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Ideas Made to Matter


8 new business insights from MIT Sloan Management Review


For nearly 60 years, business executives have turned to MIT Sloan Management Review to better understand management practices, especially those driven by technological advancements. This quarter, MIT Sloan faculty members and researchers offered new ideas on topics ranging from agility to aging workers to academic partnerships.

A new approach to designing work. It’s possible for a company to be both agile and efficient, according to MIT Sloan associate dean Nelson Repenning and senior lecturer Don Kieffer. But applying agile methods in principle is different than putting them into practice. Their paper offers company leaders steps to avoid the “axis of frustration,” and co-authored with James Repenning, managing partner at ShiftGear Work Design.

Great ideas are getting harder to find. New ideas aren’t in short supply, but they have gotten more expensive. “If we want to restore economic growth, we need to pay for it,” writes MIT Sloan professor John Van Reenen. With his co-authors, Van Reenen warns that American research for new ideas must double every 13 years just to keep up with GDP growth per person. The issue isn’t how many ideas are left, Van Reenen writes, but how much the U.S. is prepared to pay for them.

Four logics of corporate strategy. The corner office provides a nice view, but it can also be a blind spot for corporate leaders. MIT Sloan senior lecturer Donald Sull offers executives a choice of four simple frameworks to follow to help them understand how the different parts of their corporations fit and work together. Sull and his co-authors provide an easy analysis to assess your business and determine which strategy is right for your company.

How to develop strategy for execution. MIT Sloan senior lecturer Donald Sull warns complexity is unavoidable in strategy development, but when it comes to execution, “complexity kills.” Sull and his co-authors propose three questions management teams should ask to keep an execution strategy uncomplicated and on track: What is the vision? What are the vulnerabilities? What are the priorities?

Developing successful strategic partnerships with universities. MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, are both examples of successful strategic partnerships between industry and academia. Working with a university opens a company to new ideas, talent, and a “broader innovation ecosystem,” writes Lars Frølund, a visiting fellow at the MIT Innovation Initiative, and MIT Sloan associate dean Fiona Murray. Frølund and Murray teamed up to create a university partnership canvas, a visual tool to guide companies as they consider a relationship with a school, or those businesses looking to refine their existing one. Max Riedel is a co-author.

Is your company ready for a digital future? The goal of a “future-ready” business isn’t to digitally transform, but rather to transform the business. Peter Weill, chairman and senior research scientist at MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research, and Stephanie Woerner, also a research scientist at CISR, highlight two areas that must change in order to be future-ready: customer experience and operational efficiency.

The new economic benefits of digital workers. Is the dreaded retirement wave really just a minor ripple? New research from MIT economics professor Daron Acemolgu suggests the panic around a rapidly aging population could be unwarranted. Acemolgu and his co-author Pascual Restrepo found no evidence countries with rapidly aging populations showed slower growth. In fact, some of these countries showed a positive relationship between growth and their aging population. One explanation: automation technology.

Surviving in an increasingly digital ecosystemMuch can happen in two years in the digital ecosystem, which is why MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research Chairman Peter Weill and CISR research scientist Stephanie Woerner, are updating work from 2015. Instead of how a business can thrive in this environment, Weill and Woerner argue it’s time for companies to “reinvent to survive.”

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