Digital Leadership

In Collaboration With:

The Digital Leadership Initiative explores the growing use of digital technologies in the business landscape. Through a series of annual reports, blogs, articles, and case studies, the exploration examines how companies are cultivating opportunities and addressing risks in a fast-moving, digital market environment.

As more companies strive to develop new digital capabilities, many are making significant changes to their organizational culture, strategy-making process, and talent management efforts. These shifts raise important questions about what it means to lead a digital business. These questions, and more, are the focus of MIT SMR’s Big Ideas Digital Leadership Initiative.

Research and analysis for this program is in collaboration with Deloitte Digital, which also provides financial support.

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Goodbye Structure; Hello Accountability

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 7 min 

Companies will be able to operate as true digital organizations only when they learn how to respond quickly to unanticipated opportunities and threats. But instead of restructuring to increase agility, some organizations are assigning accountabilities for specific business outcomes to small teams or individual problem owners. Tackling new objectives is then built around individual flexibility, market-based resource allocation, experimental mindsets, and coaching rather than managing.

Digital Is About Speed — But It Takes a Long Time

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 6 min 

The ability of digital technologies to accelerate business is giving rise to new value propositions — new ways to eliminate hassles and create solutions. But research from MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research suggests that while business leaders need to start redesigning their existing systems and roles to better solve customers’ problems, they will not be able to do so quickly. Case in point: The slow and steady digital transformation of Dutch technology company Royal Philips.

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The New Digital Mandate: Cultivate Dissatisfaction

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 7 min 

Employee satisfaction can be a double-edged sword. Satisfied employees produce higher quality-outputs and have less turnover. But satisfaction can inhibit innovation: People who are OK with the current way of doing business are not likely to transform it. They need to be aggravated enough with their current situation that they are willing to take the risks to change it. By sowing the right kinds of dissatisfaction, leaders can drive their organizations to higher levels of innovation and value.

Manufacturers Can Also Win in the Sharing Economy

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 8 min 

The sharing economy isn’t all bad news for manufacturers of big-ticket items such as cars. Research from Carnegie Mellon and UC Berkeley says that manufacturers will sometimes be able to charge higher prices to customers who are planning to rent out those goods. In a Q&A, one researcher says that when there’s heterogeneity in the market, meaning both a high-usage population and a low-usage population, circumstances are ripe for “a win-win-win for the borrower, the owner, and the manufacturer.”

How Effective Leaders Drive Digital Change

Success in managing digital transformation starts with clarification of priorities, effective feedback, open development communications, and a willingness to take risks. These four behaviors, which allow employees to share ideas more freely and embrace taking risks, can lead to higher-performing teams during digital transformation.

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Are You Taking the Wrong Approach to Digital Transformation?

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.

Your Company Doesn’t Need a Digital Strategy

As sexy as it is to speculate about new technologies such as AI, robots, and the internet of things, the focus on technology can steer the conversation in a dangerous direction. Because when it comes to digital transformation, digital is not the answer. Transformation is. In various industries, including banking, paint, and shipbuilding, digital leaders are finding that technology’s value comes from doing business differently because technology makes it possible.

Don’t Confuse Digital With Digitization

“Becoming digital” is a totally different exercise from digitizing. Digitization involves standardizing business processes and is an important enabler of digital, but digitization on its own won’t make a business a digital company. Instead, a digital transformation involves rethinking a company’s value proposition. To become digital and pursue a digital vision, companies must embrace information-enriched customer solutions delivered as a seamless, personalized customer experience.

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Big Data and IT Talent Drive Improved Patient Outcomes at Schumacher Clinical Partners

Changing consumer expectations, new regulations, and an influx of patient data has created a perfect storm for health care organizations like Schumacher Clinical Partners to rethink how they leverage digital tools to better serve their patients and providers.

Cultivating a Culture of Cross-Functional Teaming and Learning at CarMax

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.

Achieving Digital Maturity

In the 2017 Digital Business Report, MIT SMR and Deloitte find that digitally maturing companies are achieving success by increasing collaboration, scaling innovation, and revamping their approach to talent.

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