Leadership Vision

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

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 5 min 

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.

The Need for ‘Techno-Supporting Skeptics’

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 6 min 

Digital technologies will increase the high levels of ambiguity that executives must navigate. Aspiring leaders may respond by ignoring the challenge, which isn’t sustainable. A better response is to harbor healthy skepticism of the digital technologies they champion, develop values that will lead to better decisions, and work to institutionalize those values at the organizational level.

Using AI to Help the World Thrive

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  • Read Time: 5 min 

It’s possible that humankind has created complex, systemic problems that exceed our human capacity to solve them. Some companies, particularly the tech giants, are recognizing this possibility and looking to AI as a tool for solving environmental and social problems. One of these companies is Microsoft. In December 2017, it committed $50 million to its new “AI for Earth” program to fund innovators who are making progress in four critical areas — climate change, water, agriculture, and biodiversity.

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.

What Sets Breakthrough Strategies Apart

Composing valuable strategies requires seeing the world in new and unique ways. It requires asking novel questions that prompt fresh insight. Even the most sophisticated, deep learning-enhanced computers or algorithms simply cannot generate such an outlook. Innovative strategies depend more on novel, well-reasoned theories than on well-crunched numbers.

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What the Military Can Teach Organizations About Agility

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  • Read Time: 6 min 

Once bastions of command-and-control management style, U.S. military institutions have moved to the forefront of organizational and leadership agility. Today’s military leadership emphasizes efficient movement through four decision cycles — observe, orient, decide, and act — to speed up its response to external threats. It’s also investing significant resources to become more agile and experimenting with innovative solutions.

How to Develop Strategy for Execution

When developing strategy for execution, managers often want to start by setting their strategic priorities, but that’s a mistake. Management teams should start by identifying the corporate vision and critical vulnerabilities — both of which help clarify and shape priorities.

Focusing on What 90% of Businesses Do Now Is a Big Mistake

It’s not smart to base any part of your strategy on what you see in the rear-view mirror — and that’s particularly true when you develop strategies for navigating modern, thorny environmental and social challenges. The norms and expectations about how companies manage sustainability issues are shifting fast: Just six years ago, only 20% of the S&P 500 companies produced sustainability reports, while by 2016, 82% did. Change is coming to business — and executives need to adjust.

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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Inspiring Employee Creativity

Digital technologies are making work increasingly thought-driven, not muscle-powered. In this environment, planning and execution are merely table stakes for leadership. Real leaders must inspire and reward employee ingenuity, and must be bold enough to move creativity from the organization’s periphery to its center. To do that, leaders need to adopt five personal behavior changes, including resisting the temptation to tell people what to do and embracing distributed leadership.

How to Catalyze Innovation in Your Organization

The authors’ research suggests that, rather than leaving the development of innovation to serendipity, executives should create collaborative contexts where innovation is likely to emerge from unpredictable pockets of creativity within an organization. By understanding and tapping the power of employee networks, executives can stimulate the creation of these kinds of collaborative environments.

Digital Maturity, Not Digital Transformation

Digital transformation has two key implications for managers: First, it’s fundamentally about how your business responds to digital trends that are occurring regardless of your input. Second, how an organization implements technology is only a small part of digital transformation; strategy, talent management, organizational structure, and leadership are just as important as technology.

End Your Business Journey, Please

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 5 min 

In a rapidly changing world, full of mixed messages and various uncertainties, it’s reasonable for leaders and managers to look for some language — a narrative — that helps people grapple with it all. “Journey” fits this particular bill in many respects. It’s a familiar and perhaps comforting framework for describing the pursuit of some end — but using it could affect your ability to envision a wider range of possibilities.

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Mastering Strategy

How can executives develop their skills as strategists? One way is to learn from the masters. The book Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons From Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs (HarperCollins, 2015) explores insights drawn from the careers of these former CEOs of Microsoft, Intel, and Apple. In a Q&A, the book’s authors, David B. Yoffie of Harvard Business School and Michael A. Cusumano of MIT Sloan, explain how strategic thinking is a capability that leaders — even the superstars — develop over time.

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Rethinking Leadership

Businesses need a new approach to the practice of leadership — and to leadership development. “Leadership is really not about leaders themselves,” argues Joseph A. Raelin. “It’s about a collective practice among people who work together — accomplishing the choices we make together in our mutual work.” Nelson Mandela was particularly adept at this new model of leadership, Raelin says. “One of the most important leadership lessons we might distill from Mandela was not his acquisition of leadership but the way he shared it.”

The Paradox of Leading a Social Business

Among the findings of the MIT SMR and Deloitte 2014 report: as companies begin to reach maturity in social business processes, many of them are finding that traditional management practices are being replaced by a new kind of leadership. In a social business environment, communication practices between customers, employees, and managers are greatly altered — and the way management responds must change, too.

An Audio Summary of "Moving Beyond Marketing"

An audio briefing by Gerald C. (Jerry) Kane, co-author of the 2014 social business research report by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte. The report indicates that that measurement sophistication is finally taking hold in social business. More than 90% of “socially maturing” companies actively measure their social business efforts. The authors explain why C-suite leadership is crucial to reaping value from social business.

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