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

+ THREE INSIGHTS FOR THE WEEK September 19 – September 25, 2021

1. With the invention of the interlocking plastic brick, LEGO was a poster child for business innovation — until it wasn’t.

The Danish toymaker’s trajectory from industry trailblazer to the brink of bankruptcy and back shows there’s more to innovation than sheer luck or a wholesale focus on disruption, said David Robertson, a senior lecturer in operations management, in a recent webinar hosted by MIT Sloan Executive Education.

Based on years of research at LEGO and other companies, Robertson advocates for an expansive approach to innovation — helping customers get more value from existing products by offering innovative complementary products, services, and business models.

“It’s how Apple turned itself around, it’s how GoPro got five years of 90% growth, it’s how Sherwin-Williams gets twice the price per gallon of paint than other paints that are functional equivalents,” said Robertson, who also teaches an executive education course on the topic.

Among the innovation lessons to be learned from those firms:

  • Respect what made you great.
  • Maintain a customer-centric development process.
  • Develop a family of complementary innovations to distinguish yourself from competitors.


2. Healthy employees are more productive, have fewer health care expenses, and log lower rates of absenteeism and turnover.

Yet improving worker health and well-being has traditionally been viewed as the responsibility of the employee, particularly when it comes to adapting to workplace stressors. A new employer toolkit aims to change that dynamic, showing managers how to support worker well-being and build a healthy workplace culture.

Designed by MIT Sloan professor Erin Kelly and Meg Lovejoy of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, the free toolkit helps managers:

  • Give employees more control over their work.
  • Tame excessive work demands.
  • Improve social relationships in the workplace.
  • Implement a Work Design for Health agenda, which entails making a case for change; encouraging employee participation; creating an action plan; and inviting feedback on the workplace change process.


3. Companies are under pressure to prove their supply chains adhere to social and environmental targets, but most lack the concrete data necessary to prove their supply chains are working as they should.

With Sourcemap, an MIT Media Lab spinoff, companies can now trace their supply chains from raw materials to finished goods. The software collects data continuously in real time and flags anything that could indicate counterfeiting, adulteration, fraud, waste, or abuse.

“Our platform is like a LinkedIn for the supply chain,” founder and CEO Leonardo Bonanni told MIT News. Customers provide information about where they buy their raw materials, and the suppliers get invited to the network and provide information to validate those relationships, down to the farms and the mines where the raw materials are extracted — which is often where the biggest risks lie.

“We’ve taken our customers from a situation where they had very little control to a world where they have direct visibility over their entire global operations,” Bonanni said.

Content from the: MIT Sloan Office of Communications Building E90, 9th Floor 1 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142

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