Leading Change

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Inspiring Employee Creativity

Digital technologies are making work increasingly thought-driven, not muscle-powered. In this environment, planning and execution are merely table stakes for leadership. Real leaders must inspire and reward employee ingenuity, and must be bold enough to move creativity from the organization’s periphery to its center. To do that, leaders need to adopt five personal behavior changes, including resisting the temptation to tell people what to do and embracing distributed leadership.

Sustainability Lessons From the Front Lines

While most executives recognize the need to develop more sustainable business models, putting this goal into practice has been a challenge. Too many initiatives are stymied by a set of common obstacles. By recognizing how executing sustainability initiatives differs from typical change management, corporate leaders can promote more lasting gains in sustainable business development.

Warding Off the Threat of Disruption

In a fast-changing digital landscape, companies shouldn’t wait too long to reconfigure their offerings — but they also should be wary of moving to an untested technology too soon. Monitoring trends in related industries and identifying high-potential startups for acquisition helps to ensure appropriate timing for business model changes.

Do You Have the Will for Digital Transformation?

Research shows that successful digital transformation does not require secret digital knowledge; it simply requires the boldness to recognize that digital transformation is occurring and to begin trying to adapt your business to account for and capitalize on these trends.

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Taking a Value-Chain Perspective on Innovation

Market leaders have many advantages when adopting new technologies such as e-business, but they don’t always make the move. Why? It’s partly because new technology can be leveraged along a chain of related companies only if business partners also make the leap to adopt these changes. And research reveals that when large companies are significantly concerned about customer adjustment costs of new innovations, these powerful and otherwise highly capable organizations often resist change.

Why Digital Transformation Needs a Heart

Digital innovation is transforming every part of the company, from customer experience to business models to operational management. But it’s people who make companies work. The digital economy shouldn’t be one where automation squeezes workers — and managers — out, but one where computers help employees to collaborate fluidly, make decisions scientifically, and manage better with automation than they ever could without it.

Equipping the Sustainability Insurgency

Sustainability Insurgents are professional insiders who seek to align their organizations with a global vision of a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. This article explores how two insurgents, working for dramatically different organizations, developed a peer-to-peer network to help spread the sustainability insurgency.

From the Editor: Reflections on Change and Continuity

The Summer 2015 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review highlights digital business and the technology-driven changes it brings. “Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem” and “Is Your Business Ready for a Digital Future?” directly address the topic of business changes driven by digital technologies. “How Twitter Users Can Generate Better Ideas” reports on fascinating research about how a digital platform — in this case, the social media network Twitter — is changing the way some businesspeople develop new ideas.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Randy Heinitz https://www.flickr.com/photos/rheinitz/8578335823

Real Innovators Don't Fear Failure

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 2 min 

One way to learn, argue Paul J.H. Schoemaker and Steven Krupp, is to “try to fail fast, often and cheaply in search of innovation.” Asking “what if” questions, they say, challenges executives to incorporate broader perspectives, stimulating “out-of-the-box dialogues that help leaders make better choices and find innovative solutions sooner.” Schoemaker and Krupp write that to help a team learn faster, leaders must frame mistakes as valuable learning opportunities.

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For BASF, Sustainability Is a Catalyst

Risk mitigation drove chemical giant BASF to adopt a sustainability focus, initiating a chain reaction that transformed not only the company’s product lines, but its corporate culture. The company’s vice president of sustainability strategy, Dirk Voeste, explains the step-by-step process that BASF undertook to produce a company-wide shift in this massive organization’s mindset.

What It Takes to Reshore Manufacturing Successfully

The process of bringing assembly work back to U.S. factories from abroad is more challenging than the economics would predict. In the United States, many key resources, including the manufacturing workforce, have atrophied. Author Willy C. Shih (Harvard Business School) recommends that to reduce turnover, companies that embrace reshoring — bringing assembly work back from abroad — encourage workers to complete training and certification.

The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 10 min 

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.

The Three Challenges of Corporate Consulting

For many product-oriented companies, establishing a corporate consultancy can be a good first step toward a more solutions-based orientation. As Ericsson, Shell and AT&T, among others, illustrate, the consulting unit can take a number of forms dictated by its key knowledge base and its relation to the product businesses‘ value chain. The challenge is to determine how similar the consulting unit should be to the parent company in identity, mission and structure.

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Strategy as Options on the Future

Traditional strategic planning draws from forecasts of parameters like market growth, prices, exchange rates, and input costs that managers are unable to predict five or 10 years in advance with any accuracy. The author discusses a strategy that embodies a coherent portfolio of options, sketches a process managers can use to develop this kind of strategy, and explains how planning and management opportunism can reinforce each other.

Strategy Innovation and the Quest for Value

Strategy in many companies seems to have gone astray, and the author has identified the reason: Managers are focusing on it in isolation instead of establishing the preconditions to successful strategy innovation. Only those companies that are constantly able to reinvent themselves will survive. The author shows how to improve strategy making and create wealth through a pluralistic process, collaboration across industries and market experimentation.

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