Making the Most of What You Have

From the editor: Reflections on making the most of your resources.

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If you’re like many managers today, you probably wish you had additional resources. Maybe you can’t hire as many people as you think your organization needs — or perhaps you think you could seize new opportunities if you only had a bigger budget. In today’s uncertain and competitive markets, it often seems like there’s far too much to do — and too little to do it with.

The good news is that, in many situations, scarce resources can inspire creativity and creative solutions to problems. In “In Praise of Resource Constraints,” an essay published in MIT Sloan Management Review in 2007, scholars Michael Gibbert, Martin Hoegl and Liisa Välikangas made the argument that resource constraints can foster innovation. “Limited — or better focused — by specific rules and constraints, we are more likely to recognize an unexpected idea.… Would-be innovators facing constraints are more likely to find creative analogies and combinations that would otherwise be hidden under a glut of resources,” the authors wrote.1

In other words, there may at times be advantages to having fewer resources than you’d like! However, for managers wrestling with constraints, it is crucial to use the resources your organization does have as effectively as possible — and that’s where this issue of MIT Sloan Management Review can help. You’ll learn about leveraging and building employees’ networks, combining new information technology innovations with one another and with human talent to gain competitive advantage, identifying new business models that suit your company’s competencies — and even getting your marketing messages to more people inexpensively through practices that encourage “retweeting”. Here’s hoping this issue — and this year — bring you many good ideas and much success.

Martha E. Mangelsdorf
Editorial Director
MIT Sloan Management Review

P.S. I find that one effective way to leverage MIT SMR’s own resources is to create new online collections that bring together MIT Sloan Management Review content on important management topics. Along those lines, I’ve put together a collection of MIT Sloan Management Review articles, interviews and blog posts related to strategy.


1. M. Gibbert, M. Hoegl and L. Välikangas, “In Praise of Resource Constraints,” MIT Sloan Management Review 48, no. 3 (spring 2007): 15-17.


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Models for Winning the Race with Smarter Machines?

The Winter 2012 issue of the Sloan Management Review addresses the question how to win the race with ever-smarter machines. New business models are required. How well does this article offer answers how to acquire such models?

Examples of innovative business models are offered from Zara, Staples, University of Washington, Assurant Solutions and CVS. In the case of Zara, the innovation is in leveraging the opinions of managers, with computers acting in an auxiliary manner. In the case of Staples, the primary objective is to evaluate personal views. In the case of the University of Washington computers engage results from participants. Assurant Solutions speeds up communications. CVS streamlines the processing the ordering process. 

In each of the cited case computers are deployed in auxiliary ways of improving only a part of the business process. This is done for firms that represent only a minute fractional share of the global economy. In each case it took well-focused management to implement the desired changes for processes that are only a part of what constitutes a whole. 

What are then the models for “winning the race”? First, it is a matter of scope. There are now close to a billion “smart machines”. They are located almost exclusively in pre-industrial and emerging-industrial countries where the examples cited in the article will not apply for decades to come. Brynjolfsson and McAfee do not deal with that

The most neglected part of this article is in its omission of how the suggested innovations can be implemented. In the cited examples management was able to concentrate on an incremental improvements by organizing to make smart investments in technology in a limited area. Only after you have executives who have sufficient influence to combine separate functions that a new unified process can get hold. Winning the race is primarily an organizational challenge.  The technology is readily available. Technology is cheap and is universally accessible. It takes unified management, not access to computers, to start winning the race for progress.

Today’s business world is still fractured into millions of organizational enclaves. Unification, even of small parts of an enterprise, is proceeding at the speed measured in decades of human generations, not at the pace dictated by the months of Moore’s Law. 

The pace of the race with smarter machines, in pre-industrial and emerging-industry enterprises, will be dictated by political methods, not by entrepreneurial means. The race with smarter machines will be increasingly managed by the power of the government because the benefits of computerization will continue to accrue primarily to the economical elite and not to the population as a whole.