Leading Change

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Yes, I’m Feeling Bad About Climate Change. Let’s Discuss.

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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?

Should Businesses Fight for Democracy?

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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.

The Best of This Week

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.

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How Cities Should Prepare for Artificial Intelligence

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.

12 Essential Leadership Insights

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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.

The Regulation of AI — Should Organizations Be Worried?

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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.

Why Teams Still Need Leaders

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.

How Managers Can Help Workers Tackle Digital Distractions

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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.

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How Shared Responsibility Can Shape a Compelling Vision

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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.

Bridging the Leadership Gap Between Tech and Business

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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.

New Frontiers in Re-skilling and Upskilling

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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.

Closing the Gender Gap Is Good for Business

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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How Previous Generations Influence Our Decisions

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Folktales and stories from our ancestors were designed to keep new listeners from repeating the mistakes of the past. But in an era when employees move between companies at a faster pace than decades ago, leaving little time to transmit organizational mythology, are companies at risk of losing touch with the lessons of the past? In a time of great technological change, which demands reflection and clear corporate culture, this is a vital question.

What Does an AI Ethicist Do?

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Microsoft has been active in advocating for an ethical perspective on artificial intelligence, and in 2018 it appointed its first general manager for AI policy and ethics. Tim O’Brien, who had been with the company for 15 years, says his activities as “AI ethics advocate” include extending the community of people who are focused on the ethics topic, meeting with Microsoft customers, and leading a research effort to develop a global perspective on tech ethics.

Pathways to Progress for Women Entrepreneurs

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The hidden obstacle to women who want to found B2B startups is often rooted in the way they are mentored and advised in the business world. Where men are more often coached in strategy and business tactics, women are more likely to be taught how to avoid internal politics and “fit in” culturally. This difference in mentoring leaves women at a disadvantage with respect to entrepreneurship.

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