Professor of Information Technologies and Organization Studies; Eaton-Peabody Professor of Communication Sciences, MIT
Teaching at MIT Sloan since: 1989
I came to MIT Sloan because of its research preeminence and its commitment to intellectual excellence and innovation. Unlike a number of other business schools that are separate from the rest of their campuses, MIT Sloan is an integral part of MIT, and I believe it is enhanced by that integration — and vice versa! Given the increasing global interdependence of organizations these days, and the unprecedented challenges and opportunities they face, I think we have to seek greater integration across disciplines and communities to generate creative responses. Being part of this kind of broader intellectual conversation has tremendous benefits for MIT Sloan faculty and students alike.
One of my favorite things about teaching at MIT Sloan is the commitment to learning and the opportunity to explore ideas with students. As part of an elective on organizational learning and change that I co-teach with Peter Senge, the students engage in a project that attempts to change some aspect of their local system (i.e., MIT Sloan or MIT). I am always impressed by how creative these change efforts turn out to be — and by how willing and able students are to learn about change through actually doing it.
I believe it is critical to expose students to different ways of seeing and understanding the world. In some of our team exercises, for example, I actively work to get students to find teammates who think differently than they do. You can't be successful in management if you only have a single point of view or a particular set of skills. Respect for diverse perspectives as well as qualitative and quantitative skills are essential, and that is why at MIT Sloan you will find faculty engaging in many different kinds of research and multiple forms of pedagogy, that taken together, reflect the value of a wide range of perspectives, skills, and expertise in organizations.
Through being at MIT Sloan, I've connected with such colleagues as Deborah Ancona, Peter Senge, and Tom Malone, and the four of us have worked to develop a way of thinking about leadership as a set of core capabilities that is both collective and distributed. This work has evolved into an MIT Sloan teaching program on Distributed Leadership and a Center for Leadership at MIT that focuses on leadership in practice. My research addresses the issues of technology and organizational change, and initially I did not see direct connections with this research and the more general topic of leadership. So, it was both surprising and exciting to see such connections and synergies emerge as I worked with my colleagues on developing the distributed leadership model.
I am currently finishing a collaboration with four colleagues, Erik Brynjolfsson, Tom Malone, Peter Weill and JoAnne Yates, on a large, multi-year National Science Foundation-funded project that examines the social and economic implications of using Internet technologies within firms. There is a huge range of things we have looked at from very detailed micro-level studies around the adoption of Blackberries, to big industry-wide econometric analysis at the very macro-macro level.
I keep thinking that technology is going to get easier, but if anything we keep seeing organizations struggling to really integrate it. It is really interesting how the technology keeps pushing the envelope so it creates opportunities for people to work in all sorts of new ways and develop different business models and processes and ways of organizing and integrating work, but even as it does that it also raises all sorts of new issues, all sorts of new challenges. We tend to thinkoh this new technology is going to be wonderful. It is going to help us here and help us there — and it does do that — but it also creates all sorts of new issues, because that is the nature of these new technologies. They enable as well as restrain.And that has been very interesting to look at.