Category: Research

Simple Rules: A new book by strategy expert Donald Sull

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 4 days ago

Simple Rules small

The world is highly complex, and we struggle to manage the complexity of it every day. Most os us accept this complexity as unavoidable, attempting to manage the complex systems we face with complicated solutions. But meeting complexity with complexity can create more confusion than it resolves. So how can people better manage the complexity inherent in the modern world?

Donald Sull, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, swears by simple rules, whether in his personal life or in helping companies he consults with make better decisions. His latest book, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, co-authored with Stanford University's Kathleen Eisenhardt, aims to help more people put these simple rules in practice.

A decade ago, in the course of studying why certain high-tech companies thrived during the internet boom, the authors discovered something surprising: To shape their high-level strategies, companies like Intel and Cisco relied not on complicated frameworks but on simple--and quite specific--rules of thumb. The simple rules these companies had mapped out in order to manage complex processes helped them make on-the-spot decisions, adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. All this even though they were in extraordinarily complex, challenging, and fast-moving industries.

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Beware the negative review

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 months and 12 days ago

Business owners and foodies alike are relatively well versed in the dynamics around Yelp and other crowd-sourced review sites. Recently, trust is a primary area of concern. Just this week, Jonah Bromwich stately plainly in his New York Times article, "Two Apps to Guide you to Good Food," that "I don’t trust Yelp reviewers." And it appears he may have good reason.

negative review

recent study by MIT Sloan Professor Duncan Simester and Eric T. Anderson of Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University, found that approximately 5% of product reviews on a large retailer's website were submitted by customers who had no record of purchasing the product. These insincere reviews were also significantly more negative than others. As a result of findings such as these, many businesses are now including language in their contracts to ban customers from (or even fine them for) writing negative reviews--a reaction that has created it's own ripple of controversy. Anti-disparagement clauses, however, are probably unenforceable and are now illegal in California and may soon become illegal in every state.

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Can data analysis help change behaviors?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 months and 26 days ago

Can scientists prove whether individual behaviors, such as eating or exercise habits, are contagious? Research from Alex 'Sandy' Pentland, Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and the Director of the Human Dynamics Lab at MIT, shows that may be possible.

"If individual behavior is contagious, then we can change this behavior either by changing the behavior of several influential elements in the social network, or by changing the social network itself," concludes Pentland.

Pentland and his research team studied 70 college students living in a residence dormitory at a North American university, with the student subjects spread evenly across the freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior grade levels. Participants were given a Windows mobile phone, through which scientists collected data from self-reported surveys designed by experts in political sciences and medicine. Cell phone sensors recorded proximity and location every six minutes and documented communication.

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The odd man out may make for a better team

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 2 months and 17 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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It’s time to rethink wages

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 4 months and 22 days ago

For the last year or so, there’s been a significant amount of news coverage around the wages paid to low-income earners, such as those working at fast food outlets and in retail stores. There have been public protests, calls for boycotts, and legislation to raise the minimum wage in some states.

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Corporate boards miss out when they don’t include women

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 4 months and 28 days ago

Shirley Leung, Business Columnist for The Boston Globe has written extensively—and frequently—about the dearth of women on corporate boards. In her piece, “Across Health Care Board Rooms, That’s Madam Chairman to You,” she discusses the growing role of women on health care boards (nearly a third of Massachusetts-based hospitals have a woman running the board for the first time) and she compares the trend to the fact that only three percent of Fortune 500 companies have female board chairs.

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Sucked into the email spiral? C’est la vie!

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 6 months and 15 days ago

Last month, a new, legally binding labor agreement that requires French employers to make sure staff "disconnect" outside of working hours was all some of us could talk about—whether out of disbelief or pure envy. Media outlets around the world ran wild with this news, declaring that the home of the 35-hour workweek limit had now banned checking work email after 6:00 p.m. Those of us who feel chained to our email inbox immediately fantasized about sipping Sancerre at an outdoor café at 6:01 p.m., effectively barred from all electronic communication with clients, colleagues, and employers.

Many of those media outlets have since issued amendments to their previous reports, having learned that the agreement, signed on April 1st by unions and employers in the high-tech and consulting field, covers only an estimated 250,000 autonomous employees whose contracts are based on days worked, not hours, and thus for whom the country’s famous 35-hour limit does not apply. The agreement does refer to an obligation to disconnect communications tools, but only after an employee has worked a 13-hour day—not at any particular time of day.

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