December 2014: Our pick of the journals, blogs and websites

What we're reading in December

What we're reading this month.

MIT Sloan Management Review

Devising a strategy against a background of rapid change is explored in the Fall 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.

In “Beyond Forecasting: Creating New Strategic Narratives”, Sarah Kaplan and Wanda Orlikowski argue that managers need to self-consciously craft narratives that link elements of the company’s past and present with a new vision for the future. Their research, based on an intensive study of an IT firm, found that the process of rethinking the past, reconsidering present concerns, and reimagining the future encouraged the creation of radical – and productive – new paths for the company.

In “The Opportunity Paradox”, Christopher Bingham, Nathan Furr and Kathleen Eisenhardt dispute the view that planning is of little use in rapidly changing environments. They see the relationship between flexibility and strategic focus as more complex, and their research seeks to define when focus or flexibility is the most appropriate choice.

In “Creating More Accurate Acquisition Valuations”, Han Smit and Dan Lovallo explore how to evaluate potential acquisitions or investments in times of uncertainty. They bring together corporate finance and behavioural economics, and create checklists so executives can recognise and adjust for biases when evaluating potential acquisitions.

The award-winning article “Making Mergers Work” by Hamid Bouchikhi and John Kimberly is handily reprinted in this issue. It examines why mergers and acquisitions so often fail to achieve the results they promise. They argue it is critical that executives recognise the need for psychological synergies as well as financial ones, and they look at what paths can be followed to achieve “identity integration”.

Related to this, they suggest that – pre-merger – there should be some assessment as to what identity issues could become roadblocks to a successful fusion. By including an identity audit in the due diligence process, they say managers may even recognise when it’s better not to pursue a merger, as psychological synergies would be very difficult to achieve.

In a short article Shuang Ren, Robert Wood and Ying Zhu look at “Do-It-Yourself Leadership Training in China”. They note that although there is a shortage of managers in China, many companies are unwilling to invest in executive training. The authors believe that companies with a more progressive attitude toward training could differentiate themselves in the tight market for talent. There are definite gains to be had by publicly supporting self-development, and by encouraging the training many managers are already undertaking on their own.

MIT Sloan Management Review is at

Green Reveal

New research into Chinese firms operating in environmentally sensitive sectors shows a clear connection between more favourable environmental performance and higher levels of disclosure. Christina He and Janice Loftus present their findings in an article in the Pacific Accounting Review (volume 26, issue 1/2), while noting that the overall level of disclosure remains considerably lower than that observed in developed countries.


This site offers a range of blog posts, from a discussion of the coolest corporate precincts to rising business stars. The take can be a bit eccentric, and several of the writers seem to have been chosen for their odd backgrounds, but the result is information that is entertaining as well as useful.

Business Chicks was founded by an energetic woman called Emma Isaacs, and there is a focus on work issues that affect women, as well as blog sections on health and relationships. The site also functions as a virtual meeting-place for business women. There are links to its magazine, Latte, as well.

Greg Chapman is a small business coach and adviser, and while there is a strong element of self-promotion in his blog, there is also useful information. The blog posts about business planning, tax minimisation and the outlook for the next year are well worth a look, and there is an ongoing series on benchmarking for SMEs.


Harvard academic Clayton Christensen is a heavy hitter in business management, but his website shows him to be remarkably entertaining as well. It consolidates and expands the ideas of his books, and includes a number of video interviews.

A site with a keen focus on the US political scene, it also carries ongoing coverage of international events such as the Middle East and Russia/Ukraine conflict.

This article is from the December 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK

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