The secrets of high-performing teams

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 day ago

What sets high-performing teams apart? Strong leadership? Skilled team members? Shared goals? Maybe. But what if we told you some of the key drivers of team performance were bottom-up leadership, external focus, social perception--and the number of women on the team?

Looking out, not just in

MIT Sloan Professor Deborah Ancona is the founder and faculty director of the MIT Leadership Center whose pioneering research has focused on how successful teams operate. Her work has highlighted the critical importance of managing outside a team's boundaries as well as inside them. This research has led to her concept of "X-teams" as a vehicle for driving innovation and her book, X-Teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate, and Succeed.

"Part of what we do at the MIT Leadership Center is think about people who are not just great individuals themselves but create what we call distributed leadership within their organizations," Ancona shared with Forbes. "These leaders realize that true leadership is not about them individually but about what they are able to create."

In today's world, where everything can change under our feet in an instant, Ancona advises an "X-Team" approach, where the X refers to external focus. An X-team is an adaptive structure that gives individuals and organizations flexibility in dealing with changing circumstances and with different kinds of tasks that shift over time. Successful teams emphasize outreach to stakeholders both inside and outside their companies. Their entrepreneurial focus helps them respond more nimbly than traditional teams to the rapidly changing characteristics of work, technology, and customer demands. X-teams manage across boundaries--lobbying for resources, connecting to new change initiatives, seeking up-to-date information, and linking to other groups inside and outside the company.

You can learn more about X-teams and distributed leadership in Ancona’s MIT Sloan Executive Education webinar, Leading in a World of Uncertainty, in this conversation between Ancona and MIT’s Hal Gregersen, and in Ancona's Executive Education programs, Transforming Your Leadership Strategy and Neuroscience for Leadership.

Women, women, and more women

The way teams are structured is clearly relevant to performance, but what about the individuals who make up those teams? Numerous studies continue to show the value that gender diversity has proven in boosting productivity and the bottom line within all levels of a company, from entry level to the boardroom, as well as the critical role women play in enhancing the collective intelligence of groups--as demonstrated by the research of MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Malone.

Malone, who is the head of the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI), says that corporations are missing out on tremendous opportunities when they lack women in senior leadership roles and on boards. Why? Simply put, Malone's research shows that the collective intelligence of a group rises when there are women involved in that group.

Continue reading

Implementing IIoT: A systems challenge disguised as a technological one?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 6 days ago

Industry 4.0

The current challenge facing operations across the globe can be summarized as follows: Make an increasing variety of products, on shorter lead times with smaller runs, but with flawless quality. Improve our return on our investment by automating and introducing new technology in processes and materials so we can cut prices to meet local and foreign demand. Mechanize – but keep your schedules flexible, your inventories low, your capital costs minimal, and your work force contented.1

While these words succinctly address the majority of challenges companies are trying to address with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it should be noted that they come from Wickham Skinner's 1966 Harvard Business Review article, "Production Under Pressure."

Advances into IIoT and initiatives such as Industry 4.0 may seem to operations executives to be more of a threat to defend against rather than an opportunity. Perhaps this is why a 2016 Cisco survey found leaders skeptical regarding investment in IIoT2. As expressed by Daryl Miller, vice president of engineering at Lantronix, "Companies need to keep the IoT simple by adapting their existing systems to become compatible with the IoT."3

In other words, the introduction of a new technology often reveals a lack of understanding of the current system, rather than that of the new technology. Therefore, adoption of IIoT is primarily a systems problem, rather than a technological one.

Continue reading

Sustainability tools demystified: MIT Sloan launches SHIFT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 days ago

There are a seemingly endless number of sustainability challenges to solve, and an equal number of tools with which to address them. If you’re a sustainability practitioner, you might feel overwhelmed with number of resources available. Consultants, academics, and companies all create tools and guides to help practitioners—each with a slightly different approach. How do you whittle down the hundreds of carbon footprint tools available, for example, to find the best tools for your purposes?

While having a lot of tools is typically a good thing, wading through this glut of resources can slow companies down in the journey toward sustainability—and even prevent them from implementing sustainability measures altogether.

Enter SHIFT (short for Sustainability Help, Information, Frameworks, and Tools), an online aggregator that helps its users find, compare, and choose the correct sustainability tools for research and business purposes. A cross-sector collaboration led by the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan and Valutus, the mission of SHIFT is to make it easier for leaders at all stages of development to “hardwire” sustainability into their organizations. SHIFT is both a platform of resources and a community of practitioners working together to curate and review tools based on their own experiences. The platform also includes curricula that combines resources into a sequence that supports individual and organizational learning.

Continue reading

How to beat the winter blues--tips from neuroscience

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 8 days ago

What Dr. Tara Swart has to say about the Winter Blues

For many, the cold winter weather--with its endless, dreary days and forecasts of impending blizzards--is not the most uplifting, especially towards the end of winter, when we feel we should be seeing daffodils rather than snow. Concomitant with gloomy forecasts is a similar state of mind known as the "winter blues." Research says this mood change is not merely in our heads. In fact, numerous studies have documented the overall feeling of malaise, which has a name: seasonal affective disorder, or most appropriately SAD for short.

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Tara Swart, neuroscientist, leadership coach, medical doctor and executive advisor, says that SAD is thought to be caused by the way our bodies respond to daylight.Melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleep, is released by the pineal gland in the brain into the bloodstream. Because this gland is activated by darkness, in shorter daylight hours in the winter, higher levels of melatonin are produced, causing lethargy and feelings of low energy.” Swart explains the production of serotonin--a hormone responsible for maintaining mood balance--can also decrease because of a lack of sunlight, which can lead to feelings of depression and negatively affecting our sleep and appetite.

Does winter weather affect productivity?

While the changing seasons can have a physical impact on our brain, to what extent is our cognitive function and performance level affected by the colder weather? Swart says opinions differ. While some studies show our brain activity is reduced in the colder months and can lead to sluggishness, other studies show that although brain activity is reduced, our performance levels remain the same--or that the brain is actually more efficient in the winter. Those who believe brain activity is reduced during the winter think shorter days may be the reason. Conversely, research has also shown that our attention span increases during the summer when days are longer

Continue reading

Interview with MIT Sloan ACE Holder James Taylor

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 11 days ago

James Taylor MIT Sloan

James Taylor is Assistant Vice President of Technical Services at Continental Grain Company (CGC), a 200-year-old international firm engaged in agribusiness, food, and commodities. In his position--which combines his areas of expertise, including engineering, operations, and corporate environmental affairs--Taylor acts as the communications bridge between technical and non-technical people. He currently focuses on environmental affairs, where he administers resources and support, and identifies solutions in the company’s operations and at the corporate level. As such, Taylor is involved in matters ranging from cutting-edge waste to energy projects, nutrient resource recovery, sustainability initiatives, and process safety management for highly hazardous chemicals, among others.

You have earned Executive Certificates in Management and Leadership and Technology, Operations, and Value Chain Management as well as an Advanced Certificate for Executives. How did the courses you took to earn these certificates differ? Did you have a favorite?
"I value all the programs equally, because each one delivers on the area of content where I intended to acquire new insights and skills. That said, achieving the ACE was certainly a rewarding milestone … and in a sense amalgamated my experiences and learning at MIT altogether. Each of these programs has an underlying commonality which allows a participant to transfer or build upon the learning and experiences gained in one program and apply it to any other, which ultimately translates to quickly establishing a very sound learning foundation throughout the programs overall. The structure and variety of the MIT Sloan Executive Ed program speaks well for the program staff and professors who collaborated to develop these programs and continue to refine them."

"If pressed to select one favorite course, I would say Business Dynamics: MIT's Approach to Diagnosing and Solving Complex Business Problems, with Professors John Sterman and Nelson Repenning, stood out for me personally. The course generated a paradigm shift in my approach and ability to assess, attack, and explain difficult multifaceted problems and then reduce them all into a simple narrative for others to easily decipher and understand. I've taken two classes where Professor John Sterman taught directly … he supplied access to the knowledge and skill sets which ignited a profound desire in me to go beyond any usual process of analyzing intricate problems and instilled a greater level of confidence in my competency to do so."

What made you choose MIT Sloan Executive Education?
"The range of courses along with the flexibility to customize a learning experience tailored to one's own needs and schedule was very attractive--especially when one considers embarking upon such an experience among life's other demands of work, business travel, and family. Other pertinent factors were most certainly MIT’s well regarded reputation as an institution with a long history on how to translate deep research into tangible results especially through its credo of 'learning by doing,' its exceptional caliber of teaching staff, and the diverse range of international professionals who attend the programs."

Continue reading

Open House attendees learn about executive programs -- and systems thinking

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 20 days ago

In an effort to learn about the education opportunities at MIT, more than 75 professionals in the Greater Boston area attended a complimentary Open House in February, which was jointly hosted by MIT Sloan Executive Education, MIT Executive MBA, MIT Sloan Fellows Program, and MIT Professional Education.

"The event provided information on the wide range of educational solutions now available to help develop the business knowledge, leadership skills, and technical abilities needed to remain competitive in today's fast-moving economy," said Associate Dean of Executive Education Peter Hirst.

Attendees of the open house heard alumni speak about their MIT experience and its impact on their careers. "In MIT Sloan's executive programs, I learned how to become a better communicator and developed leadership and organizational skills that enabled me to excel and effect meaningful change within my organization," said Sidita Hasi, a Regional Leader for FedEx Trade Networks and a recent recipient of an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership. "[Ongoing education] is no longer a luxury, but a strategic imperative that can significantly increase your chances of success in the workforce."

Improving organizational performance with systems thinking

In addition to learning about these programs, attendees also had the opportunity to learn about a discipline that is a cornerstone of MIT's management approach: systems thinking. MIT Sloan Professor Nelson Repenning spoke about the critical role of systems thinking in organizations, including how to adapt individual mindsets and structures to improve organizational performance and produce meaningful change. During his comments, he explained how people create technologies, which, in turn, define our world and strongly shape who we are, as well as how we are conditioned by these technologies and how the choices we make define future technologies. You can watch a recording of his talk here.

Continue reading

An interview with MIT Sloan Executive Certificate holder Li Chang of Boeing

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 25 days ago

MIT Sloan Executive Certificate Holder Li Chang

Li Chang, Associate Technical Fellow for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, recently shared his thoughts with us about his experience at MIT Sloan Executive Education, where he earned Executive Certificates in Management and Leadership and Strategy and Innovation. Li was recently invited by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to represent Boeing at the 2017 NAE German-American Frontiers of Engineering (GAFOE) symposium for people who "demonstrate contributions in advancing engineering accomplishments in engineering developments."

What did you take away from your experience at MIT?
I gained an invaluable education from MIT, was able to network with some of the best minds, and shared wonderful experiences with everyone at MIT.

Do you think your attendance at MIT Sloan Executive Education was part of the reason you were selected to attend the GAFOE symposium?
Yes, the exceptional innovative spirit and culture at MIT really stimulated my creative, strategic, and constructive thinking, which I have been able to transfer to many of my colleagues here at Boeing. Additionally, my MIT experience leveraged and distinguished my credentials. I am looking forward to learning new concepts and strategies, along with other promising engineers from Germany and the United States.

What made you choose MIT Sloan Executive Education for your professional education needs?
I started my search for a graduate school by looking online, and I was captivated by the Mens et Manus (i.e., mind and hand) motto that defines MIT. I knew MIT was the school I wanted to attend because MIT's motto matches my mission at Boeing, which is capturing innovative ideas and turning them into reality. Another reason I decided to further my education at MIT was due to the number of Nobel Laureates affiliated with MIT and the spirit and culture which drives them. I wanted to be confident that I would be in an environment with people who were passionate, persistent, and perseverant; people who want to discover, create, collaborate, and contribute for a better future.

Explain how you have applied what you learned during the courses back at Boeing.
From my experience at MIT, I integrated everything that I learned from my professors and applied that to execute our strategy to continue to develop and accelerate innovation in advanced manufacturing for a dynamic and diverse industry. More importantly, we were able to craft a culture of innovation and value-creation that will impact the entire enterprise at Boeing. I believe we all can learn from one another, have different approaches and perspectives, and can solve any challenge presented. Master collaboration is the key.

Continue reading

What does the Trump administration mean for climate change efforts?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 7 days ago

climate change policy

On November 4, 2016, the historic Paris Agreement on climate change policy (#OurAccord) became international law. "Humanity will look back on November 4, 2016, as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster," said UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa and Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar in a joint statement that day.

Four days later, on November 8, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. And overnight, the set of policies required to fulfill the promises of the Paris Accord were under threat.

Here's what we know. President Trump has called human-caused climate change a hoax. He has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency "in almost every form." Trump has attacked Obama's Clean Power Plan as "a war on coal." And, perhaps most significantly, he has promised to renege on the U.S. pledge under the Paris Agreement, which commits more than 190 countries to reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution.

And so now, we wait.

However, as recently reported by ClimateWire, "For every conservative who dreams about ripping up the Paris Agreement, there's a company executive who wants to stay in." Shortly after the election, hundreds of U.S. businesses urged Trump to uphold the Paris climate deal. More than 360 companies and investors--from DuPont, eBay, and Nike to Unilever, Levi Strauss & Co., and Hilton--made their plea in an open letter to the incoming and outgoing administrations and members of Congress. (The signatories have since grown to over 700.)

And many companies are walking the walk. In a recent press release, Google announced it will reach 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality in 2017. Iron Mountain signed a 15-year wind power purchase agreement that will supply 30% of its North American electricity needs with renewable energy. And here in Boston, MIT, Boston Medical Center, and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation have formed an alliance to buy electricity from a large new solar power installation, adding carbon-free energy to the grid and demonstrating a partnership model for other organizations in climate-change mitigation efforts.

Continue reading

Search innovation@work Blog

Subscribe to Blog by Email

Cutting-edge research and business insights presented by MIT Sloan faculty.

Interested in writing a guest post?