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Let Your Mind Wander

Leisure time does two important jobs for us. Recharging is the obvious one. But it can also heighten our powers of creativity, given the cognitive benefits associated with letting our minds wander — and that gives us an edge over AI in the battle for jobs. Kellogg professor Adam Waytz makes this research-based argument in “Leisure Is Our Killer App,” the lead article in MIT SMR’s package on talent in a digital age. Check it out, along with the other pieces, in the fall issue of the magazine.

The False Choice Between Business and Ethics

Should there be an imperative — moral or otherwise — to consider what’s fair when making a business transaction? Many say that it’s perfectly ethical to profit from an asymmetry of information, where, for instance, one party is paying much more for an item or service than others would say it’s worth. But other people are working to integrate the business case with the ethics case. They reject a narrow, transactional view of business in favor of a more relationship-oriented approach.

The First Law of Digital Innovation

Most of us know Moore’s law, that the power of semiconductor chips grows exponentially, not linearly, over time. Moore’s law, though, is only part of the technology equation. There’s another critical law that needs more attention. It’s this: While technology changes quickly, organizations change much more slowly. That means digital transformation is as much a leadership challenge as a technical one.

Why Hypotheses Beat Goals

Companies that aggressively pursue learning must accept the possibility of failure. But simply setting goals and being nonchalant if they fail is inadequate. Instead, companies should focus organizational energy on hypothesis generation and testing. Hypotheses force individuals to articulate in advance why they believe a given course of action will succeed. A failure then exposes an incorrect hypothesis — which can more reliably convert into organizational learning.

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A Shared Passion for Place Can Make a Business More Resilient

Leaders are increasingly strangers in the places where their organizations reside. With greater mobility and a disconnect from a physical office space, many leaders have identities that are not tied to one location. Yet leaders who lack a clear “passion for place” and well-established stakeholder connections might be putting their companies at a disadvantage during times of hardship.

Talking About Sustainability Can Drive Sales: Lessons From a Casino Giant

Do consumers care enough about companies’ environmental and social practices to give them more business? Caesars Entertainment tested the question at one of its hotels, where one group of customers was told about its green efforts and the other group was told nothing. The casino company got encouraging results: The group who got the message spent 1.5% more. That group also recommended the hotel more enthusiastically.

Ethics as Conversation: A Process for Progress

Most organizations can agree on what questions to consider before making a decision about marketing, finance, or operations. But many stumble when the issue has ethical consequences. Leaders need to define what set of questions they want to consider when confronted with an issue that has ethical implications. Seven basic questions can get them started.

How Customer Obsession Creates Accountability for Change

Organizational change is difficult. Some 70% of change efforts fail, and awareness hasn’t improved the odds of success. But there are exceptional companies, making strides with everything from digital transformation to employee engagement to diversity and inclusion. And they have one thing in common: They are customer-obsessed. When customers are truly at the center of your business, change proceeds from one organizing principle: What’s best for them?

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Act Like a Startup

As leaders of established businesses focus on becoming digital, they often embrace the mantra, act like a startup. A startup is an experiment, and its early goal is to learn, as quickly and inexpensively as possible, if an idea has merit. That same ability to figure out how a new value proposition might create revenues and profits is key to digital success. Established companies that want to test ideas for such propositions should be nurturing four traits of startups.

It’s Time to Make Paternity Leave Work

Longer life spans are the new normal, and many people alive today will live to be 100 years old. How will we use that time? One option: Rather than working full time for decades and then spending our later years with our grandchildren, we could redistribute some of that projected time from our 60s and 70s into our earlier decades and spend more of it with our children. For fathers in particular, this would be a radical life decision.

How to Get Others to Adopt Your Recommendation

When a business is growing fast, decisions can get lost in the fray — especially if it’s unclear that a decision even needs to be made. People in the workplace bring recommendations to four audiences: a manager or top executive (those who approve a recommendation), and peers or a broader set of stakeholders (those who execute a recommendation). To sell an idea and get others to take action, you have to understand what your particular audience needs to hear.

Artificial Intelligence Brings Out the Worst and the Best in Us

As AI develops better decision-making skills, leaders may feel threatened and push back, resisting the imperative to leave their biggest and most critical decisions to mechanical minds. And that might be a mistake, says psychologist Daniel Kahneman, given AI’s potential to reduce the bias in human thought processes.

Game-Changing Strategies for Corporate Boards

The process of recruiting members to a board is often mistaken for the actual onboarding. Much is at stake in terms of legal and fiduciary responsibilities, but relatively little attention is paid to creating the conditions within the board to extract the distinctive knowledge of its new members. Three strategies can help boards do a better job leveraging the unique expertise of each board member.

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Governments as Facilitators of Value Creation

There is a fundamental humanity to business institutions. Businesses are cooperative endeavors that leverage human work and creativity to create social value. Stable, functional, and purpose-driven businesses are key to real human flourishing. And yet many governments are expected to be neutral about business, acting as either redistributor or regulator. There is a third role, though: facilitator.

Let Your Digital Strategy Emerge

What can digital technologies do to help an organization solve customer problems? And what solutions will customers find valuable? It’s only when leaders wrestle with these questions that a digital strategy can emerge. To get there, organizations need to create a portfolio of business experiments and engage with customers to gain insight into their problems and potential solutions. The intersection between what’s possible and what’s desired is where a business will succeed.

There’s Always a Time Lag (With a Price Tag)

Technology changes faster than society can keep up, a pattern now playing out with artificial intelligence. Many CEOs are taking a wait-and-see approach to AI, while others are anxious to barrel forward. In both cases, there’s little conversation about AI’s human costs. Incremental adaption makes it more likely that AI algorithms shared across organizations and geography are spreading their shortcomings. Leaders must act to mitigate these challenges if AI is to benefit society.

AI-Driven Leadership

Not many companies are there yet, but there’s a developing framework for what it takes to lead an AI-driven company. Leaders at the forefront of AI have seven key attributes: They learn the technologies; establish clear business objectives; set an appropriate level of ambition; look beyond pilots and proofs of concept; prepare people for the journey; get the necessary data; and orchestrate collaborative organizations.

Explaining the Business Case for Sustainability Again … and Again … and Again

The question “What’s the business case for sustainability?” has come roaring back over the last couple of years. It’s led, in part, by more intense investor focus on the issue: Financial execs are having to become more fluent in sustainability as investors grill them about how their companies are handling climate risks around supply chains and shifting regulatory landscapes and markets.

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