Category: Leadership

Small moves equal big payoffs for office productivity

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 4 days ago

Sometimes, effective organizational change requires major shifts in management and corporate culture. Other times it's as easy as moving chairs.

Recent research by MIT Sloan Professor Christian Catalini makes the case that simple changes in office environments can have a big impact on department dynamics, leading to more efficient work habits, collaboration, and overall increased productivity in the office. As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, companies that shift employees from desk to desk every few months and rethink which departments to place side by side say they have seen an increase in productivity and collaboration.

For his research, Catalini studied the impact of proximity at an academic campus in Paris, France. When a group of scientists were forced to move to a different building because of an asbestos problem, innovative ideas abounded as well as a more accepting attitude of experimentation. In addition, colleagues spent more time collaborating on projects and even solidifying friendships.

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Here's to the power of 40 winks: HubSpot CEO on napping

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 5 days ago

When asked what's so powerful about the mid-day nap, Brian Halligan, Founder and CEO of HubSpot--the highly successful inbound marketing company headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts--says he discovered its benefits from personal experience. The savvy entrepreneur says he found that in any given month he might have one or two great ideas and a slew of mediocre ones. As it turns out those few great ideas almost always happened when he was just falling asleep or just waking up.

"There’s something about that in-between state of sleep that is dramatically under-utilized. Just at the time your brain is not thinking about a given problem, the solution will pop into your head."

Once he recognized the pattern, Halligan decided to create fertile ground for more great ideas. For starters, Halligan stopped setting his alarm clock on weekends and--you guessed it--started napping more. "One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to work less and think more." Ironically, napping is a big part of that. Halligan says a nap can pack a one-two punch: on the way in and out of the nap, the mind is "open to great ideas, and after a nap, the brain is kind of re-set."

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Crisis management consultant says MIT Sloan programs strike the right balance

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months ago

Being known as an “international man of disaster” is a good thing in the case of Hsing Lim, a crisis management consultant who works with business, government, and non-profit organizations to offer assistance when natural disasters strike.

Lim, who earned his Management and Leadership certificate from MIT Sloan in 2008, was on hand on March 11, 2011, when the command ship of the U.S. 7th fleet received word that the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami had struck. Due to his close ties with the government, military, and corporations in Japan and the United States, Lim was able to offer his crisis management expertise to help with relief efforts in the devastated areas.

“For the tsunami recovery, I worked with governments, militaries, aid agencies, business corporations, and civil societies in Japan, the U.S., Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, and several EU countries to source essential items and organize fundraising projects.”

Lim began focusing on disaster management shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. The independent consultant has received numerous awards and commendations for his efforts. Lim also has been lauded by David Boden, past president of the American Association of Singapore (AAS), as a key contributing member of the American community in Singapore and for his volunteer role as Chair of the AAS Community Philanthropy Committee. 

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Leadership lessons from Henry V and other reflections from the FRED Forum 2014

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 22 days ago

By MIT Sloan Executive Education's Executive Director, Dr. Peter Hirst

Leadership conferences are a booming trade, but few provide such a memorable experience year after year for me as the FRED Forum - an annual event that brings together leading innovators and senior executives responsible for developing leaders from the business, education, social and government sectors. Typically, this year’s Forum, which ran September 10-12th in Vancouver, Canada offered plenty to inspire and delight, but certain sessions and speakers made the most profound impression and gave me much to think about.

William Shakespeare: Master playwright and motivational author

From city parks to the world's most venerable theaters, Shakespeare's plays continue to resonate with audiences for more than four centuries. What makes them so enduring is the author's keen insight into the human condition - what makes us tick. And while the Bard's plays are filled with strong leaders, none are as prominent as Henry V.

Richard Olivier, Founder and Artistic Director of Olivier Mythodrama (and the son of the legendary Lawrence) used Henry V as the foundation for his deeply engaging Inspirational Leadership session, which led me to re-discover how powerful arts-driven ways can be in creating reflection and providing sources of insights into human behavior. Olivier's Mythodrama technique is a synthesis of tools and techniques drawn from the arts and sciences of psychology, philosophy, drama and organizational development; delivered with unique impact by employing theatre skills and myth. 

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U.S. Taxes: Try a carrot instead of a stick

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 1 day ago

In late September, the U.S. Treasury Department proposed new regulations to help curb corporate inversions—the merging of a U.S.-based company with a foreign company so that the foreign company becomes the parent of the combined operations, resulting in significant tax benefits.

Inversions have captured headlines and mindshare since late August, when Burger King Worldwide merged with the Canadian chain Tim Hortons. Once joined, the company will be the world’s largest quick service restaurant company. The firm will also be headquartered in Canada, which has a lower tax rate than the U.S. While Burger King’s expected inversion brought the issue into the general consciousness, many other companies have similar stories. According to Reuters, 76 U.S. corporations have completed inversions since 1983; 47 of those deals have occurred since 2004. Some of these companies are obscure, others well known. The name brands that have essentially relocated as a result of inversions include Fruit of the Loom, Seagate Technology, Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, Herbalife International, Tyco Electronics, Covidien, and Medtronic 

MIT Sloan Professor of Accounting Michelle Hanlon recently surveyed 600 tax executives to better understand the impact of U.S. tax policy on corporate decisions about investment location and profit repatriation. Hanlon’s research showed that both the tax and financial accounting effects lead to greater foreign direct investment by U.S. companies and lower repatriation [of taxable funds.]

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Social media professionals need leadership skills

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 13 days ago

The “Twitterverse” is awash in corporate brands publishing inappropriate, insensitive and/or irrelevant tweets. As of this writing, the latest corporate Twitter embarrassment happened to DiGiorno Pizza, a U.S.-based frozen pizza brand owned by Nestlé. Someone on the DiGiorno social media team jumped on the hashtag #WhyIStayed—used in discussions about domestic abuse—responding most unfortunately: “You had pizza.” While the team quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, the error was very public—and, as with most Twitter gaffes, highlighted a recurring problem with Twitter: a corporate brand’s social media team ignoring context.

One common response to any social media gaffe is to assume the brand’s social media team is comprised of interns or millennials—those “digital native” workers who grew up with texting, tweeting, and posting to Facebook walls. In many cases, that assumption is correct. Those newer workers often lack the business experience and leadership skills necessary to maintain and promote an on-brand, relevant, and appropriate social presence. 

The answer? Education. Millennials should learn, adopt, and cultivate key leadership practices in an effort to become savvier business professionals. In the article, “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader,” MIT Sloan Professor Deborah Ancona presents the four leadership capabilities all organizations require: sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing. While all these skills are extremely valuable, the skill of sensemaking is the most relevant to those professionals working in social media.

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The odd man out may make for a better team

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 27 days ago

Understanding dispersed team dynamics is a timely consideration, as non-traditional teams are becoming more and more commonplace. Corporations are cutting down on real estate costs, offering employees more flexible work models, and investing in expertise located anywhere and everywhere around the world, resulting in geographically dispersed collaborations. While collocated teams (every team member working on the same site) may have the advantage over dispersed teams in many respects, studies show that more thoughtful configuration of dispersed teams may actually give them the upper hand.

“Within dispersed teams, there is first and foremost a mutual knowledge problem,” says JoAnne Yates, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management, who teaches in the new, upcoming Executive Education program, Communication and Persuasion in the Digital Age. “When you’re collocated in the same building, you are aware of what your team members know and do not know. And you understand context. When working across distances, this is not necessarily true, and there are all kinds of failures that can come from that. You may not, for example, understand delays in communication. When you don’t get a response right away and you’re expecting one, you make all kinds of assumptions, and most are disparaging about the other party. Then perhaps you find out there was a holiday—like Patriot’s Day, which occurs only in Massachusetts. It’s important to have ways of understanding the specific context your colleagues are working in and of establishing trust and common ground.”

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Changing the mind of a leader—literally

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 6 months and 11 days ago

Today’s most effective leaders are skilled at making sense of complex environments. They are continually moving away from "command and control" leadership models to a "cultivate and coordinate" approach. These leaders harness “aha” moments and turn them into business innovations. And they take risks on a regular basis in order to revise their map of what’s really going on in their organization and the marketplace in which they operate. These leaders are internally powered by an innovative mindset that quite truly changes the playing field in which all businesses operate.


Then there are the rest of us—the vast majority of people in management and leadership positions—who fear failure and whose ability to innovate is underutilized; whose safety-first approach to doing business has likely served us well in the past but is now holding us back. 

What if you’re the kind of leader who feels stuck in old ways of doing things? What if you’d rather not be? Is it really possible to change your mindset—or the mindsets of your team?

Management experts are looking to neuroscience for the answer, and the answer appears to be a resounding “YES.” By probing the neural roots of behavior, brain science is helping leaders create change in themselves and in others and may indeed have great implications for the world of work. 

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