THINKING FORWARD – Ideas for your work from MIT Sloan School of Management


Ideas for your work from
MIT Sloan School of Management | Office of Communications

May 30 – June 5, 2021

1. The introduction of new technologies can upset status hierarchies in a workplace. But careful attention to how they are introduced and how employees are trained can mitigate the turbulence. Managers may look to digitally native employees to train others on new technologies. But while this strategy may be efficient from a learning perspective, it can make more senior employees feel slighted, and it can hinder learning among teams.

In a new study, MIT Sloan professor Kate Kellogg and her colleagues observed what happened when new technology was introduced in five health care clinics. At three of the clinics, promoting more junior employees to be peer trainers created backlash, driving a competitive wedge between coworkers. The trainings created resistance to the new processes, especially among senior employees who saw their status undermined.

At the other two clinics the trainings were interpersonally peaceful, and the new processes were both accepted and quickly diffused. The most prominent difference? At the two successful sites, the role of trainer was not fixed; rather, employees rotated in and out of the job.


2. Top-tier colleges are admitting more Black, Hispanic, and lower-income students. How can they foster an inclusive culture as well?

Inclusion Design Group CEO Dereca Blackmon and Duke University visiting professor Stanley Litow joined MIT Sloan leaders for a webinar identifying ways colleges and universities can be more inclusive:

  • Recognize that providing access and promoting inclusion are two separate efforts. Commit to valuing minority students as people and talents, not quotas.
  • Challenge old notions of merit. Instead of honoring networks and relationships, find new ways to evaluate worthiness for admission, such as tenacity and ambition.
  • Affect massive social change. “[Universities] can not only change their own campus, but they can change the community,” Litow said. “They can exert their influence on businesses, on not-for-profit institutions, and on civil society, because they have a lot of strength and power.”
  • Measure grit and determination alongside traditional hallmarks of achievement. Adopt a nuanced view of success, rather than focusing on class rank or test scores.

Cultivate and support international students. Welcome them with system-wide changes, such as devoting federal work-study dollars to internships for international students.


3. People are going back to the office. Or at least figuring out if they will go back to the office. In a new commentary in Fortune, MIT Sloan professor Erin Kelly and University of Minnesota professor Phyllis Moen explain how their pre-pandemic, five-year study of a remote work design program provides a blueprint for designing hybrid work policies.

The pair highlight two important elements of a good hybrid work initiative: management training, and identifying and reducing low-value work. Properly implemented, hybrid work can improve well-being and work-life integration, increase job satisfaction, and reduce a company’s turnover costs, they write. They caution that “such benefits arise only when employees feel they can choose where and when they work — not by mandating some particular mix of remote and in-office work.”

While getting it right is a challenge, “The takeaway from our research is clear,” the authors write. “Don’t let this opportunity to redesign work for the better pass your organization by.”


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By MIT Sloan CDO