Opinion & Analysis

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From the Editor: In Praise of Humility

The Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review highlights decision making, in “The Power of Asking Pivotal Questions” and “Using Simulated Experience to Make Sense of Big Data.” It also celebrates acknowledging when you don’t have all the answers, in “Embrace Your Ignorance.” Other articles look at “technostress,” why product category labels matter and why "benevolent" mobile apps may be best at brand-building.

Image courtesey of Quicken Loans Inc.

Embrace Your Ignorance

The overconfidence of presumed expertise is counterproductive. Instead, data trumps intuition.
Serious innovators take data seriously, argues Michael Schrage: “Organizations may be confident they know their customers, but they’re very likely to be overconfident. Most executives aren’t nearly as smart, perceptive or customer-centric as they believe." Successful innovators, he writes, “have the courage of their curiosity” and run experiments that challenge their assumptions.

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From the Editor: Strategy in the Midst of Change

How do you develop strategy in a business environment characterized by rapid change and considerable uncertainty about the future? That’s a question that many executives in fast-changing industries face. The Fall 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on strategy in changing markets, with articles on creating new strategic narratives, capturing new opportunities and finding the right strategic role for a board.

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Bringing Fun and Creativity to Work

How do you inspire employees to become more motivated and perform better? By challenging them to test their creativity and collaboration skills through a team-based contest. “The contest provided a safe environment for participants to unleash their imaginations and form an emotional connection,” write the authors. “That, in turn, triggered an increased level of psychological ownership and positive feelings.“

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The 2014 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

This year’s winning article on planned change and organizational development is “Making Mergers Work,” by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly. The authors examine why mergers and acquisitions so often fail to achieve the results and synergies they promise. “Our work in this field has convinced us that there is no ‘one best way’ but rather four distinct paths that can be followed to achieve identity integration: assimilation, federation, confederation and metamorphosis,” they write.

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From the Editor: Innovation and China

In today’s global economy, there aren’t many large companies that can afford to ignore China in their plans for growth. The Summer 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on China, with insights about how to learn from China, what the future may hold for the Chinese economy — and how to do business in China despite the challenges of protecting intellectual property there.

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Bridging the Sustainability Gap

Most mainstream investors are unconvinced that sustainability leadership translates into profits and marketplace success. Despite rising importance on the corporate agenda, sustainability —as currently understood and measured — interests only a small niche of investors. The authors argue that a “back to basics” approach for measuring sustainability’s direct impact on revenue growth, productivity and risk would provide mainstream investors with the data that’s critical to their decisions.

UBS Reports Writedowns of 18.5 Billion GBP

Is Your Company Addicted to Value Extraction?

Is your company focused on creating value — or on siphoning it off from others? Capturing value from other stakeholders by manipulating the competitive market process to the company’s advantage exposes a company to reputational or legal risks. It also can undermine corporate values. Value extraction is typically easier than developing a competitive advantage through ongoing value creation. Companies can get hooked on the practice, to the detriment of real value creation.

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No Free Market for Energy

The idea that energy is a “free-market good” is a myth that needs to be abandoned. Subsidies for energy exist for good reason. The authors argue that in order to wean ourselves off hydrocarbon dependence, U.S. and global policies that subsidize oil and gas production at higher rates than renewable energy production need to be changed to reduce the bias in favor of hydrocarbons.

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Is Your Brand a Living Entity?

Traditional ways of building brands have passed their sell-by dates, while social media opens up new possibilities. Effective Twitter strategies, for instance, are helping brands such as Starbucks and Whole Foods gain a special status and sense of personality among some of their Twitter followers.

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From the Editor: How Important Is the Customer’s Voice?

It’s easy to say customer satisfaction is very important – but harder to put that into practice. The Spring 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on understanding your customers, from gauging global clients’ satisfaction through the use of big data to figuring out better strategies for improving customer complaint resolution.

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The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation

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Companies use emerging technologies to achieve powerful enhancements to their operations. Research finds nine change areas: understanding customer wants and needs, increasing top-line revenues, opening new touch points for customers, automation of operations, knowledge sharing, performance management, digitizing parts of the business, creating new business models and globalization. The key is for executives to have vision, focus and follow-through.

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From the Editor: Decision Making in the Digital Age

Business executives today have access to far more data than any previous generation, and that transforms the way business decisions are made. The Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report investigating how, even with plenty of data, making wise decisions about topics like strategy can be challenging. No matter how much data we collect and analyze, our perspectives are still colored by human foibles.

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Overheard at MIT

“Big Data in Manufacturing” was the theme of a daylong conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in November 2013 and sponsored by the MIT Forum for Supply Chain Innovation and the Accenture and MIT Alliance in Business Analytics. But the speakers’ insights weren’t restricted to manufacturing.

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What’s Your Information Footprint?

Wealth once was measured by the amount of land, employees or equipment you had. Today we are on the cusp of a period in which another factor is an indicator of potential wealth: how much information you have. Information has the potential to be a valuable asset, and a new framework, dubbed “the information footprint,” presents a way for companies to assess their information assets and the opportunities it gives them for new value creation.

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Walking the Legal Tightrope of Social Business

Social business is a rapidly expanding phenomenon, creating situations not foreseen by our current legal system. Should managers friend employees on Facebook or connect with them on LinkedIn? What are the legal implications of making these connections — or not? In many ways, social business puts managers in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemma, but managers cannot afford to ignore the legal implications of social business.

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It Started with a Hashtag: Revitalizing BC Football with Social Media

Boston College’s football recruiting efforts were turned around with a social media campaign led by the coach and staff. They started using #BeADude on Twitter and in Facebook, Instagram and Vine to represent the program and depict the new attitude of the team. Result: many new recruits attributed their decisions to come to BC directly to the “#BeADude campaign. Here are seven lessons from the campaign.

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Surprising Insights from Environmental Screenings

In the past decade, packaging supplier Greif, Inc. found its key industrial customers demanding more environmentally friendly products. Customers wanted environmental information, such as greenhouse gas emissions data, on Greif products. Greif turned to life-cycle assessment studies on core products such as steel, plastic and fiber containers to respond to the market and identify areas for improvement — and what they found surprised them.

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Four Ways Social Data Can Generate Business Value

Companies both large and small have access to a growing stream of social data from an increasing number of sources. But many are missing a significant opportunity to use social data to gain intimate and real-time knowledge about what is going on within, not just outside, the organization. Social data can help organizations improve team performance, drive financial performance, and more.

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