Our Guide to the Spring 2023 Issue

These summaries will help you navigate our spring 2023 lineup.

Reading Time: 7 min 


The Quiet Corner of Web3 That Means Business

Mary Lacity, Erran Carmel, Amber Grace Young, and Tamara Roth

Key Insight: Early adopters of decentralized credentials offer lessons for managers who are looking at the potential of Web3 technologies.

Top Takeaways: There’s a lot of talk about Web3, the blockchain-based vision for a future internet whose ingredients include cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens, decentralized autonomous organizations, and virtual worlds within the so-called metaverse. It’s early days, but one of the more promising applications is decentralized credentials. Every organization manages credentials in three ways: as an issuer (handling identity management for employees, for example), a holder (such as having a taxpayer ID number), and a verifier (such as verifying proof of credentials from suppliers). Today, managing credentialing can be a multistep, manual process that’s expensive and time-consuming for organizations. The decentralized approach empowers individuals to control their own credentials via a digital wallet.

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The No. 1 Question to Ask When Evaluating AI Tools

Sarah Lebovitz, Hila Lifshitz-Assaf, and Natalia Levina

Key Insight: Understanding how AI algorithms are trained and validated can help decision makers pick the right tools and avoid risk.

Top Takeaways: Developers of many new AI solutions produce statistics showing that the tools make critical decisions with greater accuracy and efficiency than humans. But managers tasked with evaluating these applications need to peel back the layers of these performance claims and focus on what was used to train and validate the AI tool. What the authors call the ground truth is the material in training data sets that teaches an algorithm how to arrive at a predicted output. The critical question for managers evaluating AI is, is the ground truth really true?

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The Business Case for Quantum Computing

Francesco Bova, Avi Goldfarb, and Roger Melko

Key Insight: Organizations should focus on the economic advantages quantum computers can deliver, not just their ability to perform calculations that their classical counterparts can’t.

Top Takeaways: Much of the quantum research community is focused on showing quantum advantage — that a quantum computer can perform a calculation that is impossible on a classical computer. But by focusing on that, they risk overlooking good business cases for the technology, the authors argue. Enterprises should instead seek opportunities for quantum economic advantage — when a quantum computer provides a commercially relevant solution faster than a classical computer could, or when a quantum computer provides viable solutions that differ from what a classical computer yields. Optimization problems and those involving complex trade-offs are particularly promising areas.

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Reimagining HR for Better Well-Being and Performance

Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin Seligman

Key Insight: Historically siloed talent and benefits teams should collaborate to proactively support employee thriving and mental health.

Top Takeaways: In an adaptation from their book Tomorrowmind: Thriving at Work With Resilience, Creativity, and Connection, the authors argue that because many HR organizations have evolved with separate groups for talent development and benefits administration, it can be difficult to develop and implement programs that could better support employee mental health and thriving. Benefits groups tend to focus on supporting employee health and well-being, while talent groups more often own programs that help employees develop new skills and capabilities. The authors argue that a unified effort will be required to help workers develop the psychological capabilities to thrive in the increasingly challenging world of work.

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Level Up to Strategic Data Sharing

Barbara H. Wixom, Ina M. Sebastian, Robert W. Gregory, and Gabriele Piccoli

Key Insight: Strategic data-sharing practices can help organizations establish secure, governed, and scalable data-sharing initiatives.

Top Takeaways: Drawing from their research on digital initiatives at 30 organizations, including Schneider Electric and Elevance Health, the authors identified four key areas that organizations should focus on to advance their strategic data-sharing capabilities. These include increasing data liquidity to make data assets more easily available and combinable, and facilitating the fluid exchange of data assets through automated but flexible controls and oversight processes. These types of strategic data-sharing practices can help businesses better cocreate with customers, engage in novel partnerships, and pursue opportunities through digital ecosystems.

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Mining Underground Innovation

Jeroen P.J. de Jong, Max Mulhuijzen, and K. Venkatesh Prasad

Key Insight: Companies need new mechanisms to surface projects that R&D workers have developed out of sight but that have potential value across the organization.

Top Takeaways: Many R&D employees proactively pursue unofficial innovation projects, thanks to the desire to effect internal change, meet a personal need, or explore a passion. Invisible to the company, these projects are often hidden treasures, particularly if they develop new capabilities that extend current technological limits or result in new patents, processes, or product components. Surfacing bottom-up innovation and providing recognition to these innovators can help companies take full advantage of this phenomenon. The authors recommend developing processes to bring these stealth innovations into the open, such as creating new idea-capture systems that resonate with inventors’ needs and motivations.

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Rethinking Hierarchy

Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein

Key Insight: Managers have to figure out when to intervene and “be the boss,” and when to let employees handle problems themselves.

Top Takeaways: For all the hype around the idea of eliminating management to create agile organizations, corporate hierarchies have remained extremely resilient. Hierarchies can be the best way to handle the coordination and cooperation problems that are part of often messy human interactions. But that doesn’t mean traditional, command-and-control organizations are right for the current environment. Today, companies need clear, fairly enforced policies that achieve coordination and cooperation — while respecting employee desires for empowerment and relative autonomy. Managers can begin by asking a few simple questions to determine what will work best in their organizations.

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Strategizing Across Organizations

Rafael Ramírez, Trudi Lang, Matthew Finch, Gail Carson, and Dale Fisher

Key Insight: Tackling the big, systemic challenges confronting many meta-organizations will increasingly require their members to develop collective strategies that will benefit all stakeholders.

Top Takeaways: Developing strategies across meta-organizations is much more complex than setting strategy for a single company. The authors developed a new approach to collaborative strategy through their work with a global public health collective. The lessons they learned can help leaders in individual organizations work with partners to achieve both shared and individual strategic priorities.

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Why Innovation Depends on Intellectual Honesty

Jeff Dyer, Nathan Furr, Curtis Lefrandt, and Taeya Howell

Key Insight: The most innovative teams over the long term are those that balance psychological safety with intellectual honesty.

Top Takeaways: Fostering psychological safety isn’t enough to succeed at innovation if managers don’t pay particular attention to creating the right conditions for healthy debate. If leaders can balance psychological safety with open, honest debate, they gain the benefits of both. The authors describe the factors that are most important to establishing this balance and outline what leaders can do to create a high-performance learning and innovation culture.

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Become a Better Problem Solver by Telling Better Stories

Arnaud Chevallier, Albrecht Enders, and Jean-Louis Barsoux

Key Insight: When business leaders use a basic story framework to describe a problem, it helps people make sense of complex information and identify radically better solutions.

Top Takeaways: One of the biggest obstacles to effective decision-making is failure to define the problem well. Expressing a challenge in simple terms can make it easier to see whether a problem has been framed correctly in the first place. The authors suggest articulating a problem in story form, as a quest in which the key elements are a hero (protagonist), a dragon (obstacle), and a treasure (desired outcome). This kind of storytelling is useful for both thinking through ambiguous information and persuading others.

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Why Companies Should Help Every Employee Chart a Career Path

George Westerman and Abbie Lundberg

Key Insight: Leaders must do much more to help employees see a future with their current company and a path to advance toward that future.

Top Takeaways: When it comes to providing career development support, most companies offer visibility into opportunities and paths, the means to learn and practice, and rich feedback and coaching — but only to high-potential employees. Integrating those types of resources and services into an expansive career development system that works across all levels of the workforce can help organizations cultivate needed skills and boost retention. Providing a broad development program requires a commitment to clarifying pathways for growth for all employees.

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