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The behavior of senior leaders is the top change driver in digital transformation projects.
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IT alignment can produce inertia — unless it’s accompanied by the right culture. Sure, closely aligning IT with the rest of a company’s strategy can cut costs and improve the ability to collect data, facilitating the creation of early-warning systems and operational dashboards. But a less regimented approach has its place, too, allowing responses to changing business and economic conditions that are swift and creative.
When a corporate culture is designed not just to encourage innovation but to systematically nurture employee ideas, the results are dramatic: The companies that have the greatest level of participation have the best ideas. They’ve also got the strongest profit growth. All this stems from a culture that recognizes that effective innovations can come from anyone, at any level in the organization.
Our research suggests that the approach many companies take toward digital transformation may be misguided. Early and developing companies push digital transformation through managerial directive or by technology provision. In contrast, maturing companies use an approach that cultivates conditions in which transformation can occur.
Some of the thorniest obstacles to achieving digital maturity aren’t technological — they’re political. Most internal political conflicts, however, can be mitigated by a careful, systematic approach to defining, structuring, and deploying large-scale initiatives.
Digital transformation is top of mind for many organizations. But many flounder by focusing more on developing the next technology breakthrough — when a core component of a winning digital transformation strategy is cultivating the talent who will lead the effort.
The days when buying a used car meant “kicking the tires” and wading through a hard sales pitch are gone. With customer expectations evolving in a rapidly changing digital environment, digital dealership CarMax’s product development teams are “all about developing customer-facing and associate-enabling technologies,” says CIO Shamim Mohammad — but the focus is on the teamwork, not the tech.
In the first half of 2017, MIT SMR website visitors showed high interest in articles about how artificial intelligence will affect the job market and organizations. In fact, three of the 10 most-read pieces of new MIT SMR editorial content during that period address some aspect of that question. But the other seven most popular new articles cover a wide range of topics — from dealing with negative emotions in the workplace to exploring the organizational implications of blockchain technology.
For tech giants and startups alike, Silicon Valley success is grounded in core business values and processes rather than technological know-how — with a unique twist. Tech businesses have made a commitment to flexibility that allows them to reshape their business models to the needs of an ever-changing digital environment, which gives them an advantage over less-adaptable traditional companies.
MIT Sloan Management Review editor in chief Paul Michelman argues that the importance of corporate culture will dissipate as organizations become flatter and more distributed. However, several readers take a different view.
There’s a lot of talk of trade tensions between the U.S. and China, but there’s another way to think about China: as an innovation role model. “Anybody involved in international business needs to treat China not just as a place to sell, but also as a place to learn,” wrote Edward S. Steinfeld and Troels Beltoft in MIT Sloan Management Review in 2014. China, they argued, is “becoming the best place to go if you want to learn how to make ideas commercially viable.” Three years later, this is truer than ever.
Doing business digitally isn’t an “add technology and stir” proposition. Success in digital business means fundamental changes in how you do business. Marriott International’s George Corbin knows this all too well. “For any company that is being disrupted by digital, it’s important that they not just be able to recognize if there’s a potential threat to its existing business,” he says. “The bigger challenge is, how and what do you change to make the transition from where it is to where it needs to be?”
New research suggests that a particular set of management practices, which the authors call structured management, is tightly linked to performance and success. For instance, consistent hiring, performance review, and incentive practices are as important to productivity as research and development investments, and more than twice as important as IT implementation. The research shows that manufacturing plants using more structured management practices have higher productivity and profitability.
We are evolving toward the age of networked enterprise, in which the traditional hierarchies of the corporation will be supplanted by self-organizing systems collaborating on digital platforms. In this environment, strong cultures may turn from assets to liabilities.
For over 30 years, MIT Sloan’s Eric von Hippel has investigated the ways general users of products and services have improved them through tinkering and invention. “The Age of the Consumer-Innovator,” which he co-authored for MIT Sloan Management Review in 2011, was an important marker in explaining how user communities were changing product development. It laid the groundwork for von Hippel’s current research, which looks at the way some of today’s innovation is given away as a “free good.”
Successful enterprise social media use has less to do with the tools employed than with the climate that a company creates. Cultivating the right climate requires balancing a number of tradeoffs through crafted social media policies, adapting characteristics of existing organizational culture, and having managers model effective social media practices for employees. In part 5 of his 5-part series, Gerald C. Kane offers a perspective on how to balance these tradeoffs and create the right mix for a company and its culture.
Digital success isn’t all about technology: The 2015 Digital Business Global Executive Study and Research Project by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte identifies strategy as the key driver in the digital arena. Companies that avoid risk-taking are unlikely to thrive and likely to lose talent, as employees across all age groups want to work for businesses committed to digital progress. The report is online and in PDF form, with a Digital Business Interactive Tool to explore the data set.
Corporate Social Responsibility “is fraught with contradictions, subject to political challenges and demands deep commitment,” argue José Carlos Marques and Henry Mintzberg. Responsible corporate behavior, they write, isn’t simply “doing well by doing good.” Instead, six changes need to be considered, within and beyond our private institutions. These changes include fostering ethical judgment within the enterprise, rethinking compensation and acknowledging the benefits of regulation.
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