Opinion & Analysis

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From the Editor: Beyond the Organization

Business executives today are figuring out how to harness the energy not just of the talented people within an organization, but of those outside of it as well. The fall 2013 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on leveraging external innovation, from the phenomenon of corporations using innovation contests to an investigation of what motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects.

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The 2013 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review announce the winners of the 2013 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development published from fall 2011 to summer 2012. The Winners: Eoin Whelan, Salvatore Parise, Jasper de Valk and Rick Aalbers, authors of “Creating Employee Networks That Deliver Open Innovation.”

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Would Your Employees Recommend You?

No matter how good a workplace a company provides, it may come not matter if employees dislike their immediate line managers. Most of us have at had direct experience with egocentric or micromanaging bosses, and we have seen how much damage they can cause.

So why is there so much bad management? “Most managers have a remarkably narrow or ill-thought-out understanding of how their employees actually look at the world,” writes Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School.

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Why Making Money Is Not Enough

The authors, who include Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the Tata Group, argue that that “it is possible to build and lead companies that retain a deeper purpose.” Tata calls for companies to launch “corporate lifeboats” — such as new business experiments in next-generation clean technologies and serious business initiatives in the underserved space at the “base of the pyramid” — to transform their operations for sustainability.

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From the Editor: Creating and Leading Change

Consumers are driving change for retailers. As the new article “Competing in the Age of Omnichannel Retailing” notes, “Recent technology advances in mobile computing and augmented reality are blurring the boundaries between traditional and Internet retailing.” Meanwhile, “The Executive’s Role in Social Business” notes that while C-suite executives see social business as an opportunity, they are having a hard time turning that potential into reality.

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Why Good Leaders Don’t Need Charisma

Among charismatic executives, for every Steve Jobs, there is at least one Dick Fuld — maybe more. Fuld presided over the downfall of Lehman Brothers. Nor is Fuld alone: Six out of 18 of Germany’s most recent “Manager of the Year” winners were responsible for dramatic missteps, including Daimler’s disastrous acquisition of Chrysler Corp. under CEO Jürgen Schrempp. That raises a question: do charismatic business leaders typically outperform their more ordinary counterparts over the long run?

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The Inside and Outside View of Innovation

How can companies ensure that a promising initiative receives the necessary resources? And why do so many brilliant inventions fail while other seemingly mediocre offerings succeed? Such questions are addressed in two recent books — Unrelenting Innovation: How to Build a Culture for Market Dominance by Gerard J. Tellis and The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation by Ron Adner. The first book concentrates on a company’s internal workings, while the latter focuses on its external environment.

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Bringing Opportunity Oversight Onto the Board’s Agenda

Boards have two broad responsibilities: overseeing the protection of existing value and creating new value. Even though most boards take growth seriously, in practice board oversight has become unbalanced. The imbalance between risk and opportunity is a potentially serious problem. Correcting the imbalance will require an active, constructive partnership between the board and senior leadership — and a board that understands how the company maintains a high level of value-creating performance.

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Get Social: A Mandate for New CEOs

New CEOs need to quickly establish themselves and communicate their vision. Traditionally, CEOs communicate through e-mail, memos and Q&As. They walk halls, attend meetings and issue press releases. In many cases, social media is a more effective and efficient way to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders. Social media has already become a state-of-the-art leadership tool that surpasses many traditional approaches to listening and communicating with stakeholders.

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Is It Really Lonely at the Top?

There’s a business relationship that’s often overlooked: the relationships in between friends and allies — in other words, business relationships with people you enjoy being with. This article defines these people as chums and asserts that their importance too often goes unnoticed. Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People is a practical classic on the art of cultivating chums — of inviting business allies into your courtyard while keeping them out of your kitchen.

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What the Future May Bring

Many authors writing about the future dismiss contrary opinions, striving with provocative titles such as The End of History and the Last Man (by Francis Fukuyama) or The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (by Ray Kurzweil) to persuade readers that the future they envision is not only plausible but inevitable. Jorgen Randers foregoes this temptation in his new book, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012).

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When One Size Does Not Fit All

Although executives understand the difference between efficiency and responsiveness, many are confused about when to apply each strategy. In recent years, companies have been caught in the bind in which Dell Inc. found itself in 2008, when it needed to transform its supply chain to serve new customers in new channels. The question was: how to do that? Dell decided to create multiple supply chains, configured so that the company could reduce complexity and benefit from economies of scale.

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The Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development published from fall 2010 to summer 2011.

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Driving Growth and Employment Through Logistics

Logistics clusters are local networks of businesses that provide a wide array of services, including transportation carriers, warehousing companies, and freight forwarders. Logistics clusters address several challenges that economies face, including the need for good jobs. In addition to helping companies navigate global supply networks, logistics clusters are contributing to the efficiency of global supply chains and, in the process, increasing international trade and global trade flows.

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The Messy Business of Management

In a period of rapid technological and business change, successful executives particularly need the ability to think critically — and to be aware that some of their most cherished assumptions may, at any point, be challenged or invalidated by changing events. Business schools excel at teaching young managers well-structured models, theories and frameworks but need to spend more time helping their students surface, debate and test the assumptions underlying each model, theory or framework.

Image courtesy of chotuKool.

How Disruptive Will Innovations from Emerging Markets Be?

Companies located in developing countries are currently serving billions of local consumers with innovative and inexpensive products. But what happens when more of those companies make the leap into more developed markets? Is it inevitable that these companies will overtake the more developed companies? Using historical examples, this article looks at how disruptors and incumbents compete. For incumbents, knowing that much of their fate rests in their hands is half the battle won.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Sam Beebe, Ecotrust.

Why Boards Need to Change

Many companies have initiated sustainability and corporate social responsibility programs that represent good first steps toward improving the impact of their organizations on the environment and society. However, unless boards change, many of the initial sustainability efforts launched in corporations are likely to be temporary. For organizations to achieve sustainable effectiveness, they need a corporate board that is designed to lead in a sustainably effective way.

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What It Takes to Be a Serial Innovator

It’s not easy to develop a breakthrough innovation in an established company and bring it to market successfully — and even more challenging to do so more than once. In their new book, Serial Innovators: How Individuals Create and Deliver Breakthrough Innovations in Mature Firms, authors Abbie Griffin, Raymond L. Price and Bruce A. Vojak describe several years of research they have conducted about a type of employee who can do just that.

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