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Within the next five years, how will technology change the practice of management in a way we have not yet witnessed?

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:

Using Artificial Information to Set Information Free

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.

Managing the Bots That Manage the Business

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.

Rethinking the Manager’s Role

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.

Executive Assistants for Everyone

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.

Ethics and the Algorithm

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.

Why Digital Transformation Needs a Heart

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.

Is Your Company Ready to Operate as a Market?

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.

The Three New Skills Managers Need

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.

A New Era of Corporate Conversation

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.’

Tackling the World’s Challenges with Technology

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.

Predicting a Future Where the Future Is Routinely Predicted

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.

Unleashing Creativity with Digital Technology

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.

Digital Today, Cognitive Tomorrow

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.

Rise of the Strategy Machines

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.