The impact of digital technology on how businesses design and produce goods, interact with their supply chains, manage internal communication, and connect with customers is a rich topic that has been, and continues to be, broadly addressed in both commercial and academic business media.
But as the digital revolution enters its next phase, we find ourselves confronting a new set of questions about the relationship between technology and management. These questions go to the core of the organization:
- How will big data inform hiring decisions?
- What happens to marketing when marketers can map consumers’ brain patterns?
- Are new communication technologies really delivering on the promise to empower frontline workers, or are they unleashing organizational chaos?
- What role will algorithms play in creating corporate strategy?
- How do you give performance feedback to a machine? How will our robot managers provide it to us?
And as the influence of those who write the lines of software that help manage our lives and work continues to increase, Quis custodiet ipsos coders?
Technology pervades organizations across the globe, yet the organizational form has, thus far, transformed relatively little as a result; the way we lead organizations even less so. I believe that is about to change. Today, there is a growing wellspring of research and insight exploring technology’s foundational impacts on management, emerging from both the academy and industry.
MIT Sloan Management Review intends to lead the conversation on how technology is transforming the practice of management and reshaping the organization. The centerpiece of this effort is a new editorial initiative called “Frontiers”, which will appear as part of both our print magazine and our website. Frontiers debuted online earlier this year and launches in print with this edition of the magazine.
To celebrate the launch of Frontiers and to help us set the course for our coverage to come, we asked 15 leading thinkers from academic and business circles to share their insights on management’s digital future by contributing essays in response to the following question: How will technology transform the practice of management in the next five years in a way we have not yet witnessed?
Not surprisingly, many of our contributors focused their attention on the evolving relationship between humans and cognitive technologies. Do continual advances in intelligent algorithms and learning machines represent an existential threat to management as we know it? Perhaps that overstates things a bit, but the tone of the conversation about technology’s role in the organization is changing dramatically. We now speak of software as a colleague and a coworker. Humans and machines working as peers and collaborators no longer appears to be the stuff of science fiction.
Our contributors note that with great advancements come great responsibilities. We must take care in managing the effects of technological innovation on humans and humanity. The digital revolution will continue to challenge us with new forms of stress and with ethical and economic uncertainties. At the same time, we cannot shrink from our responsibility to harness technology’s profound potential to improve our world.
This collection of essays is an engaging read, for certain. But it’s more than that. It’s the beginning of a new agenda for the practice of management.
Editor in Chief
MIT Sloan Management Review