Academic Insight: The Best of Academic Insight

Written by: Shontarius D. Aikens

In December 2019, the first article in my Academic Insight column was published in Fargo, INC!. My dream and mission of bridging the gap between academia and business practitioners had begun. And, over these last three years, my goal has been to provide readers with quality content and perspectives that would help them improve the quality of their work and personal lives. But, as I write this article, I’m reminded of the words proclaimed by The Oracle in the movie The Matrix Revolutions: “Everything that has a beginning has an end.”

So, for my final Academic Insight article in Fargo, INC!, I wanted to do something special. I went back and reread all of the articles I wrote to identify what I would consider to be the best and most informative articles over the past three years. For each highlighted article, I have provided the title, the month in which the article appeared and a brief summary of the article’s key points and takeaways. In the spirit of The Late Show with David Letterman, I will present my Top 10 article list in reverse numerical order.

#10: “Do you really know what you have? Revisiting your key resources” (August 2020)

Every organization has different types of resources (physical, financial, human, intellectual) under their control that can be used to help them achieve organizational goals. In a lot of cases, these resources go unnoticed or are completely overlooked. This article provided steps an organization could take to conduct an inventory of their key resources to determine if any resources are being underutilized, and to determine if the organization’s resources or capabilities could lead to a sustainable competitive advantage.

#9: “Power and Influence: Guidelines for New Managerial Leaders” (May 2022)

New managers in organizations may or may not be aware of the types of power and the amount of influence they have within their organization. The purpose of this article was to provide an overview of the different types of power that exist in organizations. In addition, this article went further in helping managerial leaders (specifically new managerial leaders) to understand the types of power they have and to reflect on how those types of power have been and/or should be used.

#8: “Understanding the Value of Failure: Two Key Tools” (September 2020)

Every individual (and organization) has failed at something. However, the question is this: Has the individual (and organization) learned from that failure? Lessons learned from previous failure experiences can set the stage for future success. In this article, I shared two tools that can be used by individuals (or organizations) to maximize the learning that comes as a result of failure: The Failure Resume (developed by Tina Seelig) and The Failure Spectrum (developed by Amy C. Edmondson). Utilizing both tools can help to cultivate a culture of learning and development.

#7: “A Collaborative Approach for Conducting Performance Evaluations” (July 2021)

Performance evaluations are essential in providing important feedback to employees. However, the process can be more rewarding and beneficial and less mundane. If you are looking for a better way to administer performance evaluations, this is the article for you. In this article, I shared a step-by-step performance evaluation process that resulted in a more thorough performance review of employees, reduced the chances of employees receiving unexpected negative feedback, or “surprises,” and encouraged the supervisee to take more initiative in the performance evaluation process.

#6: “6 Questions Guiding the Basics of Organizational Structure” (November 2021)

The structure of an organization should be designed to help the organization achieve its goals. In this article, I provided managers with a basic framework to understand the essential concepts of organizational structure. The framework is in the form of six questions to help managers assess their organization’s structure to determine if any changes need to be made.

#5: “Hidden Gems in the Organization” (March 2021)

Too often, organizations have employees in their organization who are unrecognized, underutilized and unappreciated. In fact, companies don’t recognize these people as industry superstars until after they have left their company to work for a competitor. These types of employees are referred to as “Hidden Gems,” and in this article, I laid out some guidelines on how to identify them within your organization.

#4: “Four reasons why you should focus on followership” (November 2020)

The process of leadership requires two types of individuals: leaders (those who are willing to lead) and followers (those who are willing to follow and to accept the influence of the leader). Traditionally, there has been so much talk about the importance of being a leader that there was less emphasis on teaching people how to be good followers. In this article, I presented four reasons why managers and organizations should emphasize the development of follower-ship skills in addition to leadership skills.

#3: “The 6SA Framework: Crafting an Argument in 120 words or less.” (March 2022)

In this article, I presented an overview of the Six Sentence Argument (6SA) framework created by Julian Kolbel and Erik Jentges. By using this tool, a manager can learn to argue and defend their position logically in a succinct manner of 120 words or less. The article provided an example of a completed 6SA along with insights on how managers could adapt or modify the framework for different purposes

#2: “How LMX can help businesses recruit and retain employees” (April 2020)

Recruiting talented employees is one thing; retaining them is another. The ability to develop high-quality relationships enables a manager to do both well. In this article, I provided an overview of the Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX) which examines the quality of the relationship between the leader and the follower. In addition, I also provided the four dimensions of relationship quality along with a simple step-by-step process that managers can use to examine the quality of supervisee relationships in their organization.

#1: “The Importance of Empathy and Grace in the Workplace” (April 2021)

In this article, I shared some very personal experiences and reasons why it is important to extend empathy and grace to individuals in today’s world. I have received more inquiries and positive feedback from this article than any of the other articles I have written over the past three years. Since there is so much to be said about this topic, instead of providing a short summary, I would simply encourage each person to read this article in its entirety.

Final Thoughts

In closing, I want to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed writing articles for Fargo, INC!, and I hope that each reader has found something useful (e.g., a new tool, perspective, etc.) that has helped them in their line of work and perhaps in their personal life. A special thank you to Andrew Jason and Brady Drake for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this wonderful magazine.

All of these articles can be found online at

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