Organizational Behavior

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Embracing a Strategic Paradox

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 6 min 

Within a business, opposing ideas typically lead to conflict and, in the face of conflicting demands, managers will feel anxiety, stress, and frustration. However, the authors’ research at Aeon Co. Ltd., one of Japan’s largest retailers, suggests that a positive approach to handling conflicts between opposing ideas can create new value for a company.

Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 27 min 

Many big projects start off well, but then lose momentum and spiral downward as skeptical stakeholders withdraw support. Executives need to identify common triggers that spark stakeholder concerns — and take action to avert the ‘cycle of doubt’ that can ensue.

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How Blockchain Will Change Organizations

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.

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

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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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.

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.

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.

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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Achieving Meritocracy in the Workplace

Rewarding employees based on merit can be more difficult than it first appears. Even efforts to reduce bias can backfire; disparities in raises and bonuses by gender, racial, and other characteristics persist in today’s organizations not only despite management’s attempts to reduce them but also because of such efforts. The author describes how a simple analytics-based approach can address these concerns and produce a truly meritocratic workplace.

In Boardrooms, the Same Is a Shame

Corporate boards around the world present a uniformly white, male face — and this is a problem when it comes to how firms approach the global marketplace. When too many people at the top look at the business landscape through the same lens, they are likely to miss both impending problems and potential opportunities. Institutional biases that suppress diversity in the C-suite create a hidden risk factor — one that boards can address by taking a long, hard look in the mirror.

The Lost Art of Thinking in Large Organizations

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.

What Makes Work Meaningful — Or Meaningless

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.

Managing the Bots That Are Managing the Business

We are just at the beginning of the transformation from an economy dominated by human workers to one dominated by electronic workers. The great management challenge of the next few decades will be understanding how to get the best out of both humans and machines, and understanding the ins and outs of who manages whom.

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