Lessons from bees, being nice and smart, and selfish traders in our round-up of professor blogs
Insead research fellow Matthew Fraser and professor Soumitra Dutta discuss the effect of online social networking on productivity. In “Online Social Networking: The Productivity Paradox”, they pose the question: “Does banning wikis, blogs and sites such as Facebook at work boost productivity, or damage engagement, networks and creativity?” Surveys conducted by Mckinsey have revealed increasing acceptance by managers of online collaboration and social networking tools because they help forge relationships with co-workers and foster innovation. “Wiki while you work” the authors conclude.
Oh-so-trendy, social networking is also discussed in Harvard Business Review’s Breakthrough Ideas for 2009. In “How Social Networks Network Best” Alex Pentland, professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, draws lessons from bees: “Bees, like human beings, are social animals, and evolution has provided them with elegant approaches to group decision making”. Pentland’s research findings show that “a richly connected network works best for integration and decision making” and that employees with extensive personal digital networks are more productive than their colleagues.
“Just because I’m nice, don't assume I’m dumb”, is another idea in Harvard Business Review’s Breakthrough Ideas for 2009. Amy J. C. Cuddy, assistant professor at Harvard Business School, suggests that people judge others based on their perceived warmth and competence: “People tend to see warmth and competence as inversely related.” If you have ever thought: “She’s so sweet… she’d probably be inept in the boardroom” this article may help you avoid the high cost of mistaken judgment.
As the financial crisis deepens, many intellectuals have addressed the issue of “moral hazard”, especially after Merrill Lynch Chief John Thain spent $1.2m on his office suite. Robert I. Sutton, professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, concludes that “when people think more about money, they are less likely to give help, ask for help, and put more physical distance between themselves and others”. In a recent blog entry headed “Perverse Incentives at Merrill Lynch: Bonuses and Selfish Traders” he voices concerns about bankers’ “narrow and self-centered world view”.