MIT Sloan Management Review Spring 2019

MIT Sloan Management Review leads the discourse among academic researchers, business executives and other influential thought leaders about advances in management practice, particularly those shaped by technology,  that are transforming how people lead and innovate. MIT SMR disseminates new management research and innovative ideas so that thoughtful executives can capitalize on the opportunities generated by rapid organizational, technological and societal change.

United States
MIT Sloan Management Review
4 Issues

in this issue

2 min
growth is not a zero-sum game

My fifth-grade daughter is learning some basic laws of physical science in school this year, and I’ve been thinking about one of them in relation to a few articles in this issue of MIT SMR. Here’s the law, paraphrased somewhat: In a closed system, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It’s just rearranged. Could something similar be said about businesses and the value they generate? Companies are destroyed all the time — whether by their own hand, by macro forces, or by competitors they underestimated or didn’t see coming. But each time a new player emerges, is it always at the expense of something else? Should we view growth and destruction as simply value rearranged? Far from it, argue INSEAD professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne in their cover article. They…

3 min

How Frictionless Should Things Be? In recent years, tech companies have led the way in making products and services as easy to use as possible. For many, getting rid of the “friction” — for example, streamlining account login requirements and allowing for one-click ordering — was seen not as a choice but as a necessity. However, escalating concerns over cybersecurity are prompting companies and many others to rethink how frictionless things should be. Reducing complexity has been a key driver of new technology throughout history, notes The New York Times columnist Kevin Roose (“Is Tech Too Easy to Use?” Dec. 12, 2018). The question now is whether society is overpaying for convenience and, specifically, whether, for safety’s sake, companies should be “making things slightly less simple?” Roose interviewed more than a dozen…

8 min
the surprising value of obvious insights

A few years ago, the people analytics experts at Google stunned me with one of their recommendations to managers. They had been studying how to onboard new hires effectively. After running surveys and experiments, they came back with a list of tips. Here’s the one that jumped out at me: Meet your new hires on their first day. People analytics has transformed HR and talent management into a data-driven field. Since Google was a pioneer in the field, I was expecting an aha moment. Instead, I got a duh-ha moment — a sudden flash of the blindingly obvious. As an organizational psychologist, my trade has been to highlight the counterintuitive, the unexpected, the overlooked. For the past decade and a half I’ve regularly referred people to classic advice from sociologist Murray Davis:1 If…

11 min
can we really test people for potential?

Have you ever taken an aptitude or work personality test? Maybe it was part of a job application, one of the many ways your prospective employer tried to figure out whether you were the right fit. Or perhaps you took it for a leadership development program, at an offsite team-building retreat, or as a quiz in a best-selling business book. Regardless of the circumstances, the hope was probably more or less the same: that a brief test would unlock deep insight into who you are and how you work, which in turn would lead you to a perfect-match job and heretofore unseen leaps in your productivity, people skills, and all-around potential. How’s that working out for you and your organization? My guess is that results have been mixed at best. On the…

10 min
self-reports spur self-reflection

I’ve been studying grit for 15 years, but the notion that some people stick with things much longer than others is not at all new. A century ago, Stanford psychologist Catherine Cox studied the lives of 301 eminent achievers. Cox concluded that the artists, scientists, and leaders who change the world have a striking tendency to hold fast to their goals and to work toward these far-off ambitions with dogged tenacity. Picking up where Cox left off, I wanted to see whether grit — the combination of passion and perseverance toward longterm goals — would predict achievement in the 21st century. I was curious about how this aspect of our character relates to age, gender, and education. I wanted to unpack grit’s motivational, behavioral, and cognitive underpinnings. In short, my aim…

6 min
career management isn’t just the employee’s job

Careers are much more complex than they used to be, even within organizations. Now that companies have replaced rigid hierarchies with flatter, more fluid team-based structures to promote agile ways of working, they have also made it much harder for employees to figure out what their next job should be, let alone the one after that. This challenge is also increasingly a concern for employers, who must — for the sake of engagement and retention — show high performers how they can progress within the organization. During the past year, researchers on the Wharton People Analytics team talked with managers at 14 industry-leading companies and hosted two daylong meetings to explore how organizations are helping their people build better careers. Through those discussions, we identified a couple of key ways that…