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What’s happening this week at the intersection of management and technology: Motivational tweeting for execs; people management by algorithm; robotic exoskeletons for laborers.
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It has become a truism that the pace of work is faster than ever, as digital technologies speed up communication and operational processes in a story of unending progress. But increased speed has not translated into increased rates of productivity growth. Since 2004, growth rates have slowed not just in the US but across the world. Chad Syverson, J. Baum Harris Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, explains what the implications are, and why the benefits of new technologies are not straightforward.
New research looks at the strategies executives use in capturing new growth opportunities. “Resist jumping at the first potential opportunity,” write Christopher B. Bingham (Kenan-Flagler Business School), Nathan R. Furr (Marriott School of Management) and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt (Stanford University). Instead, evaluate whether one opportunity will it set you up for future ones — what the authors call “sequencing opportunities.” They write: “Sustained business success appears to depend not just on capturing one opportunity but also on stringing multiple opportunities together.”
People who are “different,” either behaviorally or neurologically, can add significant value to companies. The authors, who studied the practices of innovative organizations and the experience of a Danish company working with people with autism, argue that companies can benefit from adjusting work conditions to embrace the talents of people who “think differently” or have “inspired peculiarities.” “Managing innovation is less about averages and more about understanding outliers,” write the authors.
Chinese companies are opening up a new front in global competition. It centers on what the authors call accelerated innovation — that is, reengineering research and development and innovation processes to make new product development dramatically faster and less costly. The new emphasis is unlikely to generate stunning technological breakthroughs, but it allows Chinese competitors to reduce the time it takes to bring innovative products and services to mainstream markets. It also represents a different way of deploying Chinese cost and volume advantages in global competition.
Everyone wants an innovative corporate culture, but how do you develop one? This article posits that the ability of a culture to support innovation depends on six key building blocks: values, behaviors, climate, resources, processes and success. The article also includes a 54-element test developed to enable managers to assess a company’s “Innovation Quotient.” A case study in the article outlines the experience of a Latin American company with the assessment tool.
Wipro BPO, a business process outsourcing firm in Bangalore, India, was experiencing high turnover rates. In Wipro’s traditional onboarding program, new employees learned about the company. But when the onboarding focused, instead, on individual identity, employees were more than 32% less likely to quit their jobs during the first six months. The bottom line: By making small investments in socialization practices, companies can improve employee retention.
A persistent challenge for companies as they grow is how to maintain the high level of dynamism and employee commitment that drove success in the early days. Over the years, thoughtful managers and management theorists have formulated many approaches for dealing with the problem, all aimed at giving managers and employees more responsibility and accountability for the performance of their own profit centers. But few companies have taken things as far as Kyocera Corp.
Trends suggest that the public is no longer satisfied with corporations that focus solely on short-term profits. A recent study comparing companies that adopted environmental and social policies with companies that didn’t supports this view. However, few companies are born with a commitment to sustainability. To develop one, companies need leadership commitment, an ability to engage with multiple stakeholders along the value chain, employee engagement and disciplined mechanisms for execution.
Most executives spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about the business model for their organization. But how much time do they spend considering the company’s management model? In his book “Reinventing Management,” Julian Birkinshaw urges businesspeople to give more thought to management models. In a Q&A, Birkinshaw explains why management has been “corrupted” over the last 100 years, and what should change.
“To heck with what the technology can do,” says Michael Schrage of the MIT Center for Digital Business. Great managers, he says, first think about what kind of value they want to create and then consider how IT can help them create it.
Based on an investigation of the performance of 80 software development projects with varying levels of dispersion — members in different cities, countries or continents — this article asserts that virtual teams offer tremendous opportunities despite their greater managerial challenges. In fact, dispersed teams outperformed their colocated counterparts when they had the appropriate processes in place. Those processes can be classified in two categories: task-related and socio-emotional.
How does Toyota solve problems, create plans, and get new things done? Company managers use a tool called the A3, named after the international paper size on which it fits, as a key tactic in sharing a deeper method of thinking. This tactic and style of processing information lies at the heart of Toyota’s sustained success.
Few companies understand how such innovation occurs — and how to encourage it. To foster new management ideas and techniques, companies first need to understand the four typical stages in the management innovation process.
Do we finally have the right technologies for knowledge work? Wikis, blogs, group-messaging software and the like can make a corporate intranet into a constantly changing structure built by distributed, autonomous peers — a collaborative platform that reflects the way work really gets done.
Analog Devices Chairman Ray Stata argues that U.S. industry’s most serious competitive problem lies in shrinking innovation, and sees organizational learning as the key to encouraging and sustaining future innovation. Through his work at the MIT’s Management Style Project, he combines theory and practice to better understand how to encourage organizational learning and adapt it to encourage innovation.
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