Leading Change

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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.

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Keep Calm and Manage Disruption

Disruption can be averted, and many businesses manage through it by beating the new competition, joining them, or waiting them out. “To be sure, facing disruption is no picnic,” writes Joshua S. Gans, author of The Disruption Dilemma. “But it also isn’t the existential threat that so many see it as.” Many businesses are finding ways to weaken disruptive events, sometimes by investing aggressively in the new innovation after entrants had brought it to market or by acquiring the entrants and the actual disruption.

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How Time-to-Insight Is Driving Big Data Business Investment

With the emergence of a digital economy over the course of the past two decades, leading companies have learned that they must act faster to respond to customer needs and competitive dynamics. The fourth annual Big Data Executive Survey confirms that Fortune 1000 firms recognize that faster time-to-insight correlates with success and will be the driving force behind Big Data investment for the years ahead.

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Leading in the Age of Super-Transparency

Thanks to social media and an increasing flood of data, the capacity to generate causes and controversies almost instantly has become the new norm in today’s “super-transparent society.” Individuals and organizations produce a voluminous, mostly involuntary, “digital exhaust,” which reveals much more about them than they think it does. Most business leaders have not yet come to grips with the new reality — and what it means for their organizations.

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Has Your Office Become a Lonely Place?

With increasing amounts of work getting done outside the traditional corporate office — for example, through employees working at home — those left in the office may face a lonelier, and even less productive, office environment. In fact, working remotely may be contagious, because if many people on a team aren’t in the office much, coming into the office has less benefit for the remaining employees. “Once a certain number of individuals are working offsite, everyone is isolated,” write researchers.

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Aligning Corporate Learning With Strategy

Too many corporate learning and development programs focus on the wrong things. “The word ‘learning,’ which has largely replaced ‘training’ in the corporate lexicon, suggests ‘knowledge for its own sake,’” write the authors. “However, to justify its existence, corporate learning needs to serve the organization’s stated goals.” Understanding the strategic agenda of the CEO should be a top focus of learning leaders, who can then developing an agenda that is reflective of the CEO’s priorities.

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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.

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The Sustainability Insurgency: Missives from the Front Lines, Part 2

In part two of two, Gregory Unruh talks to Emma Stewart, Autodesk’s head of sustainability, about how social intelligence helps CSR advocates in the company to win colleagues’ buy-in. The use of such intelligence supports CSR managers’ ability to create a sustainability business case.

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The Sustainability Insurgency: Missives from the Front Lines, Part 1

Emma Stewart, Autodesk’s head of sustainability, says that social intelligence helps CSR advocates in the company win colleagues’ buy-in. “In order to be a legitimized contributor to the business, you have to be as smart or smarter about your customers or other stakeholders as other business units,” Stewart says. The use of social intelligence, such as systematically calling on leading customers and “market-shapers” such as regulators, supports CSR managers’ ability to create a sustainability business case.

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Beyond Forecasting: Creating New Strategic Narratives

In rapidly changing industries, it can be hard for established companies to build momentum for new strategic directions. But by rethinking the past and present and reimagining the future, managers can construct strategic narratives that enable innovation. A new study helps to understand how managers actually make strategy in conditions of considerable uncertainty, and do it in a way that is coherent, plausible and acceptable to most key stakeholders in the organization.

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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.

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What to Expect From a Corporate Lean Program

“Lean” programs help many manufacturers boost productivity. But misplaced expectations of how quickly these programs can improve performance can make their implementation difficult. Better understanding of the rates at which lean programs produce improvements would make implementation go more smoothly — and lead to more increases in productivity. Managers should set targets that are appropriate to specific plants and be careful not to derail progress by using initial gains to lay off workers.

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Leadership Lessons from the Boston Marathon Attack

As the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings draws near, the response of leaders in the public sphere offers some lessons for the effective use of social media — which has shown itself repeatedly in recent years to be the key means of communication during a crisis. Six specific lessons on how to manage crisis communications via social media can be drawn from the Boston Marathon crisis and its aftermath.

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Avoiding Layoff Blunders

It’s surprisingly common for companies to make mistakes in their layoff decisions — and those mistakes can be expensive for both the individuals affected and the organization. Fortunately, simply by avoiding five common decision-related problems, businesses can do better.

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The Art of Strategic Renewal

What does it take to transform an organization before a crisis hits? How can leaders initiate major transformations proactively? The key often lies in strategic renewal — a set of practices that can guide leaders into a new era of innovation by building strategy, experimentation and execution into the day-to-day fabric of the organization. It’s not easy: leaders find it much easier to resist change than to embrace it.

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Are Companies Ready for the New Global Executive?

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HR executives believe that tomorrow’s leaders will be a more diverse group than today’s and will face special challenges as a result. A survey of 197 human resource executives from global companies finds that “leaders from highly diverse backgrounds will need to work together more effectively.” The challenge is that diverse groups often have more disagreements than homogeneous groups, demanding proactive skill development in group dynamics.

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Five Steps To Leading Change Successfully

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Before making a change, you need to identify the influencers who can push the project forward — or who can cause it to stall. “Left unattended, skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process,” write Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom.

Their solution is a five-step, proactive process designed to help leaders navigate both the politics and the emotions that are churned up by heading in new directions. The steps include mapping the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and involving the most influential of them.

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Video: What Digital Transformation Means for Business

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New technologies are changing the nature of business in powerful and unpredictable ways. Executives need to know which technologies to adopt and how to leverage them. Kim Stevenson, Intel’s chief information officer, and Mark Norman, the president of Zipcar, discuss how they manage for technological change with Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business and Didier Bonnet, senior vice president and global practice leader at Capgemini Consulting.

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The Executive’s Role in Social Business

A majority of respondents to a survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte say that their companies’ social capabilities are at an early stage of developing social capabilities. However, executives are increasingly recognizing the value of social business to their organizations, and a majority of C-suite respondents believe that social business represents an opportunity to fundamentally change the way work gets done.

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