Managing Your Career

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Surviving a Day Without Smartphones

For young adults accustomed to continually checking their cellphones, even a single day without access to them can be anxiety-producing. What are the implications for executives about managing this constantly connected generation – and their devices – in the workplace?

Don’t Get Caught in the Middle

There was once a time when middlemen were indispensable. Intermediaries facilitated transactions between makers and buyers; they closed the gaps between disconnected entities that required one another for survival; and, within organizations, they interpreted high-level corporate strategy and connected it to front-line execution. But one by one, such intermediaries are being made obsolete by technology.

Who’s Building the Infrastructure for Lifelong Learning?

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Current trends in both human longevity and technological innovation raise the possibility of people living until 100 and working until they are 80. It’s clear that much will have to change — both in how people understand and anticipate the evolving nature of work, and how they then respond. Providing access to lifelong learning demands a complex system involving stakeholders in education, government, and the corporate world.

The Upside of Being a Woman Among ‘Bros’

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“Bro” culture in business and the institutional sexism it can breed are hot topics these days. But could there be situations where there is an advantage to being a woman in a workplace full of bros — men who form tight, in-group ties? New research on gender and leadership in the workplace looked at the willingness of managers to accept advice and feedback from subordinates. The findings: In certain circumstances, managers are actually more responsive to suggestions from the opposite gender.

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Your Time Is Limited, So Choose Your Projects Wisely

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Making the right decision about which projects and partnerships to enter into seems like it should be easy. But it often isn’t. Being smart about where you devote your resources — your personal time, energy, and finances, as well as those of your organization — means being smart about not just time management, but about choice management. That means being proactive and disciplined about asking why you think a project is a good fit. It also means paying attention to your inner skeptic.

Entrepreneurship Is a Craft and Here’s Why That’s Important

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Like pottery, entrepreneurship is a craft that blends both science and art. Both pottery and entrepreneurship are accessible to anyone, learnable, built on fundamental concepts — and best learned through on-the-job training. To inspire today’s generation of company builders, entrepreneurship education needs a common language to ground students in fundamental concepts, and it needs to offer apprenticeship opportunities.

The 10 Most Popular New MIT SMR Articles

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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.

A Data-Driven Approach to Identifying Future Leaders

Many executives believe they are good at identifying leadership talent. However, when asked how they make their decisions, they often cite intuition or “gut” instincts. Social science research, on the other hand, suggests that individuals are often prone to cognitive biases in such decisions. Rather than just relying on the subjective opinions of executives, some companies are using assessment tools to identify high-potential talent.

The Missing Piece in Employee Development

In recent years, organizations have begun to prioritize processes for improving future performance over evaluating employees’ past efforts. Yearly development objectives and annual reviews are being replaced by real-time feedback delivered directly by line managers. Although this shift holds much promise, it risks bumping up against some hard realities — namely, the ability of line managers to help employees develop. In reality, many managers aren’t confident they can change employee behavior.

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The Most Underrated Skill in Management

Few questions in business are more powerful than “What problem are you trying to solve?” Leaders who can formulate clear problem statements get more done with less effort and move more rapidly than their less-focused counterparts. But stopping to ask this question doesn’t come naturally — managers must put conscious effort into learning a structured approach.

The Corporate Implications of Longer Lives

People are living longer and working longer — but few organizations have come to grips with the opportunities and challenges that greater longevity brings. Across the world, people are becoming more conscious of their lengthening working lives — but frustrated by their working context. The authors’ research suggests that while people know they will have to restructure their lives and careers, corporations are unprepared.

The Heavy Toll of ‘Always On’ Technology

Our electronic devices and expectations for immediate responses to communications are degrading our attention, with implications not just for productivity but also for mental health and stress levels in the workplace. That’s according to the 2016 book The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World. In an interview, coauthor Larry D. Rosen says that research now shows that “the impact from so many interruptions on our mental and emotional functioning is vast, and it needs to be addressed.”

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From the Archives: Establish a Personal Advisory Board

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Here’s a new year’s resolution to consider: Build a personal advisory board that meets your current needs. “A person’s developmental network can’t be static but needs to evolve over time,” noted the authors of a 2015 article in MIT Sloan Management Review. Yan Shen, Richard D. Cotton, and Kathy E. Kram make the case that a professional mentor is just one element of a fully formed personal board of advisers, which might also include a personal guide and a career adviser, among others.

Please Go Away (and Spend More Time Somewhere Else)

Rapid changes at all levels of society and technology are upon us. Seemingly stable business and social environments aren’t immune. Whether it’s technology, policy, or broader socioeconomic forces, the transformation of your organization and your role in it are all but inevitable. One suggestion for responding: Get outside your standard routine and engage with the changes.

Executive Assistants for Everyone

Smartphones and cloud technology work in tandem to provide a prized perk to managers lower on the corporate ladder: The ability to pass repetitive, tedious scheduling tasks off to someone (or in this case, something) else. As digital agents become ubiquitous, their input will greatly enhance collaboration.

The Three New Skills Managers Need

As digital technologies evolve, managers and employees will need to learn three important skills: partnering with new digital “colleagues,” creating a mindful relationship with omnipresent digital technologies, and developing empathy for the varying technology preferences of their human coworkers. Organizations, for their part, will need to design processes to support these efforts, and managers will need to be both flexible and thoughtful in how they respond.

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