Our Guide to the Winter 2022 Issue

These summaries will help you navigate our winter 2022 lineup.

Reading Time: 8 min 


How Collaboration Needs Change From Mind to Marketplace

Jill E. Perry-Smith

Key Insight: Deftly turning innovative new ideas into real offerings requires an understanding of the four stages they pass through — generation, elaboration, promotion, and implementation — and which kinds of collaboration are most effective in each phase.

Top Takeaways: Most truly novel ideas either stall out in development or lose their originality along the way. To defy the odds, leaders need to help innovators collaborate in the right ways at the right times. Idea generation benefits from random, brief encounters, while elaboration works best with the support of close colleagues. Promotion — the process of gaining support and funding to develop a concept — is most effective when innovators can ally themselves with well-connected colleagues or managers who can propagate an idea more broadly. When an idea reaches the implementation stage, the primary collaborative need is for a shared vision, trust, and group cohesion; that gives team members a sense of ownership and the drive to overcome obstacles.

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Better Ways to Green-Light New Projects

Thorsten Grohsjean, Linus Dahlander, Ammon Salter, and Paola Criscuolo

Key Insight: To eliminate bias when deciding which new ideas to pursue, organizations need to adjust the process before, during, and after making selections.

Top Takeaways: New initiatives are inherently uncertain, particularly if they are based on new technology or approaches to the market. Deciding which new ideas are winners and which are duds is tough, in part because bias and process issues can muddy decision-making. Ideas that are extremely novel generate discomfort because of the risks involved, and factors like the race and gender of presenters can influence decision-making gatekeepers. Changes to the green-lighting process can help mitigate these biases. They include removing the name and demographic information of idea creators, standardizing submissions, having diverse voices on the evaluation team, and even choosing to randomly select midlevel projects. While there will always be some hits and some misses in the process, understanding the potential pitfalls and using processes designed to avoid them will help generate better outcomes.

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Break Out to Open Innovation

Denis Bettenmann, Ferran Giones, Alexander Brem, and Philipp Gneiting

Key Insight: Participating in a multisponsor, industry-specific corporate accelerator program can enable organizations to more rapidly integrate innovations from startups into new-product development.

Top Takeaways: Open corporate accelerators can attract a broader array of more mature startups than single-company accelerators, and expenses are typically lower than go-it-alone accelerators. One company that has successfully adopted this model, Mercedes-Benz, emphasizes strategic fit between startups and the pressing innovation needs of its business units by hosting one-day events focused on specific technologies. It also situates the startup relationship in the business unit with proof-of-concept projects that validate solutions at low risk and cost. For the sponsor, this increases the likelihood of successfully integrating innovations into products, while startups receive the funding needed to develop and adapt their solutions without sacrificing an ownership stake.

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Setting the Rules of the Road

Ulrich Pidun, Martin Reeves, and Niklas Knust

Key Insight: Putting the right rules in place to orchestrate a platform will create value for all participants — and help manage risk.

Top Takeaways: The high failure rate of digital business ecosystems often results from governance failure. Good governance supports an ecosystem’s ability to create value, manage risk, and optimize value distribution among its partners. Platform orchestrators must determine which partners and other participants should have access to the platform; decide what level of decision rights will be given to partners and participants; decide how they will manage conduct on the platform; and define the data and property rights of partners and the distribution of value among them.

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Use Networks to Drive Culture Change

Peter Gray, Rob Cross, and Michael Arena

Key Insight: Analyzing the patterns of connection and collaboration in an organization can help leaders see more precisely where desired behaviors are communicated, modeled, observed, and adopted on the ground.

Top Takeaways: Most employees learn about culture from informal conversations that signal who they should take seriously, what to care about, and “how we do things around here.” Organizational culture reflects people’s values — their deeply held beliefs about what is good, desirable, and appropriate — and is notoriously difficult to change, especially when colleagues are embedded in informal networks with people who share their values. But those same networks can help leaders identify and overcome obstacles to change. Network analysis can surface cultural influencers — in particular, those who prompt positive emotions in their colleagues, who excel at getting others to adopt desired cultural values. It can also provide insight into hidden tensions in order to resolve organizational conflict, and give leaders a better sense of how much time they must allow for a true cultural shift to take root.

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Mapping Exclusion in the Organization

Inga Carboni, Andrew Parker, and Nan S. Langowitz

Key Insight: Typical measures of success in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, such as employee demographics and employee engagement surveys, ignore a key predictor of career advancement and well-being: workplace relationships.

Top Takeaways: Research makes clear that who people know is often more important than what they know when it comes to rising through the ranks. For instance, despite prominent high-tech companies’ pledges to increase gender diversity, the pattern of underrepresentation of women persists, with women making up only 30% of the workforce in the top 75 tech companies in Silicon Valley. One of the biggest barriers continues to be women’s exclusion from informal professional networks. An examination of a global computer hardware manufacturer illustrates how analyzing organizational networks reveals progress — or a lack thereof — toward building gender-inclusive organizations. Despite proactive efforts, the company found that women remained outside of critical decision-making networks. Such information can be used to inform new, more targeted inclusion efforts, such as identifying high-leverage individuals who can help drive and support diversity efforts, and developing pull strategies with “smart mentoring” to bring women who are on the periphery into the heart of critical networks.

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Does Your Business Need a Human Rights Strategy?

N. Craig Smith, Markus Scholz, and Jane Williams

Key Insight: It’s critical for companies to have a human rights strategy and proactively consider when and how to take action to fulfill their moral obligations and meet the expectations of stakeholders.

Top Takeaways: Customers, employees, and activists are paying increased attention to human rights. Businesses that turn a blind eye to violations in their sphere of operations risk being exposed as morally complicit as well as vulnerable to legal action and reputational harm. In assessing their alternatives, organizations need to consider how much influence they might wield — or whether their best course of action is to walk away. If they stay and act, addressing the issue collectively with other organizations may be more effective. Tactics include offering direct aid to those affected, rejecting unjust rules, and protecting institutions such as those that provide human rights law training. Companies need to assess their exposure in each situation: If an issue has high moral intensity and the company is at moderate or high exposure, inaction on addressing abuses is no longer an option.

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Design for Cybersecurity From the Start

Keri Pearlson and Keman Huang

Key Insight: To lessen the vulnerability of digital products and services, cybersecurity needs to be baked into their initial design, not bolted on as an afterthought.

Top Takeaways: Development processes for building security into digital products and services continue to fail. Most designers are incentivized to focus on making offerings elegant, marketable, usable, and feature-rich, with cybersecurity rarely introduced as a key criterion in the early design stage. Organizations must include designing for security as a criterion in performance appraisals. They must ensure that digital product designers have adequate training in security issues, and place dedicated security experts on product design teams.

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Why Leaders Resist Empowering Virtual Teams

Payal N. Sharma, Lauren D’Innocenzo, and Bradley L. Kirkman

Key Insight: Leaders who manage far-flung workers often need extra help developing an empowering leadership style due to overload and a fear of losing control.

Top Takeaways: While it’s well known that an empowering leadership style benefits both managers and employees, remote leaders often resist adopting the approach, which includes delegating authority, coaching rather than directing, and regularly seeking employee input to solve problems. The cause is often their own overload and burnout. Organizations should focus on helping remote leaders feel in control via reliable technology, and encourage them to develop the trust to loosen their grip.

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Sharing Value for Ecosystem Success

Ron Adner

Key Insight: Ecosystem players can avoid the “ego-system trap” by focusing on the value propositions being pursued — not their corporate identities.

Top Takeaways: While it almost always makes sense for companies to try to be leaders within their industries, leadership in ecosystems doesn’t always guarantee success, and choosing to lead in a failed ecosystem can expose a company to greater losses than the other participants. Companies should carefully evaluate their claim to leadership and, if others have a stronger claim, consider whether following would be more profitable. In these cases, they should evaluate how the would-be leader seeks to construct the ecosystem’s value proposition: How does it define, value, and envision followers’ contributions to the proposition? They should then weigh whether it is consistent with their own vision and strategy. And when choosing to be an ecosystem follower, companies should look for ways to influence ecosystem rules in concert with other followers.

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