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New technologies will have the effect of continuing to push transactions that were once executed within an organization’s boundaries out into open markets.
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When presented with complex decisions, many executives turn to the tried-and-true decision matrix, spelling out the pros and cons of various options. One flaw in this method, however, is that executives don’t take the time to thoroughly frame the decision and explore the full scope of options. But the matrix’s real value is when it is also used as a process tool that helps executives expand their set of options and criteria.
Digital media have produced an explosion of nontraditional news outlets. When a crisis arises, managers must be aware of media controlled by various stakeholder groups, which may have significant influence on how the crisis evolves. Failure to recognize the power of stakeholder-controlled media has significantly affected the outcomes of past corporate crises. Companies need to know how stakeholders gained this power, how they use it, and what to do about it.
The MIT Leadership Center’s video series highlights different styles of leadership among senior executives and leaders.
Making the transition from management to leadership requires managers to exercise skills in strategic thinking — skills they don’t often get to practice in the action-oriented environment they know best. Managers moving into senior leadership must learn to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty and learn the importance of taking time to think things through.
When employees find their work meaningful, there are myriad benefits for their productivity — and for their employers. Managers who support meaningful work are more likely to attract, retain, and motivate the talent they need to ensure future growth. But can companies ensure this experience for their employees? A groundbreaking study identifies five factors that support meaningful work — and the seven management sins that can destroy it.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that considering various scenarios helps strengthen decision making. To test this idea, researchers offered a scenario-based workshop to executives to see how considering scenarios affected decisions. They found that though participants’ confidence in their choices never wavered, the strategic choices they made before the exercise often changed dramatically after viewing the scenarios, with a tendency to become more flexible and focused on long-term value.
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.
The Winter 2016 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review explores how increased transparency — and, in particular, the ready flow of information in a digital world — is changing the environment in which corporations operate. Transparency also is changing the distribution of power between large organizations and those who challenge them. Executives need to anticipate the possibility that any issues related to their company could someday be public knowledge.
Rather than waiting for impressions about a company to be driven by others in social media, CEOs of large companies can help shape the conversation by becoming active on Twitter. Journalists often check a CEO’s Twitter account before covering the CEO or the company, and certain types of business-related CEO tweets — including tweets about new management initiatives; strategy and performance; and new products and services — have even correlated with positive movement of company stock prices.
How can executives develop their skills as strategists? One way is to learn from the masters. The book Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons From Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs (HarperCollins, 2015) explores insights drawn from the careers of these former CEOs of Microsoft, Intel, and Apple. In a Q&A, the book’s authors, David B. Yoffie of Harvard Business School and Michael A. Cusumano of MIT Sloan, explain how strategic thinking is a capability that leaders — even the superstars — develop over time.
Aspiring corporate leaders first learn to build and implement visions for their individual business units. But as they advance in their careers, executives also must learn how to lead with an enterprise perspective. The essence of enterprise leadership lies in the need to combine two often incompatible roles: being both an advocacy-oriented builder who can develop a unit’s vision, and an integration minded broker who can integrate the unit’s vision into the wider corporate vision.
To manage a first-rate data science or quant group, leaders need to build an engaging environment, get the team the resources it needs and balance being involved while also staying out of the way. In banking, for example, division managers generally don’t review loan applications. But in analytics, the most successful leaders engage regularly in hands-on research and continue to publish regularly even as they move up the executive ladder. By staying active in line research, analytics managers are able to hone their abilities to judge how difficult projects are and how long they will take.
Businesses need a new approach to the practice of leadership — and to leadership development. “Leadership is really not about leaders themselves,” argues Joseph A. Raelin. “It’s about a collective practice among people who work together — accomplishing the choices we make together in our mutual work.” Nelson Mandela was particularly adept at this new model of leadership, Raelin says. “One of the most important leadership lessons we might distill from Mandela was not his acquisition of leadership but the way he shared it.”
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.
When faced with information overload, it can be easier to make good decisions if you’re able to remove yourself from all the details of the decision and consider the choices more abstractly. Research shows that such distancing, which can be either temporal or physical, can help people to filter out the less-vital details and enable them to focus on the gist of the matter.
How do managers “decide how to decide”? Boards and management teams often try to gain consensus, but that’s not always the best course. Research offers insights into when consensus building is the right way to go and when it isn’t — and how leaders can determine the best form of decision making for a given situation. “By prompting a rule on how the decision will be made — by unanimity, majority or delegation — you can significantly influence what will be decided,” note the authors.
It’s common for people to worry that reaching out for advice will make them appear less competent, according to research from Harvard Business School and the Wharton School. But if the task is seen as difficult, the advice-seeker is actually viewed as more competent. In addition to establishing a connection between people’s willingness to ask for advice and others’ perceptions of their competence, the authors found that whom people ask for advice makes a difference in how they are viewed.
For many decisions, letting your mind wander to a choice that you feel drawn to — rather than laboriously weighing all the options — is more than ample. Researchers Colleen E. Giblin (Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University), Carey K. Morewedge (Boston University School of Management) and Michael I. Norton (Harvard Business School) say that while mind wandering is probably not suited for making weighty decisions, it is a less onerous way to sort through options for many decisions.
New research into the brain and cognitive activities looks at whether increased attentional control is linked to better decision-making performance.
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