How exercise and diet impact your brain health

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 6 days ago


It's February, which means time is already ticking on those New Year's resolutions made last month. For many of us, losing weight and/or getting fit was likely on the list. But what about getting smarter? Most executives would agree that they could benefit from a sharper, more agile mind, but how realistic is that goal? As it turns out, not only is it plausible to "get smarter," it may be an automatic benefit of the resolution to slim down and get in shape.

Last month, Wendy A. Suzuki, a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University, authored an article for Quartz in which she claims that the neurological benefits of exercise could have profound, positive implications for how we live, learn, and age as a society. Her article offered some motivating takeaways that help to explain how exercise can do just that.

  • Exercise combats stress. The chronic stressors we face every day can harvest negative feelings. Exercise can combat those feelings through increases in key neurotransmitters that are often depleted by anxiety and depression.
  • Exercise improves our ability to shift and focus attention. A recent study conducted by Suzuki and her colleagues showed that exercise improved prefrontal cortex functioning. Need your brain to be at its best for a big meeting or presentation? Squeeze in a workout first.
  • Exercise can improve our memory and attention span. According to Suzuki and a recent studies in rodents, "Increased levels of physical exercise can result in improved memory by enhancing both the birth rate and the survival of new hippocampal brain cells."

Dr. Tara Swart agrees: We can be slimmer AND smarter this year

Our own resident neuroscientist and Senior Lecturer, Dr. Tara Smart, agrees that it's possible to get slimmer and smarter at the same time, as a result of exercise and proper nutrition--to really make it count. In addition to the benefits of healthy activity, what you choose to put in your mouth can have a profound impact on your mind. A recent blog on her website shared healthy tips from nutritionist Hayley Pedrick to help our brains be refreshed, revived, and prepared for the New Year.

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Marvin Minsky, father of AI, passes away

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 9 days ago


Marvin Minsky, a pioneering mathematician, cognitive scientist, and computer engineer, and a father of artificial intelligence (AI), passed away in late January, at the age of 88. Minsky, who received his BA and PhD in mathematics from Harvard and Princeton, respectively, was Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Emeritus, at MIT. 

He was widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities in artificial intelligence. His seminal book, Society of Mind, explores intellectual structure and function, and is often used for understanding the diversity of the mechanisms interacting in intelligence and thought. Minsky received numerous awards for his work, including being inducted into the AI Hall of Fame, established by the IEEE Computer Society.

Erik Brynjolfsson, Professor of Information Technology at MIT Sloan and Director of The MIT Center for Digital Business, told SearchCIO that Minsky "changed the way we think about thinking." Inspired by mathematical work on logic and computation, Minsky believed that the human mind was fundamentally no different than a computer. He focused on engineering intelligent machines, first at Lincoln Lab, and then later as a professor at MIT, where he cofounded the Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1959 with another pioneer of the field, John McCarthy, who passed away in 2011.

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#OurAccord: How individuals can play a role in climate change

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 days ago

Jason Jay, Lecturer on Sustainability and Director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan believes the December 2015 UN international climate change negotiations, commonly referred to as the Paris Accord, "represents a possibility that the world can come together and solve one of the most complex problems we face as a civilization."

In his article, "The Paris Accord is #OurAccord," published in the Huffington Post, Jay argues that when it comes to climate change, "There is no 'they'… the beauty of this moment is the possibility for every building block of our society to come together behind this singular crisis and opportunity--our organizations, our neighborhoods, our schools, our families, all of us as individuals."

It might be hard to envision how the actions of individuals can truly impact climate change, but perhaps we should all embrace the challenge and recall Lao Tzu's famous quote, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." So what steps can we take to play our own role in climate change. 

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In the news: Our faculty weigh in on hot business topics

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 14 days ago


MIT Sloan Executive Education faculty are world renowned for their research and cutting-edge business thinking. Publications and news outlets seek their expert advice on everything from concise decision making to optimizing shareholder returns to executing complex business strategies. Here are just a few of their many recent takeaways circulating in the media.  

Bob Pozen on making big decisions, The Economist: "If you spend two months researching an issue before making a decision, you'll waste time gathering irrelevant facts and may miss critical issues. Start ruling out options after just two days and keep making tentative conclusions to focus your research and make better decisions faster."

Zeynep Ton on happier employees and higher profits, CNN: "The tradeoff between low prices and good prices is actually a false tradeoff. If companies run their operations well, they can have low prices, good jobs, and great shareholder returns at the same time."

Deborah Ancona on new management structures, Fast Company: "Leaders will come in and they'll change the structure without realizing that they haven't changed the norms of how things get done. People don't take the initiative that you need in that kind of structure because the culture is still one of hierarchy."

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The MIT Sloan Advanced Management Program--your questions answered

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 17 days ago

You’re a senior executive looking to solve tough business problems and advance your career. You know you want an immersive program with top faculty and a cohort of exceptional peers, but you're also looking for a program that can fit your time constraints. You may be considering an advanced management program. If so, here are some questions you may be considering.

Why an Advanced Management Program?

Wondering if an advanced management program might be right for you? Executives enroll in postgraduate programs for many reasons, but most have an immediate need to focus on strategic skills and particular business challenges. You may be an entrepreneur looking to scale your business. Or perhaps you are preparing to step up into a job that is bigger and more complex than your current role.

Some advanced management programs tend to be "MBA refreshers." The Advanced Management Program (AMP) at MIT Sloan, however, is a five-week program focused less on core curriculum--the entire course is built around custom modules--and more on strategic cross-functional skill sets that you can immediately put into practice.

For example, one former AMP participant entered the program with a patent for a new product, and by the time he left, he had built a commercial business plan, received legal advice, and made essential contacts for the development of his product. Another attendee who was in charge of supply chain for beverages and beers for his US-based company wrote a plan for growing the business in Africa.

Why the Advanced Management Program at MIT Sloan?

There are many advanced management programs out there. So why choose MIT Sloan? In addition to its challenging learning experience, the program has many features that differentiates it from similar programs, making it--in a word--transformational. Executives from around the globe enroll in AMP to take advantage of:

  • The engineering and scientific culture of MIT
  • The integration of science, technology, and management that is part of the Sloan curriculum
  • The small cohort of global leaders (limited to 35), providing outstanding opportunities for networking, bonding, and the sharing of ideas.
  • The faculty--the same thought leaders who teach in our exceptional degree programs for experienced managers, such as the MIT Sloan Fellows Program and the MIT Executive MBA.
  • One-on-one leadership coaching and individualized, 360-degree feedback assessments from these world renowned scholars
  • Our alumni network and the innovation eco-system around MIT

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Insights for GE as it relocates to Boston's unique "innovation ecosystem"

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 23 days ago

Formerly known as General Electric, GE announced this January that it is moving its corporate headquarters from suburban Connecticut to downtown Boston. In the Boston Business Journal's recent coverage of the story, GE Chairman/CEO Jeff Immelt said: "GE is a $130 billion high-tech global industrial company, one that is leading the digital transformation of industry. We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations."

Formed by the 1892 merger of Thomas Edison’s company with Massachusetts' own Thomson-Houston Electric Company, GE is not alone in considering the Boston area as a world-class hub of innovation. Earlier this month, Bloomberg confirmed what many of us who live and work here know to be true: Massachusetts is the most innovative state in the nation.

So what does GE's move to Boston mean for the Commonwealth, for the City, and in particular for our innovation ecosystem? And what might GE like to know, even at this stage, as it thinks through how best to leverage the innovation and entrepreneurship that drive much of the activity in Greater Boston and beyond?

Let us start with defining the expression "innovation ecosystem" that has been so widely used in the discussions of GE's decision.  In our work at MIT, we define an innovation ecosystem as the connections among five key stakeholders: entrepreneurs (of course), universities (as you'd expect), and risk capital providers (beyond just VCs)--but also with key roles for government and large corporations. 

Innovation model

In our research on, and teaching about, such ecosystems around the world, we emphasize that an ecosystem relies upon the collective actions that these stakeholders take to contribute and share resources (talent, ideas, infrastructure, money, connections). 

Our work also shows that such innovation ecosystems are complex and sometimes fragile things.  Many places in the world wish to emulate such an innovation hub, but few pull off the alchemy necessary to launch or sustain such ecosystems.  As such, we have been increasingly highlighting (e.g., in BetaBoston,) the importance of a certain innovation diplomacy within and among the various stakeholder groups, recognizing the interests of the other parties, and taking actions that find opportunities for mutual long-term benefit.

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MIT thought leaders weigh in on forthcoming business trends

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 26 days ago

At the dawn of each New Year, we ask the faculty at MIT Sloan Executive Education to weigh in on the key trends in their fields. Here are six MIT thought leaders on the topics and trends they see developing in the months to come.

Steven Eppinger on design thinking as a smart business practice
"There has been huge interest of late in applying 'designerly' behaviors to a range of challenges beyond the obvious areas of product and service innovation. Several aspects of design thinking can be applied directly to business process innovation and operational problem solving. Based on the current buzz around a wide range of innovation opportunities, I see this trend continuing in 2016." Eppinger teaches in Managing Complex Technical ProjectsSystematic Innovation of Products, Processes, and Services, and the Advanced Management Program. 

Tara Swart on technology and the future of the human brain in business
"It will be more important than ever to be harness brain agility and diversity of thinking in the face of accelerating technological capability. The people who can leverage their creativity, intuition, and empathy as well as analytical skills will be better placed to succeed in a changing business environment, tolerate ambiguity, and lead to step changes in innovation." Swart teaches in Neuroscience for Leadership.

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MIT Sloan Executive Certificates--the questions you've always wanted to ask

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 24 days ago

If you're considering pursuing an Executive Certificate with MIT Sloan Executive Education, you probably have some questions about the process. Here are some answers that may help.

What is an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate?

An Executive Certificate is a course of study that allows participants to further their business knowledge and skills on a convenient, flexible schedule--in as few as two weeks or over time (up to four years).  It is formal recognition of professional development and commitment to continuous learning.

What types of certificates are available?

Each of our 40+ short courses fall into one of three areas of concentration known as certificate tracks: Management and LeadershipStrategy and Innovation; and Technology, Operations, and Value Chain Management. Certificates are offered in each of these tracks, which focus on specific areas of interest and meet different goals.

What is the focus of the Management and Leadership track?

This track is an ideal option for technical executives who want to enhance their general management and leadership skills to become confident leaders prepared to tackle challenging issues in complex environments. The curriculum focuses on core business competencies including marketing, finance, negotiations, change management, and systems thinking, offering solutions to problems that executives face every day.

What is the focus of the Strategy and Innovation track?

MIT Sloan is world renowned for the development and advancement of bold management methods and practices that address critical business issues in innovation. Participants in this track will examine cutting-edge strategic approaches and tools for managing products, technology, and an innovative company culture--as well as how to incorporate forward-looking digital strategies to enhance organizational success.

What is the focus of the Technology, Operations, and Value Chain Management Track?

Technology-based processes are so intrinsic to today's business environment that many people underestimate their impact and the unexpected ways technology may be used. Programs in this track offer nontechnical executives and tech-savvy managers an opportunity to discover how to recognize, manage, and profit from the significant ways in which rapidly evolving technology and global networks transform an organization.

How do I qualify for an Executive Certificate?

To qualify, participants must complete four programs--with at least three coming from their chosen certificate track--within a four-year period. At least one of the programs must be attended in person rather than virtually. There are many different program combinations available, including the option of completing the Executive Certificate requirements in as few as two weeks (our many consecutive programs make it possible to complete two programs in as few as four days).

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