Interview

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Why Large Companies Struggle With Lean

Large corporations have found that applying the principles of lean is more complicated than expected. Large organizations aren’t just bigger versions of startups. To make innovation integral to the organization, there has to be a vision of where new ideas will be incubated and how they will be delivered.

Employee Emotions Aren’t Noise — They’re Data

Within organizations, emotions reveal not just how people feel but also what they think and how they will behave. Emotional culture gets communicated non-verbally in people’s facial expressions, vocal tone, and body language. You see it expressed by the people around you, including—or even most of all—managers. For companies, emotions are an important lever for improving employee satisfaction and productivity.

You Can’t Afford to Please Everyone

While giving customers what they want — and as rapidly as possible — may be a worthy goal for service organizations, Amy R. Ward at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business notes that businesses can’t always afford to do this. Her research uses probability to understand how best to align resources with customer demand and improve operational efficiency on a day-to-day basis.

Why Teams Still Need Leaders

While flat organizational structures have gained favor in recent years, hierarchies continue to provide many important benefits, says the University of Michigan’s Lindy Greer. Depending on the circumstances, the answer isn’t to eliminate hierarchy but to train leaders and teams to use it flexibly.

What Tech Pioneers Can Learn From Emerging Markets

Technology leaders are not shy about pushing the boundaries of their industries, and sometimes they go further — challenging the prevailing rules of society at large. The eagerness of entrepreneurs to test limits isn’t surprising to Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School, who has spent more than two decades studying how business strategies play out in emerging markets.

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A New Era for Culture, Change, and Leadership

Renowned social psychologist Edgar Schein and his colleagues defined how we thought about organizations and leadership in the 1950s. But in the digital era, Schein — working with his son, Silicon Valley executive Peter Schein — has developed a new perspective, one that advocates combining culture, change, and leadership into an integrated process, rather than viewing them as three separate topics of importance.

How Digital Platforms Have Become Double-Edged Swords

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 13 min 

The most valuable companies in the world have harnessed platforms’ power to achieve rapid growth and market dominance. But as these platforms have grown in size and scale, the opportunity for abuse has become very real — while profitability isn’t coming easily even for successful platforms. In an interview with MIT SMR, the authors of The Business of Platforms bust the myths and outline the pitfalls of platform strategy.

The Perils of Applying AI Prediction to Complex Decisions

While AI is brilliantly placed to solve decisions that are concrete and well-defined, in other contexts it can fail spectacularly, showing connections between facts or events but stumbling when the need to disentangle cause from correlation arises. Human input in the form of subject matter knowledge and common sense are often needed to complement AI. And executives must understand which challenges are right for these new technologies to address.

Key Words for Digital Transformation

By many rights, one might have expected to find Adobe on the register of companies disrupted by digital. And yet the 35-year-old software developer has persevered by embracing the very technological forces ― think cloud, mobile, platforms, IoT ― that could have meant its demise. The result? This legacy producer of packaged software designed for the desktop is thriving.

Navigating the Next Wave of Blockchain Innovation: Smart Contracts

Blockchain represents more than just cryptocurrencies and digital cash. The decentralized ledger system provides a platform for smart contracts, which are digital agreements that are fast, secure, and require no third party.

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How Innovative Partnerships Are Changing Health Care Delivery

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  • Read Time: 13 min 

Innovation is transforming the health care industry, with unlikely collaborators teaming up to provide higher-quality, lower-cost services. In this interview with MIT SMR, Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger, an expert in health care delivery and innovation, discusses recent collaborations between retailers and insurers, such as CVS’s partnership with Aetna and Walmart’s with Humana, and explains why hospitals and other providers must be more innovative, too.

How AI Can Amplify Human Competencies

The fear of robots eclipsing human power in society, in particular the workforce, has persisted for decades despite the moderate progress of artificial intelligence systems. For professor and robotics researcher Ken Goldberg, a hybrid human-machine workforce is much more likely to take shape, and in many industries, it has already begun.

The Quest to Create Utterly Normal Virtual Reality Experiences

Virtual reality is used today for job training, but that’s just the beginning. In a Q&A, Jeremy Bailenson, a leading expert in virtual reality, says that VR has the potential to be a much-improved video conference tool — one that’s good enough to reduce our need to commute. What Bailenson calls “avatar-based communication,” with eye contact and facial expressions, has the potential “to create the intimacy and non-verbal behavior that you get face to face.”

What Sets ‘Superbosses’ Apart From Other Leaders?

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In a Q&A, Sydney Finkelstein, the author of Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, notes that employees entering the workforce today have technological capabilities unmatched by any workforce before them. That’s changing the way leaders must operate. Today’s best leaders embrace technology as a management tool but retain a human touch, creating opportunities for the employees they manage and enabling flexible work practices.

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Building a Robotic Colleague With Personality

Researchers are exploring how to create intelligent machines that work with us better as opposed to taking our place. Robots that can express human body language can have a positive effect on their human colleagues, enabling them to be more effective at their jobs, take on higher-level tasks, and realize psychological benefits. The overall result is a more productive human-robot team.

The Unique Challenges of Cross-Boundary Collaboration

Technology has made business more globally connected than ever before. This is especially true for innovation projects, where diverse experts bring their specialized knowledge to play. But there’s a hitch: Many of today’s team projects have built-in hurdles because of differing communication styles, cultures, and professional norms. Leading this kind of “extreme teaming,” which often involves complicated hierarchies of power, demands both curiosity and humility.

Manufacturers Can Also Win in the Sharing Economy

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  • Read Time: 8 min 

The sharing economy isn’t all bad news for manufacturers of big-ticket items such as cars. Research from Carnegie Mellon and UC Berkeley says that manufacturers will sometimes be able to charge higher prices to customers who are planning to rent out those goods. In a Q&A, one researcher says that when there’s heterogeneity in the market, meaning both a high-usage population and a low-usage population, circumstances are ripe for “a win-win-win for the borrower, the owner, and the manufacturer.”

Leading in a Time of Increased Expectations

Traditionally, big energy companies focused primarily on power generation, not customer-centricity. But that’s changing — and today’s digitally empowered customers have opinions about everything from where their energy should come from to when their bills should arrive. Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy Corp., reflects on guiding her company through this transformation.

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