MIT Sloan Management Review posed this question to 15 of the world’s foremost experts on the intersection of technology and management who responded in a series of essays now available from MIT SMR. The essays were commissioned to explore how technology is reshaping the practice of management.
The impact of digital technology on how businesses design and produce goods, interact with their supply chains, manage internal communication, and connect with customers is a rich topic that has been, and continues to be, broadly addressed in both commercial and academic business media.
But as the digital revolution enters its next phase, we find ourselves confronting a new set of questions about the relationship between technology and management. These questions go to the core of the organization:
- How will big data inform hiring decisions?
- What happens to marketing when marketers can map consumers’ brain patterns?
- Are new communication technologies really delivering on the promise to empower frontline workers, or are they unleashing organizational chaos?
- What role will algorithms play in creating corporate strategy?
- How do you give performance feedback to a machine? How will our robot managers provide it to us?
A common theme that emerges from these essays is that many of the most significant new concepts in play today are emanating from the collision of technology and management. We are on the crest of sweeping changes in the practice of management, being spurred on by technological innovation. The advent of big data is the engine driving the tremendous change we are witnessing.
These collected insights of our Frontiers contributors creates a deeply intriguing, exciting, and predominantly optimistic vision of the future, but one also rich in its challenges. There is no management practice in which technology’s impact does not loom large. Its effects will be felt by everyone who works for, partners with, or consumes the goods of an organization. In other words, all of us.
Below are links to and brief summaries of each essay, all of which will be free and open on the MIT SMR site for the next several weeks:
Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn
Specialized artificial intelligence is about to transform management from an art into a combination of art and science. It will allow us to apply data science to human interactions at work in a way that earlier theorists like Peter Drucker could only imagine.
Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media
Algorithms themselves are now serving as “managers.” In turn, algorithms are playing the role of “employees” for such companies as Google, Facebook and Amazon, with human managers taking in feedback about their electronic workers’ performance, as measured in real time data from the marketplace. Understanding how to get the best out of both humans and machines, and understanding the ins and outs of who manages whom, is the great management challenge of the next few decades.
Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at London Business School
Software will not render managers obsolete; however, managers will need to be more skilled than ever before. They will need to develop and hone skillsets such as effectively managing virtually rather than face to face.
Hal Varian, Chief Economist, Google; Emeritus Professor, University of California at Berkeley
The mobile cloud is about to democratize one of the most prized perks of management.
Edward Freeman, Professor, Darden School of the University of Virginia; and Bidhan Parmar, Assistant Professor, Darden School of Business
Behind every piece of code that drives our decisions is a human making human judgments about what matters, and what does not.
George Westerman, Principal Research Scientist, MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy
Technological advances will help managers to increase productivity, innovation, and customer satisfaction in the coming years. However, those leading traditional companies should be careful not to let these forces push their management approach to extremes.
Rita McGrath, Professor of Management, Columbia Business School
Traditional hierarchies are giving way to market forms of organizing that will recast the role of management and require managers to be more facile than ever before.
Monideepa Tarafdar, Professor of Information Systems, Lancaster University, UK
Digital technologies are increasingly making work-home boundaries a thing of the past. What employees need now–and what managers should encourage –is a mindful approach to technology usage that fosters flexibility rather than burnout.
Catherine Turco, Associate Professor of Work and Organization Studies, MIT Sloan School of Management
Long-held assumptions about corporate communication and hierarchy are breaking down. In the coming years, the savviest leaders will tap into the spirit and tools of openness from social media to build what Turco calls ‘conversational firms.’
Andrew Winston, Author, Green to Gold, Green Recovery and The Big Pivot
Digital technology is facilitating radical transparency about the way companies do business. New data on supply chains – and a generation of workers raised to share everything – will open up everything a company does to public scrutiny. This, in turn, will increase companies’ willingness to help tackle pressing societal issues.
Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
By analyzing new types of data, including real-time video and a range of other inputs, artificial intelligence systems will be able to provide managers with information about what is happening in their businesses at any moment in time — and detect early warnings of problems that have yet to materialize.
Robert D. Austin, Professor of Information Systems, Ivey Business School
In the next five years, managers will widely deploy digital technologies designed to augment human creativity, which will greatly enhance our ability to iterate and innovate.
Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, Chairwoman, President and CEO of IBM
Digital is not the destination. Rather, it is laying the foundation for a much more profound transformation to come. Within five years, all business decisions will be enhanced by cognitive technologies.
Thomas Davenport, Professor, Babson College; Director of Research, International Institute for Analytics; Senior Advisor, Deloitte Analytics
Right now, humans may be ahead of smart machines in our ability to strategize…but we shouldn’t be complacent about our human dominance.