How to succeed without being the smartest person in the room – Jeanne Ross

Jeanne Ross, Director & Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School’s CISR

From MIT Sloan Management Review

As part of a set of research interviews, my colleague at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research (CISR), Martin Mocker, and I once asked technology staffers at 40 big companies what impact they thought they were having on their companies. Sadly, many said that they didn’t think they were having any impact. They were doing what they were supposed to do, but they could not see how their companies would apply their efforts to become more successful.

What a waste of resources — and a missed opportunity! I suspect that similar scenarios are playing out in many, many companies. Our research on digital transformations suggests that recruiting, directing, and developing talent is more important than ever but is also more challenging.

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Forging a new workplace compact: An optimistic Labor Day message – Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

From The Hill

I approach this Labor Day optimistic that a broad cross-section of American workers and leaders are ready to negotiate and build a new workplace compact that reduces income inequality, restores dignity and respect for all who work, narrows the divides that separate us and ushers in a new era of sustained prosperity.

Workers and labor organizations are taking action to rebuild their bargaining power in new ways, business leaders are calling for a more balanced view of corporate responsibility than they have been espousing throughout the era of financial capitalism, educational institutions are offering new ideas and concrete programs to prepare for the future of work and Democratic candidates for president are determined to win back the support of the workers who abandoned them in 2016.

I see a common thread in these developments — a thirst for building a new workplace compact that focuses on our shared values and aspirations and that recognizes the political crisis we are living through must end before we destroy our democracy. But making this happen will require bringing all these parties together to start a dialogue focused on the interests that bind rather than divide them.

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It pays to have a digitally savvy board – Peter Weill, Thomas Apel, Stephanie L. Woerner, Jennifer S. Banner

Peter Weill, Senior Research Scientist and Chair of the Center for Information Systems Research, MIT Sloan School of Management

Stephanie L. Woerner, Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research, MIT Sloan School of Management

From MIT Sloan Management Review

Boards of directors have many issues competing for their attention, but being digitally conversant in an era of digital transformation is quickly rising to the top of the list. Nearly all companies are looking for ways that technology can be used to improve their business models, customer experience, operational efficiency, and more — and boards must help them move forward at a sufficient pace, advocating for change by supporting and sometimes nudging their CEOs. Those that do are likely to see better financial results than those that don’t.

That’s what we discovered when we did a machine learning analysis of the digital know-how of all the boards of U.S.-listed businesses. (See “About the Research.”) Our research shows that companies whose boards of directors have digital savvy outperform companies whose boards lack it. We define digital savvy as an understanding, developed through experience and education, of the impact that emerging technologies will have on businesses’ success over the next decade. We measured it by analyzing data from surveys, interviews, company communications, and the bios of 40,000 directors, extracting key words that signal exposure to digital ways of thinking and working.

Our discoveries are striking: We found that among companies with over $1 billion in revenues, 24% had digitally savvy boards, and those businesses significantly outperformed others on key metrics — such as revenue growth, return on assets, and market cap growth.

Doing business in the digital era entails risks ranging from cybersecurity breaches and privacy issues to business model disruptions and missed competitive opportunities. When a board lacks digital savvy, it can’t get a handle on important elements of strategy and oversight and thus can’t play its critical role of helping guide the company to a successful future. But companies can fix that by understanding what characteristics to look for in existing and new board members, managing board agendas differently, and cultivating new learning opportunities.

Read the full post at MIT Sloan Management Review.

Peter Weill is a Senior Research Scientist and Chair of the Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Stephanie L. Woerner is a Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research.

Thomas Apel is chairman of the board at Stewart Information Services Corp.

Jennifer S. Banner is CEO at Schaad Cos. and lead director of BB&T Corp.

Empty outrage will not do – Kritarth Yudhish

Kritarth Yudhish, MBA Candidate, MIT Sloan School of Management

From Daily News and Analysis 

On the eve of the 2019 Lok Sabha results, the New York Times published an article titled “How Narendra Modi Seduced India with Envy and Hate”. A little before the election, Time magazine featured NaMo on their cover and in bold letters labelled him as the “Divider in Chief”. Kapil Komireddi’s analysis of the Indian political landscape for The Guardian went on to call Indians “intellectually vacant” and the country a “make believe land of fudge and fakery”.

These scathing remarks from the international community crystallized national support for Modi and May 23, 2019 put the debate to rest, telling the world what India really is – an exemplary democracy that does not seek validation from a few writers in Manhattan or London to create the ideological roadmap for our future.

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How departing leaders can pass along their wisdom to employees – Hal Gregersen

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

From Harvard Business Review

Earlier this spring I had the chance to witness two of the “farewell talks” that Ed Catmull gave to the people of Pixar. Catmull, the company’s cofounder and long-time leader (and also president of Disney Animation Studios since the Disney acquisition of Pixar over a decade ago) had announced his retirement in late 2018. He chose to spend his last day on Pixar’s Emeryville campus not being celebrated by his colleagues but, instead, sharing thoughts about the challenges they would face in the years to come.

Each “farewell talk” was a separate, hour-long session with a different team in the company, but the content wasn’t tailored to specific departments. Catmull shared — over and over again — what he believed the whole company should be thinking about as it looks ahead.

Catmull has always been unusually reflective about the challenges of leading creative organizations, and generous in sharing the practices he finds effective. In his 2014 book Creativity, Inc. (which he’s now updating with new learnings), for example, he shares useful insights and learnings aimed at helping other leaders succeed. In his farewell talks, he showed the same level of thoughtfulness. He decided to:

Make the sessions inclusive. It’s not uncommon for departing CEOs to have transitional talks with their top teams. But how many consider it important to talk with every team in the company? Catmull talked to everyone, including hundreds of people who had never sat in meetings focused on high-level strategic issues — but whose efforts make Pixar films possible. As a result, his parting act was immensely unifying.

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