Winter 2020 Issue
Volume 61, Issue # 2

Access the full Table of Contents below.
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Inside the Winter 2020 Issue

From the Editor

What Does It Mean to Lead?

November 1, 2019 | Lisa Burrell

Are management and leadership entwined in a digital world? Or are they distinct activities, one more important than the other? Can you be closely involved in day-to-day operations, as data-driven tools allow and encourage, without watching and directing employees’ every move? How do you cede top-down control without courting chaos? And how do you eliminate entrenched practices that obstruct change? Experts wrestle with these questions and share their perspectives on how leadership is evolving.

Features

Employee Emotions Aren’t Noise — They’re Data

Frontiers |

Emotions provide insight into what motivates people and how to improve performance.

How Vigilant Companies Gain an Edge in Turbulent Times

A systematic approach to identifying potential threats can help companies respond to disruption.

Blockchain Isn’t as Unbreakable as You Think

Blockchain is vulnerable in some ways that conventional systems are — and in ways all its own.

Is Deep Learning a Game Changer for Marketing Analytics?

Companies already use data to make marketing decisions. Will deep learning enable a leap forward?

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Frontiers

Exploring the Digital Future of Management

Columns

Should Businesses Stop Flying to Fight Climate Change?

Flying makes up 3% of emissions. Is it justifiable if you’re battling the other 97%?

Partner With Entrepreneurs Inside and Out

Partnering with both intrapreneurs and external startups enables companies to accelerate innovation.

What It Means To Be a Tech Company

Frontiers |

A look at WeWork’s free fall, Amazon’s effect on business and society, and the sharing economy.

Don’t Set Your Next CEO Up to Fail

At the heart of many botched appointments is the lack of a clear mandate.

Executive Briefings

An Executive Guide to the Winter 2020 Issue

December 10, 2019 | MIT Sloan Management Review

MIT Sloan Management Review’s Winter 2020 issue explores the dilemmas managers face in using blockchain, machine learning, and marketing analytics effectively; strategies to recognize potential threats to your business; the underpinnings of successful organizational transformation; and meeting the emotional and educational needs of your employees.

Partner With Entrepreneurs Inside and Out

  • Read Time: 7 min 

Companies seeking to drive innovation in the face of constant disruption benefit from adopting a strategy that supports both internal entrepreneurs and external partnerships rather than taking an either/or approach. The benefits: reduced development costs, faster time to market, and a collaborative, engaged workforce.

Is Deep Learning a Game Changer for Marketing Analytics?

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 17 min 

The technology that underpins deep learning is becoming increasingly capable of analyzing big databases for patterns and insights. Before long, companies will be able to integrate a wide array of databases to discern what consumers want, and then leverage that information for market advantage. Deep learning might also be used to design products to meet consumers’ personal needs. Different types of organizations will try to harness the powers of deep learning in their own ways.

An Executive Guide to the Winter 2020 Issue

  • Read Time: 7 min 

MIT Sloan Management Review’s Winter 2020 issue explores the dilemmas managers face in using blockchain, machine learning, and marketing analytics effectively; strategies to recognize potential threats to your business; the underpinnings of successful organizational transformation; and meeting the emotional and educational needs of your employees.

You’re Going Digital — Now What?

  • Essay
  • Read Time: 21 min 

Plotting digital change is heady, exciting stuff. But success depends less on inspiration at the 30,000-foot level than on the way people on the front lines implement new digital tools. Most leaders aren’t laying a foundation for employees to succeed, largely because they don’t have any idea what really happens at the ground level. To avoid that fate, they must understand the phases of digital adoption and then plan in reverse to create the right conditions.

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A Noble Purpose Alone Won’t Transform Your Company

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 19 min 

A noble purpose isn’t enough to create employee engagement within a company. The primary determinant of engagement is the level and quality of interpersonal collaboration. Leaders play a key role in these interactions. Their behaviors can create an environment of trust, imbue work with purpose, and generate positive energy — three conditions that nurture interpersonal collaboration and, in turn, bolster engagement.

Learning for a Living

  • Essay
  • Read Time: 21 min 

We need to learn at work, but it’s costly and time consuming, and we worry we might be found lacking. What if we can’t pick up the skills we need? Further, most organizations are not as hospitable to learning as their rhetoric suggests. Part of the problem is that we seldom acknowledge that it doesn’t just happen at work — it is work. Employers can better support learning, and individuals can do it more effectively, by understanding that there are two types of learning and that each needs its own space.

Don’t Set Your Next CEO Up to Fail

  • Read Time: 5 min 

Boards often have only an implicit sense of what they want a new CEO to do — in particular, how much they want the strategic direction and organizational model to change and how they expect it to happen. Clearly defining the mandate and matching it to the CEO’s profile is critical. CEO mandates can be divided into four types: continuation, evolution, transformation, and disruption. They each require different candidate profiles and different approaches to the job.

Blockchain Isn’t as Unbreakable as You Think

  • Essay
  • Read Time: 13 min 

Between 2011 and 2018, at least 72 blockchain breaches were reported, costing users over $2 billion. Many of these were possible because blockchain is vulnerable in some of the same ways conventional record-keeping systems are. The rest are even more troubling, because bad actors were able to exploit the very features that make blockchain revolutionary. Managers should look closely at both types of vulnerabilities so they can weigh the risks before exploring business applications.

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Employee Emotions Aren’t Noise — They’re Data

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 8 min 

Within organizations, emotions reveal not just how people feel but also what they think and how they will behave. Emotional culture gets communicated non-verbally in people’s facial expressions, vocal tone, and body language. You see it expressed by the people around you, including—or even most of all—managers. For companies, emotions are an important lever for improving employee satisfaction and productivity.

Should Businesses Stop Flying to Fight Climate Change?

  • Read Time: 9 min 

It’s known as flight shaming: Everyone from Prince Harry to CEOs heading to Davos are being asked how they can care about carbon emissions and still climb aboard an aircraft. So should we all stop flying? The answer is a definitive “maybe”: There are good reasons to keep flying, especially in the service of tackling climate change, and for deeper reasons like connecting humankind when we need global cooperation.

What Does It Mean to Lead?

  • Read Time: 2 min 

Are management and leadership entwined in a digital world? Or are they distinct activities, one more important than the other? Can you be closely involved in day-to-day operations, as data-driven tools allow and encourage, without watching and directing employees’ every move? How do you cede top-down control without courting chaos? And how do you eliminate entrenched practices that obstruct change? Experts wrestle with these questions and share their perspectives on how leadership is evolving.

How Tech CEOs Are Redefining the Top Job

  • Read Time: 11 min 

About a quarter of high-tech companies are run by CEOs who double as inventors. Through patenting and publishing activity, such leaders contribute their own expertise to their companies’ innovation and production efforts, even as they steer their respective ships. This hands-on approach may sound like a distraction from strategic thinking, but it’s the future for top leaders across many sectors, not just tech — and it is already upon us.

Leading Remotely

  • Read Time: 9 min 

Digital tools make remote teams possible, but it’s not easy to wrangle an increasingly distributed workforce. Leaders must grapple with problems in several key areas: communication, project management, talent development and management, and reliable access to technology. Still, those who take steps to harness the strengths of remote work while minimizing the drawbacks will find themselves with a highly motivated, invested team.

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Take a Wrecking Ball to Your Company’s Iconic Practices

  • Read Time: 12 min 

As they pursue digital transformation, most leaders know they must also orchestrate a cultural shift — from prioritizing flawless execution to valuing more agile learning and experimentation, from doing siloed work to fostering true interdisciplinary collaboration, and from evaluating people’s past performance to enabling their future development. Articulating the ambition is the easy part. Taking a wrecking ball to what’s really getting in the way is a lot harder.

Leaders Don’t Hide Behind Data

  • Read Time: 7 min 

The theory is simple: With a clipboard and a stopwatch, you can measure and improve the performance of your workforce. But management by metrics doesn’t facilitate breakthroughs. For that, you need leadership: the art of doing things you’re not sure of, and doing them with enrollment instead of authority.

Five Rules for Leading in a Digital World

  • Read Time: 8 min 

To thrive in times of digital transformation and rapid change, organizations accustomed to siloed bureaucracy must become nimble and customer-centric; command-and-control models must give way to distributed leadership. Many leaders fear letting go, but they must evolve quickly or risk extinction. Research at the MIT Leadership Center suggests that executives and managers who do five things in particular are best equipped to navigate what lies ahead.