Research Highlight

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Leading by the Numbers

It can be difficult for finance professionals to transition to broader leadership roles. Leadership development, it turns out, is different for people from finance backgrounds. But five changes in how they approach their job can help them succeed when taking on broader roles in an organization. Those changes include transitioning from being the expert to being someone who leverages expertise, and being able to unleash their thinking to see that a problem can have multiple plausible solutions.

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How to Reconnect for Maximum Impact

Reconnecting with people from previous chapters of one’s life (such as former colleagues, old friends, and other associates) is as valuable, if not more so, than connecting with currently active ties. But some reconnections are more beneficial than others. The challenge: selecting the best ones. The most valuable reconnections often turn out to be people who provide novelty, which can mean reaching out to reconnect with higher-status people or to people you didn’t know very well to begin with.

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Turning Content Viewers Into Subscribers

Content websites can more readily convert site visitors into paying customers by prompting visitors to gradually increase their social engagement with the site — using a concept the authors call the “ladder of participation.” This means thinking strategically about using site engagement to improve conversion. It also means taking an active role in encouraging users to climb the ladder of participation and move quickly up its rungs.

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A New Vision for Personal Transportation

Smart data and mass customization have the potential to radically change the way trips are planned. Already, the Boston-based startup Bridj is piloting a dynamic bus system that optimizes routing in response to demand, while Düsseldorf Airport is piloting a robotic parking system in which users just drop off their cars, which are then parked automatically. In the future, intermodal routing could provide customers with a seamless experience and reshape the transportation infrastructure.

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Getting Workplace Safety Right

Companies aiming to be competitive in the long term do not see safety and productivity as trade-offs. Research drawn from multiple studies conducted with the support of companies, unions, and regulators in the United States and Canada finds no evidence that protecting the workforce harms competitiveness. “Once companies understand that safety is not the enemy of efficiency,” the authors write, “they can begin to build organizational safety capabilities.”

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What Email Reveals About Your Organization

By studying data from email archives and other sources, managers can gain surprising insights about how groups should be organized and about which communications patterns are most successful. Anonymized analysis of internal information communication found that creative people, for instance, work more productively on projects with strong leaders than on collaborations without a clear leader. In addition, in many situations, groups of leaders taking turns worked better at sparking creativity.

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How Workplace Fairness Affects Employee Commitment

Managers have an opportunity to interrupt a sometimes vicious cycle between trust and commitment. The relationship between workers’ trust in decision-making authorities and their commitment toward the organization is a self-perpetuating one, and organizations can achieve a higher level of workforce engagement by proactively building and maintaining trust-based relationships. The key, research finds, appears to be the continuous anticipation and management of the so-called “expectation-experience gap.”

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Flourishing in the Face of Supply Chain Disruption

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In a webinar, Joseph Fiksel and Keely Croxton of The Ohio State University explain how proactive managers create innovative, dynamic organizations that can prosper under any circumstances. “We define resilience as the capacity to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change and uncertainty,” Fiskel said. Their research-based methodology identifies important supply chain vulnerabilities and sets priorities for strengthening capabilities.

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How to Avoid Platform Traps

Many of today’s most successful technology businesses— including Apple, Facebook, and Uber — are built on a platform-based business model. But the increasing popularity of platform strategies masks a difficult truth: Such strategies are hard to execute well, and they are prone to several common pitfalls. Those platform traps include growth with no strategic focus, pursuing an intermediate approach between the mass market and a niche, and overlooking the value proposition of partners.

Image courtesy of Workspring.

Should Your Company Embrace Coworking?

Coworking spaces can open the door to serendipitous encounters that inspire innovation, new products, and different ways of thinking. The coworking movement developed to provide community and a collaborative working environment for independent and remote workers. Now some large, traditional companies are adopting certain aspects of coworking as part of their overall workplace strategies. They see sharing space as a way to tap into new ideas and to provide flexibility and autonomy to employees.

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How Customers View Self-Service Technologies

Consumers are not running away from self-service options — just poorly implemented ones. Managers often underestimate customer’s need for employee interaction during a self-service experience, as well as customer desires for convenience and for transaction speed. “These three areas have a tremendous impact on the implementation of a self-service technology,” write the authors, “and might explain why some self-service applications have received a lukewarm reception.”

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The Power of Resilience in a Time of Uncertainty

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In an August 2015 webinar, MIT professor Yossi Sheffi, a renowned expert on supply chains, risk management, and resilience, shared insights and examples from his latest research and forthcoming new book, The Power of Resilience: How the Best Companies Manage the Unexpected. He offered insights on understanding and analyzing the types of risks companies face, as well as preparing for and coping with disruptions effectively.

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Managing Data in the Age of the Internet of Things

Organizations have made great progress with analytics using traditional data sources, but Internet of Things (IoT) will mean a new upsurge in data, and attendant challenges in absorbing and analyzing that data. In this webinar, analytics experts Lynn Wu, Sri Narasimhan, and Sam Ransbotham discussed the data and analytics opportunities presented by this phenomenon.

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Creating Effective Dialogue About Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility initiatives run the risk of being seen as insincere. However, there are ways that companies can thoughtfully — and effectively — engage with the public about social issues. The authors make four suggestions for companies that are hoping to engage in a credible CSR dialogue with stakeholders. They include cultivating a balance between controlling and cocreating the dialogue, and creating platforms that invite stakeholders to influence the implementation of CSR initiatives.

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What to Know About Locating in a Cluster

A study of two industry clusters in Denmark shows that the factors that can make clusters attractive — easy people movement and knowledge spillovers — can also make it harder for individual companies to retain proprietary knowledge. The authors present two case studies that present starkly different experiences. They conclude, in part, that clusters with core platform strengths that span noncompeting sectors are exceptionally attractive and that healthy clusters have core institutions with scale and scope in relevant fields.

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Photo by Alexander V. Dokukin

The 2015 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

This year’s winning article is “Combining Purpose With Profits,” by Julian Birkinshaw, Nicolai J. Foss, and Siegwart Lindenberg. The authors examine a familiar question for managers: How can the tension between purpose and profits be best managed? The article explores the kinds of structures companies need to pursue “pro-social” goals. The Beckhard Prize is awarded annually to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development.

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The Art of Managing Complex Collaborations

The only way to move forward on society’s biggest challenges may be through consortiums. But it’s not easy to assemble such groups or to keep them together. The experiences of The Biomarkers Consortium, a nine-year-old public-private partnership in the health industry, presents five lessons in managing these kinds of complex collaborations. These lessons are useful for anyone trying to build consensus to address broad societal challenges among multiple stakeholders with both common and divergent interests.

Image courtesy of Mediatek

Developing Effective Intellectual Property Partnerships

All too often, companies from emerging and established economies talk past each other when discussing intellectual property. The result is that often fail to consider all their options for a productive collaboration. The authors detail five ways that companies can structure such IP partnerships, and say that it’s important for a company to choose the one that’s the best fit for the project: “The choice of IP business models is a strategic decision, not merely a legal matter.”

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Integrating Supply and Demand

To compete in different strategic segments at the same time, companies need close coordination between the sales side of the company and supply chain operations. Just as importantly, joining the supply and demand sides of an enterprise presents an opportunity for efficiency and value creation. “A company may have an excellent sales and marketing team and a top-flight operations team and still deliver the wrong benefits to a customer,” the authors note. This article includes an online questionnaire for assessing the current stage of your company’s demand and supply integration, with suggestions for how to improve.

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The Analytics Talent Dividend

In May 2015, co-authors Sam Ransbotham, David Kiron and Pamela Kirk Prentice presented the findings from the recent global sustainability study, “The Talent Dividend.” The study found that the integration of analytics talent into the organization is key to analytics success. The webinar speakers discuss the components of a human resources plan for analytics talent, and give guidance on how to implement that plan in your organization.

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