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The must-reads MIT SMR editors are reading this week, including: potential pitfalls of the agile workspace, influencers’ influence on marketing, and gender bias in unlikely places.
How do we talk about the state of our planet when the news is so scary? And how do we have those discussions with the people we love, when our instincts are to protect them from nightmares? It helps to break the conversation into three distinct questions: What do we really know about climate change? Why am I worried and feel it’s so serious? And how do I — and all of us — cope with that knowledge and move forward?
Traditionally, businesses act politically only when they feel they are under attack, and they act by writing op-ed pieces, lobbying, and cultivating relationships with policy makers. But to the generation preparing to move into business leadership, this seems inadequate at best and corrupt at worst. Business is embedded in society, and it’s time for business leaders to care as much about democratic freedom as they do their own organizations.
Working couples are turning to technology to divide household labor more equitably. But the results have been mixed. Those who treat chore-management apps as the solution to imbalance often jump straight to implementation, making things worse. A better approach is to first have probing conversations about the underlying forces driving imbalance in the relationship. These discussions aren’t easy, but they form the basis of a deal, and then the couple can use technology to help make it happen.
The must-reads MIT SMR editors are most excited about this week, including: Why emotion is a key ingredient for getting customer experiences to stick, what we can learn from Germany’s platform economy, the best leader for your digital transformation effort might not be the obvious candidate, and more.
A key driver of AI’s role in the global economy will be how cities deal with technological developments. Many cities plan to become “smart cities” armed with AI-driven processes, like AI-based traffic control systems. But simply adopting these new technologies won’t be enough to guarantee their success. Like organizations and education experts, cities need to assess and prepare for AI-related skills gaps.
A recent survey found that managers do not as a rule encourage or enable employee learning. In the evolving skill-centered economy, that needs to change — but many companies simply have no process in place to support re-skilling and upskilling. Simply imposing an education plan for employees isn’t enough. Managers also need to support, encourage, offer feedback, and lead by example if employees are to gain needed skills that will benefit the company long term.
Leading teams and organizations today means honing strategic and digital skills, hiring and mentoring diverse employees, and being agile and adaptive in the face of constant change. With this collection of MIT Sloan Management Review articles, readers will benefit from decades of research from academics and practitioners on the skills, processes, and frameworks that can help managers lead through times of uncertainty, change, and disruption.
As companies pour resources into designing the next generation of tools and products powered by AI, many are failing to simultaneously examine the question of who is ethically and legally responsible for the societal backlash if these systems go awry. Over 80% of Americans now believe that robots and/or AI should be carefully managed. Because there are no clear-cut answers or solutions, the talk of regulations — and, more lightly, standards — is getting louder.
While flat organizational structures have gained favor in recent years, hierarchies continue to provide many important benefits, says the University of Michigan’s Lindy Greer. Depending on the circumstances, the answer isn’t to eliminate hierarchy but to train leaders and teams to use it flexibly.
Managers and staff alike have been conditioned to respond to digital messaging platforms to the exclusion of all else — and digital distraction is costing businesses big in employee productivity. Managers can teach their reports how to tune out the siren song of digital devices, but they must model these behaviors themselves if they’re to encourage employees to do the same.
There is a growing recognition that curiosity is an essential leadership trait. Leaders who consider themselves perpetual students are thriving by asking questions, demanding them of their teams, and exploring the root cause of problems rather than temporary fixes.
Teams perform better and are more likely to achieve the leader’s vision if they feel a shared sense of responsibility for the outcome. By communicating their rationale about how to balance priorities, a leader can help their team make decisions aligned with the collective vision even when the leader is not present. In effect, this involves scaling a sense of responsibility and creating a culture that shares the same values.
For so many of organizations today, technology is the business. Yet, for many companies, the persistent separation of the IT function within the organization creates siloes and sets up a false dichotomy between technology and business leaders. To remain flexible and adaptable in the face of constant change, business and technology leaders alike need to take bold action.
Good corporate culture can turbocharge performance, while a bad culture can wreak havoc on a company’s reputation and results. When companies strike the right balance on culture, they can align behavior with corporate strategy while allowing employees flexibility to exercise judgment and initiative.
Because of its sharp focus on measurable outcomes, the study of sports analytics brings many of the most critical issues in management into high relief. Through the lens of sports, there is a great deal to learn about leadership, performance management, decision-making, innovation, and, most of all, managing with data. MIT SMR’s sports analytics podcast, Counterpoints, is a great entry point to the playing field of data-driven management practice.
Everyone at some point will have to spend time either reskilling (learning new skills for a new position) or upskilling (learning current tasks more deeply). Embracing this idea requires an individual sense of agency, but corporations also have to step up. There are promising pilots underway: Some companies are figuring out how to engage on this issue, to the advantage of both individuals and the businesses themselves.
While the corporate world has made progress in advancing women’s careers in leadership roles, there is a long way to go to achieve workplace gender equality. By supporting women’s career development and advancing them into managerial positions, a company’s customers, teams, and bottom line will benefit.
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