The true heroes of COVID-19 and how they’re filling the void at the top – Deborah Ancona and Kate Isaacs

Deborah Ancona, Professor and Founder of the MIT Leadership Center, MIT Sloan School of Management

Kate Isaacs, Research Affiliate, MIT Sloan School of Management

From The Hill

We know a lot about how leaders can launch a nimble response to a fast-moving crisis. They need to do rapid sense-making by convening the best experts to collect and digest emerging data and information. They must be frank and transparent about what they know and don’t know about the situation and communicate clearly and continuously about what they are doing to respond. The best leaders also convey empathy for what their people are experiencing, and extend care and reassurance in uncertain times.

Most of all, leaders need to encourage and steer rapid scale innovation. Crises are fast-moving and laden with uncertainty. Decisions must often be made without full information and strategies have to be adapted to quickly changing circumstances. To mount a nimble crisis response, leaders must create the conditions to empower many people everywhere to help solve the problems at hand and push the best ideas forward to execute at scale.

In nimble organizations, the people who generate new ideas are entrepreneurial leaders, while the people who help them do what needs to be done are the enabling leaders, and the people responsible for high-level vision, strategy and resource allocation, as well as for collecting and disseminating information about the situation, are the architecting leaders.

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Spark team creativity by embracing uncertainty – Aithan Shapira

Aithan Shapira, Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management

From MIT Sloan Management Review

As an artist who also works for a business school, I often talk with managers about how to inspire more creativity from their teams. It’s not that these managers don’t appreciate their left-brained, analytically oriented employees. On the contrary: They value their logic and practicality. Still, they lament, something is missing. Managers today seek inspired ideas, inventive solutions, ingenuity, originality, and new pathways to innovation. But their teams are not delivering.

The problem is not that professionals lack creative impulses but that they are too focused on getting the creative process right. For example, in supporting organizations that are implementing agile methodologies, I work with many teams so consumed by getting their chapters aligned or doing their sprints correctly that they miss the opportunities that spark imagination. They avoid the unknown — the uncertainty that breeds creativity.

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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.