Human Psychology

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Moving Beyond the Silicon Valley State of Mind

In his new book Sensemaking, a polemic defending the need for the liberal arts in business, Christian Madsbjerg, the founder of strategic consultancy nReD Associates, argues that leaders shouldn’t try to know everything. Instead, they should try to make sense of something.

Your Time Is Limited, So Choose Your Projects Wisely

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Making the right decision about which projects and partnerships to enter into seems like it should be easy. But it often isn’t. Being smart about where you devote your resources — your personal time, energy, and finances, as well as those of your organization — means being smart about not just time management, but about choice management. That means being proactive and disciplined about asking why you think a project is a good fit. It also means paying attention to your inner skeptic.

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When People Don’t Trust Algorithms

Even when faced with evidence that an algorithm will deliver better results than human judgment, we consistently choose to follow our own minds. Why? MIT Sloan Management Review editor in chief Paul Michelman sat down with the University of Chicago’s Berkeley Dietvorst to find out.

The Most Underrated Skill in Management

Few questions in business are more powerful than “What problem are you trying to solve?” Leaders who can formulate clear problem statements get more done with less effort and move more rapidly than their less-focused counterparts. But stopping to ask this question doesn’t come naturally — managers must put conscious effort into learning a structured approach.

The Smart Way to Respond to Negative Emotions at Work

It is impossible to block negative emotions from the workplace. Whether provoked by bad decisions, misfortune, poor timing, or employees’ personal problems, no organization is immune from trouble. And trouble agitates bad feelings. However, in many workplaces, negative emotions are brushed aside; in some others, they are taboo. Unfortunately, the author’s research suggests that neither of these strategies is effective. Instead, insight and readiness are key to developing effective responses.

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To Improve Cybersecurity, Think Like a Hacker

To protect their organizations from cyberthreats, companies need to understand how hackers go about their work. The authors’ research suggests that hackers’ attacks typically involve four steps: identifying vulnerabilities; scanning and testing; gaining access; and maintaining access.

Embracing a Strategic Paradox

Within a business, opposing ideas typically lead to conflict and, in the face of conflicting demands, managers will feel anxiety, stress, and frustration. However, the authors’ research at Aeon Co. Ltd., one of Japan’s largest retailers, suggests that a positive approach to handling conflicts between opposing ideas can create new value for a company.

Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts

Many big projects start off well, but then lose momentum and spiral downward as skeptical stakeholders withdraw support. Executives need to identify common triggers that spark stakeholder concerns — and take action to avert the ‘cycle of doubt’ that can ensue.

Beyond Viral: Generating Sustainable Value From Social Media

Social media provides the fuel for unpredictable, temporary mobilization, rather than steady, sustainable change. To reverse this trend and reap more enduring benefits from social media requires a fundamental change in focus. Research shows that incentive networks are an important middle layer between ideologies and activity in online digital platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. So, too, is a focus on establishing loyalty and stickiness rather than just “likes” and retweets.

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Please Go Away (and Spend More Time Somewhere Else)

Rapid changes at all levels of society and technology are upon us. Seemingly stable business and social environments aren’t immune. Whether it’s technology, policy, or broader socioeconomic forces, the transformation of your organization and your role in it are all but inevitable. One suggestion for responding: Get outside your standard routine and engage with the changes.

Predicting a Future Where the Future Is Routinely Predicted

The ability of artificial intelligence to sift through mountains of data and identify patterns — and problems — in real time is its key value for business. Using AI to predict failures and take action to prevent them will become commonplace in the very near future. But it can also offer insights into human behavior to help managers improve customer service and employee relations.

The 2016 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

This year’s winning article is “Accelerating Projects by Encouraging Help,” by Fabian J. Sting, Christoph H. Loch, and Dirk Stempfhuber. The authors examine project planning and execution challenges and describe a case study of a company that designed a help process to encourage workers to seek and provide mutual assistance. 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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