FROM THE EDITOR
The Human Side
AS A BUSINESS EXECUTIVE, you have to think
about the big picture. You need to consider issues
such as what trends are affecting your company’s
markets, how your company’s strategy should
evolve and what new technologies or initiatives your
organization should adopt. These are unquestionably important — and a critical part of your job.
But when it comes to the execution of big-pic-ture ideas, so much of business comes down to
people — and how they work together, both
within organizations and in partnerships between
organizations. In this issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, several articles bring out that point
from different perspectives.
In his article “Building Effective Business Relationships in China” (p. 27), Roy Y. J. Chua explains
what recent research reveals about the development of trust between Chinese and non-Chinese
business partners. Writes Chua:
In cross-cultural business relationships, trust
plays an indispensable role since partners from
different cultures don’t always have the same
values or assumptions about how business
works. When trust is developed, partners can
navigate difficult issues over time by fostering a
candid exchange of ideas, issues and agendas.
In “How to Become a Sustainable Company”
(p. 43), Robert G. Eccles, Kathleen Miller Perkins and
George Serafeim also address the importance of trust.
As they describe their research into how companies can
reframe their identities and become more sustainable,
the authors note: “Employees in sustainable companies
have a high level of trust in each other, which allows
them to take the necessary risks to innovate and
change their behaviors to support sustainability.”
Trust and collaboration don’t always develop
automatically. For instance, in “What Managers
Really Think About Social Business” (p. 51), David
Kiron, Doug Palmer, Anh Nguyen Phillips and
Nina Kruschwitz point out that applying social
collaboration tools within organization can require
a nontrivial cultural shift. “Sharing information
may not come easily, especially in corporate cultures
where what you know is an important source of
your power in the organization,” they write.
There’s also the question of designing structures and processes that help people work most
effectively with one another. In their article “How
to Create Productive Partnerships With Universities” (p. 79), Markus Perkmann and Ammon Salter
explore the complicated — and sometimes conflicting — incentives that motivate business
managers and academic researchers when they
work together. And when it comes to applying
digital design technologies to product development, Tucker Marion, Sebastian Fixson and Marc
H. Meyer point out in “The Problem With Digital
Design” (p. 63) that without careful attention to
the way people may use digital design tools — for
example, for endless tinkering with designs —
companies may not get the tools’ full benefit.
A cynical manager might observe that the human
side of business makes the implementation of almost
any business idea more complex — whether the idea
is to launch a partnership in China, make an organization more sustainable or adopt new technologies.
Maybe so. But the human element also makes business far more interesting. After all, people not only
work together in business but also, hopefully, learn
together; they strive not just to achieve organizational goals but also to grow their personal
capabilities and develop new skills along the way.
Martha E. Mangelsdorf
MIT Sloan Management Review
*Not to be confused
with the classic management book The
Human Side of Enterprise by MIT Sloan
School professor Douglas McGregor (New
1960). In The Human
Side of Enterprise,
Theory X and Theory Y.