How to get employees to be more entrepreneurial — Deborah Ancona

MIT Sloan Professor Deborah Ancona

MIT Sloan Professor Deborah Ancona

From Fortune

Organizational change has never been easy, but in the past it was a little more straightforward. Fifty years ago, companies followed a basic blueprint. They had heroic leaders — a CEO and an elite top layer of management — who had tremendous authority and made all the important decisions. When they wanted to make a change, they set a direction and it cascaded down through the firm.

Today things are different. As companies compete more on speed, agility, and innovation, decision-making needs to get pushed down. Sure, there remain some old-school companies that rely solely on top-down leadership. But in an increasing number of firms, leadership is shared across the organization, often in teams. Command and control is out; collaboration and teamwork are in.

These are positive developments, but they don’t make organizational change any easier to pull off. The key for managers is to create an environment where teams and individuals — even those lower in the organization — have the latitude and autonomy to recommend and try out new ideas, be it a new environmental initiative, a new technology, or a way to seize some new opportunity in a different market. The goal is an entrepreneurial workforce at all levels of the company. Here are some ways to achieve that:

Think beyond the official job title.

Managers tend to put employees into neat little boxes according to their place on the corporate organizational chart. But these boxes make it hard for someone lower down in the organization, without an official title, to vet and test a new idea. There’s a prevailing attitude of: “We need a formal manager to do that.” To combat that tendency when assigning people to projects, consider who has the passion, knowledge, and networks to succeed — independent of that person’s title. If this is not politically possible, then think about creating two-person teams or small groups that include people with the necessary expertise.

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Keeping creative employees inside the firm — Aleksandra Kacperczyk

MIT Sloan Professor Aleksandra Kacperczyk

MIT Sloan Professor Aleksandra Kacperczyk

From the Chicago Tribune

At a large, established company, several employees get together and hatch a plan for a new business. Eventually, they make the leap, exiting their old firm and launching a venture that takes off and achieves great heights.

This oft-repeated tale is usually considered a business success story. Spin-offs have the potential to generate great value. New companies create jobs and spawn new products and services. When the process starts happening at a number of firms in the same place at the same time, business clusters form, spreading prosperity across an entire region.

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Social responsibility can boost bottom line — Caroline Flammer

Caroline Flammer, Lecturer, Global Economics and Management

We generally think of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a sort of feel-good policy, as something that is good for public policy or public relations but not a company’s bottom line. But my research finds that good corporate citizenship can actually lead to superior financial performance. A company’s social engagement is actually a resource that can create positive value and improve competitiveness. Read More »

Yasheng Huang: Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative will help train the next generation of Chinese entrepreneurs

MIT Sloan Prof. Yasheng Huang

I am just back from an exciting weeklong trip to China to meet applicants for a new program MIT Sloan is helping develop at Yunnan University for women entrepreneurs. The program is part of Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Women Initiative. Goldman’s initiative is a $100 million campaign designed to provide business and management education to promising female entrepreneurs in developing countries.

I met 15 candidates and found them each to be impressive – educated, articulate, and brimming with ideas. They have already experienced some success: some of them had at least 1 million yuan in revenue, which is about $150,000. Read More »

Visiting Prof. Zeynep Ton on why more retailers should invest in their employees

MIT Sloan Visiting Prof. Zeynep Ton

It’s no secret that the labor market is tough these days. But the issue isn’t just the number of people who are unemployed. It’s also income inequality and the low pay of retail employees that’s concerning. Retail employees represent close to 20% of the U.S. workforce.

In retail, conventional wisdom holds that if you want to offer the best prices then you can’t afford to invest in your employees. Typical retail workers receive minimal training, irregular hours, and no benefits for part-timers. Turnover is high with understaffing common.

Wages are so low that retail workers tend to rely more on public assistance than workers in other industries. If companies actually invested in their employees by offering better jobs, many of these people could move into the middle class, which is critical in our economy.

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