Leadership

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How Blockchain Will Change Organizations

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 12 min 

Blockchain technology has the potential to transform how businesses are organized and managed. It allows companies to eliminate transaction costs and use outside resources as easily as internal resources. The implications for areas such as accounting, contract negotiation and enforcement, sales and marketing, and capital investment are myriad. Companies should start exploring how this technology could impact their industry and processes.

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Your Digital Talent Needs May Not Be What You Think They Are

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 6 min 

In the quest for digital talent, many employers are falling prey to common misconceptions. One assumption is that advanced technical skills are the most valuable asset, but “soft” skills such as communication and collaboration are just as (if not more) important. And many of the skills, technical or otherwise, that companies seek may be better obtained in current staff by fostering collaborative learning — which may also improve employee retention.

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How Analytics and AI Are Driving the Subscription E-Commerce Phenomenon

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 6 min 

Box subscription companies are growing dramatically, using a high level of personalization and artificial intelligence algorithms to keep customers satisfied and eager for more. Their astute use of social media and influence marketing has also contributed to their startling success.

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Organizing for New Technologies

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 6 min 

When faced with an emerging technology, many companies have trouble responding — not because they don’t recognize how it impacts their business, but because they have difficulty managing the uncertainty around the new technology’s competitive viability. And when the technology significantly disrupts the company’s existing business, it can create structural impediments to pursuing opportunities.

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Warding Off the Threat of Disruption

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 6 min 

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.

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Winning the Digital War for Talent

  • Frontiers

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 9 min 

Competition for digitally savvy talent has never been higher, but companies’ methods for acquiring and keeping the skilled employees they need are outmoded. Whether they want to develop capabilities in employees or tap on-demand talent markets — or some mix of both — human resources directors need to experiment with new talent management models.

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The Downside to Full Board Independence

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 5 min 

High-profile accounting and corporate governance scandals have resulted in significant changes in the structure of corporate boards of directors, in particular the development of independent boards in which the CEO is the only employee director. The downside: Independent board members may not understand the business well enough to make optimal strategic decisions.

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When Employees Don’t ‘Like’ Their Employers on Social Media

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 21 min 

When employees are not fans or supporters of the company’s products on social media, it sends an ambiguous message and could deprive the company of potential supporters. Employers can counter this by encouraging their “digital native” employees to become brand ambassadors for the company.

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Please Go Away (and Spend More Time Somewhere Else)

  • Opinion & Analysis
  • Read Time: 2 min 

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.

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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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Why It Pays to Be Where the IT Talent Already Is

As demand for big data technologies grows, so does the problem of finding sufficient skills. Result: Talent shortages could limit the rate of productivity growth. Research shows that labor-market factors have shaped early returns on investment in big data technologies such as Hadoop, a framework for distributed processing of large data sets. It turns out that when know-how is scarce, organizations that invest in new IT or R&D derive significant benefits from the related investments of other organizations.

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Creating Management Processes Built for Change

The business literature is full of references to “agile” processes, but what are they? Agility refers to an organization’s ability to make timely, effective, and sustained changes that maintain superior performance. Agile organizations continuously adjust to changing circumstances by changing product offerings, entering or exiting markets, or building new capabilities. This strategy requires management processes that can support adaptability over time.

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A New Era of Corporate Conversation

Social media technology is changing how managers and employees communicate and is breaking down traditional corporate heirarchy. To gain advantage from this trend, executives must recognize the value of dialogue and employees need to know that their leaders won’t punish them for expressing dissenting opinions. Executives will also need patience and a thick skin — but leaders who invest in truly open dialogue with their workforce will reap the long-term benefits.

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Executive Assistants for Everyone

Smartphones and cloud technology work in tandem to provide a prized perk to managers lower on the corporate ladder: The ability to pass repetitive, tedious scheduling tasks off to someone (or in this case, something) else. As digital agents become ubiquitous, their input will greatly enhance collaboration.

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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.

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The Three New Skills Managers Need

As digital technologies evolve, managers and employees will need to learn three important skills: partnering with new digital “colleagues,” creating a mindful relationship with omnipresent digital technologies, and developing empathy for the varying technology preferences of their human coworkers. Organizations, for their part, will need to design processes to support these efforts, and managers will need to be both flexible and thoughtful in how they respond.

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When Strategy Walks Out the Door

Managers should be skeptical consumers of external strategy advice. External strategy advice can be costly — and wrong. The best sources of insight about strategy tailored for your company can lie dormant within the company itself, in its employees. Ironically, companies often expend significant resources on obtaining flawed external advice while the employees with the best strategy ideas are ignored — and thus may walk out the door.

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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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