With spring on the horizon, we look at trends the fashion industry should keep an eye on. Plus, the infrastructure challenges for delivery drones and three questions for Michael Chui, an MGI partner and expert on AI and automation.

Will 5G save telecoms? True believers vs skeptics

February 22, 2019 – If you listened mostly to gearheads hyping the next-gen wireless technology 5G, you’d probably expect telecom leaders to be ecstatic about it as they descend on MWC (Mobile World Congress) Monday in Barcelona. Demand for mobile services has never been higher and is expected to keep growing, in large part because 5G promises unprecedented capacity, speed, low latency, and life-altering new apps.

Your workplace team needs more than one woman

February 15, 2019 – We’ve all read that companies perform better financially when they have a diverse and inclusive leadership. Despite that, many women find they’re still alone in a roomful of men, increasing the odds that they will experience workplace discrimination.

Talent and the ticking clock: Preparing for a new era

February 8, 2019 – Talent has always been at the core of any successful organization. But now, with the acceleration of digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence, it’s time to get serious about how talent is deployed.

How we’ll get around in the (near) future

February 1, 2019 – More parks and open space. Less time in traffic. Cheaper, easier, more flexible travel. Sound like an urban myth? Not quite. It’s a description of “seamless mobility”—a concept that’s futuristic but far from impossible.

How established companies win at digital disruption

January 25, 2019 – Digital sits high on the agendas of boards and executive teams, and with good reason: technology disruption could shrink corporate profits by $600 billion to $700 billion. But certain established companies withstand disruption better than others. What sets the winners apart?

On the front lines of tech disruption: Education and jobs

January 18, 2019 – Judging by McKinsey’s latest quarterly survey of executives, the short-term forecast for the global economy is … cloudy. Nearly half of respondents—46 percent, the largest group since our June 2012 survey—expect the global economy to worsen and its growth rate to decline for reasons including changes in trade policy and geopolitical instability.

No new ideas? Break out of your innovation slump

January 11, 2019 – A fresh mind-set—something many of us aspire to as a new year begins—is the key to innovative thinking. In the corporate context, such a mind-set can help leaders devise creative solutions to familiar (and pesky) problems.

Zero-based budgeting isn’t just for budgets anymore

January 4, 2019 – A new year means a fresh start—with resolutions to diet, train for the marathon, and read more fiction. Why can’t companies apply that reset mentality to business? They can if they follow zero-based budgeting, a methodology that allows companies to plan their budgets starting from zero, rather than using the previous year as a jumping-off point for increases or cuts.

Why 2018 was a very good year for mobility

December 21, 2018 – Taking off for your well-deserved year-end break? It’s a good bet that you’ll spend some of it crawling along a highway. But let’s look to a rosier future: developments in mobility that could make your travels easier someday.

Getting an edge in the Internet of Things

December 14, 2018 – The Internet of Things (IoT) already makes it possible for intelligent products to simplify people’s daily lives. For companies, it’s revolutionizing the tracking and maintenance of physical objects, while its massive new streams of data improve decision making.

How CEOs star in Act II

December 7, 2018 – Think of all the ink spilled over the early days of a CEO’s tenure—the first year, the first 100 days, the first week (just kidding). Or the end of a chief executive’s run, focused on legacy and the search for a successor. But what about the middle years of a CEO life span?

The building blocks of global growth

November 30, 2018 – If you don’t think infrastructure is a potent way to change and shape lives, think again. How do you get to work, travel, and communicate? What powers your home and business?

Global banking: Solid ground, shifting terrain

November 16, 2018 – Stable but unexciting. Safer but stuck in neutral. That’s how our global banking annual review describes the performance of the banking and securities industry a decade after the financial crisis that shook the world.

Walking the walk: How analytics is changing fashion

November 9, 2018 – The past decade has been good to fashion shoppers, who now routinely snap up the freshest trends, often at excellent markdowns. But if you’re backstage at the fashion show, no one has to tell you that apparel makers face a competitive environment.

Success happens by design

November 2, 2018 – The Apple iPhone, the Swiss Army knife, the Google home page, even the Disney World visitor experience. Strong design is at the heart of commercial success. But it’s also hard—and getting harder. These days, only the very best designs stand out from the crowd. So how do some companies deliver exceptional designs, launch after launch? What is design really worth?

Repeat after us: Happy workers, happy life

October 26, 2018 – As performance-review season rolls inexorably into year’s end, people tend to assess not just their feelings about work but also their overall happiness. For some, the holidays prompt reflection; for others, it’s the turning of the calendar. Sometimes, it’s both.

India: A tale of growth and sustainability

October 19, 2018 – This week we offer a snapshot of one of the world’s most vibrant nations: India. Its economy, cooking along by most measures, is expected to jump to third largest by 2030, behind the United States and China. Let’s look at just a few interlocking trends in agriculture, urbanization, and mobility that could affect Indians’ quality of life—as well as the global economy and environment—for decades to come.

Does a cyberattack haunt your nightmares?

October 12, 2018 – Threats from cyberattacks are growing in number and intensity worldwide. Companies report thousands of attacks every month, ranging from the trivial to the extremely serious. Think WannaCry, NotPetya, Meltdown, and Spectre.

How urgent is agile?

October 5, 2018 – Your organization is agile like (A) a leaping gazelle or (B) a lumbering elephant. You want to pick (A), but sometimes (B) might be more accurate—no offense to elephants.

Globalization hits a speed bump

September 28, 2018 – You probably don’t love uncertainty. Neither do companies. And right now, tensions over trade and globalization are not only getting a little—well, let’s say tense; they’re also creating new risks for businesses.

Gender diversity: What’s at stake?

September 21, 2018 – The drive to make workplaces more diverse is often rooted in social justice and the idea that different experiences and points of view make for a more engaging work environment. But awareness of the business case for inclusion is also on the rise, as companies begin to see diversity as a source of competitive advantage and an enabler of growth.

Is AI delivering for your business?

September 14, 2018 – In last week’s issue, we brought you a decision journey on how best to apply artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven analytics to your business. But deployment isn’t enough. How confident are you that your analytics program is delivering?

An AI checklist for business leaders

September 7, 2018 – Computer vision and machine learning and deep neural networks. Oh, my. How can you get past all the hype about artificial intelligence and use AI to solve problems and create value?

Getting customer-centric in government

August 24, 2018 – Let’s take a look at how governance is faring around the world. We’ll steer clear of politics (you’re welcome) and focus on public-sector best practices instead.

Yes, your airline wants you to be happy

August 3, 2018 – Flying off somewhere fabulous for August vacation? Chances are, when you finally board the plane you’ll be pondering your in-flight entertainment options, not how you chose the flight. But you can bet your airline is thinking about how it snagged you as a customer, and how to keep you.

The electric car market revs up

July 27, 2018 – Seeing more electric cars on the road? Last year, sales of electric vehicles (EVs) charged forward, as environmentally minded consumers found less expensive, longer-range models on the market.

Blockchain: What's it really worth?

July 20, 2018 – How can companies determine if blockchain has strategic value that justifies major investments at this point? To start, they should focus on their ability to shape an ecosystem, establish standards, and address regulatory barriers.

China's flourishing digital culture

July 13, 2018 – Much has been written about the rise of China as an economic and geopolitical force. Let’s break off one chunk this week: China’s role as a major player in digital technologies at home and around the world.

What’s next for cities?

July 6, 2018 – By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. In both developed and developing nations, municipal leaders are fighting to make sure their cities are competitive and their urban populations are thriving. A big part of that fight is figuring out how to deploy smart technologies.

Shift your skills, shift your mind-set

June 29, 2018 – At this time of year, many of us might confess to some mid-meeting musing on the so-called lazy days of summer. But how to parse fact from fantasy on the changing pace and nature of work more broadly?

Introducing our new weekly newsletter

June 22, 2018 – Our first issue kicks off with a core topic: leadership. We all know leaders who make their people feel smart, special, and productive—like a core member of the team. Unfortunately, many of us have had experienced bosses whose self-absorption or nastiness drive people out the door—the jerks, as Stanford professor Bob Sutton might say.

Subscribe to the Shortlist

McKinsey’s new weekly newsletter, featuring must-read content on a range of topics, every Friday