Category: Leadership

What flat organizations can learn from the Head of the Charles

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 8 days ago

Head of the Charles Regatta

This past weekend thousands of athletes, spectators and volunteers lined the banks of the Charles River in Boston for the 51st Head of the Charles Regatta. It is the largest two-day regatta in the world and draws competitors from colleges, high schools, and clubs from nearly every state in the U.S. and from 28 countries throughout the world. "Regattas such as the Head of the Charles in Boston and the Head of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia are to the rowing world what the New York Marathon and the Boston Marathon are to running," said Susan Saint Sing in The Eight: A Season in the Tradition of Harvard Crew.

To the average spectator at the Head of the Charles, rowing is a graceful, elegant sport, and a fun fall Boston event. But just like any sport where the elite in the field are competing, rowing in the Head of the Charles takes thousands of hours of hard work, dedication, and commitment. And the interpersonal dynamics within a successful, competitive rowing team present some intriguing lessons for those managing companies with today’s preferred "flat" organizational structure—one with few hierarchical levels and looser boundaries. 

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MIT's Thomas Kochan Earns Lifetime Achievement Aspen Faculty Pioneer Award

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 17 days ago

Thomas Kochan, the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Work and Employment Research and Engineering Systems at MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Co-Director for the Institute for Work and Employment Research at MIT was recently named the "Lifetime Achievement" award winner of this year's prestigious Aspen Faculty Pioneer Awards from the Aspen Institute of Business & Society Program. The Faculty Pioneer Awards were created in 1999 to honor educators who "demonstrate leadership and risk-taking--and blaze a trail toward curriculum that deeply examines the relationships between capital markets, firms and the public good." 

According to the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, the focus on this year's awards was to recognize and honor faculty who are teaching about inequality in their MBA classrooms. The awards honor faculty who are prompting students to think expansively about their role as managers as well as global citizens, now and over the long term.

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Complex risk management--as seen on TV

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 14 days ago

FV Northwestern

Reality TV is largely a wasteland of odd, meaningless drivel, in which business leaders rarely have the time (nor should they make the time) to invest watching. But within the very broad category, there are some meaningful glimpses of how people solve complex business problems. The stands-out show in this category might be  Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch, which some herald as the "original" reality TV show.

For those not familiar with the show, now in its eleventh TV season, it focuses on a handful of boats fishing for crab in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska. And while many fans watch the show for the drama of the cold, vicious waters and the inherent danger in the job, others can glean some secrets for managing complex business operations. More than just entertaining TV, Alaskan red king crab (just one species caught and sold by the boats on the show) was valued at more than $90 million in 2012.

The title Deadliest Catch reflects the stark reality of the commercial fishing industry: since 1992, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics started publishing fatality rates by occupation, fishing has consistently ranked as the most deadly occupation. In 2006, the bureau found commercial fishing has an almost 75% higher fatality rate than that for pilots, flight engineers, and loggers (the next most deadly occupations). The fatality and injury statistics for Alaskan crab fisherman are even higher than the average for the industry, due to the dangerous conditions out on the Bering Sea.

When one watches the show with a discerning eye, it's apparent that crab fishing is, in fact, a very complex business. Each captain must manage multiple aspects of risk against hard deadlines, in real time. 

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Lessons in negotiation

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 14 days ago

Contributed by Jeff Ton, as originally published on May 26th on the author's blog.

If MIT Sloan Professor Jared Curhan were a pirate, he would be the lovable, friendly kind like Johnny Depp or Keith Richards. Of all the classes, seminars, and workshops I have ever attended, I have to rank Professor Curhan near the top when it comes to educators who can captivate, entertain, and educate, even a very difficult subject like Negotiation for Executives.  In his closing remarks for the MIT Sloan Executive Education course, Professor Curhan confessed he struggled to summarize such an intense couple of days; he wanted the class to have a take-away with all the salient points, but it was too big to put into a single page, even a large page, even a poster-sized page. With that confession, he unfurled a beach towel … a huge beach towel. The beach towel was printed with a very detailed drawing of a pirate ship, buried treasure, mermaids, and other sea creatures, each one depicting a point from the class. We really did have Lessons in Negotiations from a Pirate! But, I am ahead of myself…

As in my previous posts about the classes I have attend at MIT Sloan Executive Education, I don't want give away the content of the course (you should attend one…or two…or three), but I do want to talk about the experience. I have to admit, of all the courses I have taken, I was most nervous about this one. I was not sure what to expect. Were we going to learn how to be cutthroat negotiators? Were we going to learn tricks and tactics to help us win at all costs? Was I going to learn my entire approach to negotiations was wrong?

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Leader-led learning: The great differentiator

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 6 months and 5 days ago

Contributed by MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steve Spear. Spear teaches in Creating High Velocity Organizations and is author of The High Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition.

Certain organizations "punch above their weight," generating far more value (that accrues to everybody, not just customers or just shareholders, etc.), faster, and more easily. This despite them having access to the same technical, financial, and human resources as all their counterparts--and thereby enjoying the same advantages and suffering the same constraints.1

This becomes a wickedly important differentiator: Either because of having to get more yield out of exactly the same resources available to everyone, or because of having to be on the cutting edge of bringing high value-add products and services to market ahead of rivals.

The difference? They know much better what to do and how to do it, so operate on a frontier of speed, timeliness, efficiency, effectiveness, safety, security, and so forth others barely perceive. As with all knowledge, the source of their profound knowledge is accelerated learning, and that accelerated learning is the consequence of garnering feedback out of experiences across the spectrum of operational, design, and developmental and using that to feed forward into the next cycle of experiences.

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So many bad bosses, so few good leaders?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 months and 23 days ago

Search for the term "bad bosses" online and you might be shocked at the results. One survey reveals two in ten people say a manager has hurt their career; another states one in five workers have a bad boss; a third, as covered by Forbes studied the impact of bad bosses and found that a shocking "77% of employees experienced physical symptoms of stress from bad bosses."

Why do so many companies lack the team of leaders they envision, despite the time and resources they invest in leadership development programs? MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Douglas Ready and Jay A. Conger, Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, have studied leadership efforts at more than a dozen international companies over the last two decades, trying to answer that very question 

In the MIT Sloan Management Review article, "Why Leadership Development Efforts Fail," Ready and Conger reveal that most of these efforts are to no avail because of clear patterns of behavior that cause repeated failures and breakdowns over time. They also share and how IBM—one of the companies they worked with—cured these behaviors to create a leadership program that achieves results.

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Small moves equal big payoffs for office productivity

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 9 months and 27 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 - 10 months and 27 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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