Research Feature

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Is Your Business Ready for a Digital Future?

Successfully incorporating today’s digital technologies requires companies to operate in new ways. However, research by MIT SMR shows that being able to effectively incorporate digital strategy is strongly associated with a company's overall digital maturity. There's also an important HR component to digital strategy: Respondents expressed a strong preference for working for a digitally mature company, but many were dissatisfied with how their own companies were reacting to digital trends overall.

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Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem

Research from MIT Sloan School of Management’s Center for Information Systems Research says that to prepare for a future of digital disruption, companies need to consider which of four business models to adapt. "Given the amount of turmoil digital disruption is causing, it’s time for companies to evaluate these threats and opportunities and start creating new business options for the future — the more connected future of digital ecosystems," write Peter Weill and Stephanie L. Woerner, both of CISR. Companies also need to develop new capabilities in two areas: learning more about their customers and becoming "more of an ecosystem."

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Measuring the Benefits of Employee Engagement

It’s well known that employees’ attitudes toward the organization have a significant effect on how they approach their jobs and how they treat customers. But recent research suggests that high levels of employee engagement are also associated with higher rates of profitability growth. While the products and services many companies offer can appear quite similar on the surface, exceptional service can be a competitive advantage. "Although we recognize that the ultimate focus of most organizations is on customers," write the authors, "companies can benefit from adding employee engagement to their list of priorities."

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How Global Is Your C-Suite?

New research shows that the vast majority of the world’s largest corporations are run by CEOs native to the country in which the company is headquartered. Does that matter? Some studies indicate that national diversity in the top management team can be associated with better performance. What’s more, the presence — or absence — of nonnative executives in a company’s top management team can send a signal to employees outside the home country: It indicates the long-term career prospects for foreign middle managers already in the company as well as for potential hires.

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Creating Online Videos That Engage Viewers

The Holy Grail of modern online marketing is video content that “goes viral.” So how does it happen? New research shows that engagement with online video content depends less on what the video shows than how the video shows it. A study of viewer reactions to online videos suggests that the key is to juxtapose content elements in incongruous combinations or to create original or exaggerated content that makes an emotional connection with the viewer — to create emotionally surprising videos.

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Staying in the Know

In an era of information overload, getting the right information is a challenge for time-pressed executives. How can they best distinguish usable information from distracting noise? New research argues that to remain appropriately and effectively knowledgeable, executives need a personal and organizational capability to continually “stay in the know.” And that means assembling and maintaining a “personal knowledge infrastructure” built on both technologies and conversation.

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How Twitter Users Can Generate Better Ideas

New research shows a link between the amount of diversity in employees’ Twitter networks and the quality of their ideas. “A diverse network provides exposure to people from different fields who behave and think differently," write Salvatore Parise (Babson College), Eoin Whelan (National University of Ireland) and Steve Todd (EMC Corporation). They found that the more diverse a person’s social network, the more likely that person is to be innovative. They also found that Twitter users who are both idea scouts and idea connectors are especially valuable in the workplace.

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The New Mission for Multinationals

Something strange is happening as globalization marches forward: Increasingly, powerful local companies are winning out against multinational competitors. Some 73% of executives at large multinational companies say that “local companies are more effective competitors than other multinationals” in emerging markets. To compete effectively, multinationals need to let go of their global strategies and embrace a new mission: Integrate locally and adapt globally. That means becoming embedded in local distribution, supply, talent and regulatory networks as well as in the broader society.

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How Executive Sponsors Influence Project Success

In each stage of a project's life cycle, two or three behaviors have significant impact on the project's likelihood for success. These behaviors, by the executive who is sponsoring the project, ensure effective partnerships with project managers and require a great deal of informal dialogue. They include setting performance goals, establishing priorities, ensuring quality and capturing lessons learned.

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What Successful Project Managers Do

Successful project managers often combine elements of traditional and agile approaches to project management. They cope with uncertainty, for instance, by developing detailed short-term plans along with firm commitments and tentative longer term plans. The authors draw from experiential data from more than 150 successful project managers affiliated with over 20 organizations, and provide a detailed look at the success factors behind NASA’s Mars Pathfinder project.

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Reducing Unwelcome Surprises in Project Management

How can managers reduce the number of “unknown unknowns” a project faces? Even projects that employ sophisticated techniques for risk management can encounter surprising derailments. But new research shows that modeling a project’s subsystems helps expose risk areas. So, too, can scenario analysis, the use of checklists and data mining. “Directed recognition, which can entail both project design and behavioral approaches, can convert knowable unk-unks [unknown unknowns] to known unknowns,” write the authors.

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Minding the Analytics Gap

While analytical skills are improving among managers, the increasing sophistication of analyses is outpacing the development of those skills. The resulting gap creates a need for managers to become comfortable applying analytical results they do not fully understand. A 2014 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review, in partnership with SAS Institute Inc., highlights the ways that companies can address this problem by focusing on both the production and consumption sides of analytics.

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Competing With Ordinary Resources

Not every company can be built around exceptional talent or exclusive technology. Instead, companies also can thrive by the innovative use of ordinary resources, such as well-managed staffs and competent websites. As management scholars Sumantra Ghoshal and Christopher Bartlett once wrote: “The key function of management is to help ordinary people produce extraordinary results.” The authors examine how business models leveraging regular resources will take different approaches than those focused on scarce strategic resources.

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Assembling Your Personal Board of Advisors

The notion that one mentor can meet all of an individual’s developmental needs is increasingly outdated. Instead, many people now draw from a "personal board of advisors," which can encompass a range of individuals, from friends or family who provide emotional support to role models the person may not personally know. The authors identify six types of personal advisors who, together, provide a broad combination of psychosocial support and career support.

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Accelerating Projects by Encouraging Help

How can companies get employees to pull together to meet project deadlines? It turns out that establishing psychological safety and promoting cooperative behavior can be just as important as good planning. This case study of management innovation at Roto Frank, a German company that produces hardware for industrial and residential windows and doors, highlights the difficulties of project planning and execution — and the benefits of building a positive feedback cycle.

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Why You Decide the Way You Do

Curiosity about the decision-making process has heated up, attracting academics from neuroscience, management, behavioral economics and psychology. Researchers have found, for instance, that a willingness to ask for advice on difficult problems can increase a person’s perceived competence, and that too many choices can cause people to make less-than-optimal choices. Here, we highlight six scholarly articles that have intriguing insights into the factors that can affect decision-making.

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The Power of Asking Pivotal Questions

Good strategic thinking and decision making often require a shift in perspective — particularly in environments characterized by significant uncertainty and change. Managers can make better decisions by examining both broad market trends and less visible undercurrents. But the questions leaders pose sometimes get in the way of solving the right problem or seeing more innovative solutions. Here, the authors present six questions that challenge executives to incorporate broader perspectives.

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Mastering the ‘Name Your Product Category’ Game

When is the best time to enter a new industry? As it turns out, understanding the product category dynamics in an emerging industry and when a dominant category label has been introduced are important to identifying the “window of opportunity” to enter. Dominant category labels typically are introduced right before the industry starts a phase of rapid growth and consolidation. Companies would do well to track category labels before introducing a product in a nascent industry.

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From Risk to Resilience: Learning to Deal With Disruption

In a volatile, global economy, supply chains have become increasingly vulnerable. Supply chain practices designed to keep costs low in a stable business environment can increase risk levels during disruptions. But companies can cultivate resilience to unexpected disruptions by understanding their vulnerabilities and developing specific capabilities to compensate for them. The authors identify and detail 16 capabilities companies can use to respond to particular vulnerability patterns.

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Using Simulated Experience to Make Sense of Big Data

As data analyses get more complex, how can companies best communicate results to ensure that decision makers have a proper grasp of the data’s implications? Research has found that letting decision makers gain experience on the outcomes of different possible actions by interacting with simulations helps those executives make better decisions. Simulations narrow the often a large gap between what analysts want to share and what decision makers understand, and more clearly illustrate complex statistical information.

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