Is your online persona projecting the right image?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 days ago

"In our digital age, it's no surprise that the use of video is increasing in all industries, whether it is in a business setting to encourage employees to take action, teaching videos to train employees, or videos to boost morale," says MIT Professor Edward Schiappa. "Videos are a powerful medium and if we want to encourage people about certain behaviors, it is more powerful to show and not just tell through a visual channel."


The expression "a picture is worth a thousand words" may have started as an advertising slogan, but there is no question that visual images are just as powerful in today's digital age as they were in predigital society. In fact, in a society where people often meet for the first time via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, visual elements are an important part of an online profile, professional or otherwise. The question to ask is, "Are you the master of the visual messages that you are sending personally, professionally, or on behalf of your organization?"

As a society, we innately make inferences based on images and often make snap judgements from those inferences. In turn, those judgements affect how we are perceived by the people we want to influence in our daily lives, whether they are friends, family, or potential employers. According to Edward Schiappa, MIT Professor and expert in the field of digital communications, there are three things to think about when it comes to visual persuasion in the digital age and identifying who you are online.

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Price optimization: Q&A with Professor Simchi-Levi

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 days ago

MIT Sloan Executive Education recently hosted the latest in its INNOVATION@WORKTM webinar series, entitled “The New Frontier in Price Optimization," with MIT Professor David Simchi-Levi. The webinar, now available on demand, which drew hundreds of attendees from across the world, presented recent breakthroughs in the development of models that combine machine learning and optimization for pricing that significantly improve revenue and reduce inventory risks

During the webinar, Simchi-Levi presented a case study on Rue La La—an online retailer with whom he worked that offers invitation-only flash sales—to answer the question: “How can we generate an effective forecast for a product we’ve never sold before?” His second example, Groupon, a daily deal website and mobile application offering things to do, see, eat, and buy, focused on how to combine forecasting with learning on the fly to understand the probability that a customer will purchase a product at a specific price. Simchi-Levi’s third case-in-point was the story of B2W Digital, the leading e-commerce company in Latin America, which took price optimization even further by leveraging forecasting, learning on the fly, and optimization.

The event included a live question and answer session and was immediately followed by a Facebook chat with the webinar audience. Recently we spoke with Professor Simch-Levi to dig deeper into the topic of pricing optimization.

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Could a scandal like Volkswagen's happen to your organization?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 8 days ago


Just over seven months ago, MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer wrote in the Huffington Post about one of the top headline-grabbing stories: Volkswagen's diesel deception scandal. Unfortunately for Volkswagen, the scandal shows no signs of going away any time soon. It was only recently that a federal court in San Francisco announced a settlement where Volkswagon would fix or buy back nearly 500,000 diesel cars in the U.S.

There are still more components to settling the issue. According to the New York Times, "Lawyers in the case are still negotiating the fines that Volkswagen must pay, as well as the compensation that owners will receive." The same article cites Kelley Blue Book as estimating the "cost of buying back all the cars in the U.S. at $7 billion." Then, of course, Volkswagen has to address the same diesel emissions issue in Europe.

One might wonder how a highly respected automobile manufacturer and global brand could intentionally deceive its customers and the public to this extent. According to Scharmer, "The VW disaster is a leadership failure of epic proportion. It's connected to a leadership style and culture that, until now, was the source of incredible pride and success." As Scharmer points out in his Huffington Post article, that culture "prevented leaders from reading and recognizing information that, in a culture of fear and control, no one ever wants to communicate upwards--thereby preventing the company from learning as a system."

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Productivity tips that keep us efficient and productive every day

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 11 days ago


Often it's the small tasks that wreak havoc in an already overscheduled day at the office. How can we, as business professionals with never enough time to complete the tasks at hand, better utilize the time we have to get things done?

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer and productivity management guru Robert Pozen says there are some simple things we can do every day to make ourselves more productive and make our work day more efficient. In his short course, Maximizing Your Personal Productivity: How to Become an Efficient and Effective Executive, he identifies culprits of an unproductive day, some of which may come as a surprise and others all too familiar.

  • As a manager, one of the best ways to make good use of your time is to delegate the tasks that can be completed by your direct reports. As an executive, it's important to focus on the tasks that you do well--usually the "bigger picture," more strategic items. Learn to delegate the rest.
  • Most executives have annual goals they are working towards. Focusing on long-term goals and connecting them to your daily schedule is an efficient way to reach those goals. Breaking them down into smaller, more reachable goals that can be tackled every day helps.
  • We all know email can be the stealth time killer. How often has each of us intended to check our email for just a few minutes and discovered we are still at it 45 minutes later?
  • By all means, take care of email, but don't get overruled by it. Pozen uses the 80/20 and the OHIO rules. Respond to only 20 percent of all of our emails. Deal with those immediately and forget the rest. In addition, only open each email once--the old “Only Handle it Once (OHIO) rule.

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How digital platforms conquer all

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 16 days ago


The platform concept is not new; it's actually been practiced for millennia. The traditional, open-air marketplace, such as a Middle-Eastern souk, is one such platform in which farmers and craftspeople sell their wares openly to consumers. The original stock markets were the same--buyers and sellers of shares would gather in person to establish fair market prices.

The difference between these traditional platform businesses and modern platforms is the addition of digital technology, which expands reach, efficacy, and convenience. Businesses engaged in digital platform models seek to leverage network effects--a phenomenon whereby a good or service becomes more valuable when more people use it. The car-service platform Uber is the perfect example, claiming a huge and growing share of the rides-for-hire market, displacing taxi and limousine services as a result.

However, Uber's disruption of its industry may only have just begun. In the upcoming MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Platform Revolution: Making Networked Markets Work for You (online), Geoffrey Parker, a Visiting Scholar and Research Fellow at MIT's Initiative for the Digital Economy, will suggest that the advent of self-driving cars may signficantly improve Uber's already stellar economic model and possibly lead to a series of cascading impacts. Might millions of people eschew car ownership altogether and instead rely on instantly available driverless vehicles? What would this mean for ancillary business, such as automakers, auto insurance, or even parking?

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Waiting for blockchain's tipping point

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 17 days ago


There's great debate around Bitcoin, a digital currency and blockchain (the underlying technology behind Bitcoin). Is it a good thing, or will it propagate in the "dark Internet?" How will countries and institutions regulate it? Could it really revolutionize financial transactions in developing and third world countries? And, a question posed at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, what use case of blockchain will become its tipping point?

The MIT Media Lab's Digital Currency Initiative describes blockchain as a decentralized public ledger of debits and credits that no one person or company owns or controls; its users control it directly. This system lets people transfer money without a bank, for example, or write simple, enforceable contracts without a lawyer. It can even turn physical items like real estate or concert tickets into digital assets that can be sold with low (or nonexistent) transaction fees. According to Brian Forde, Director of Digital Currency at the MIT Media Lab, "Many are projecting that the impact [of blockchain] will be similar to that of the Internet--disrupting traditional industries, challenging existing regulations, and significantly increasing the volume of commerce by dramatically lowering the cost to transact and establishing trust between two previously unknown parties." You can learn more about blockchain in this video from Financial Times.

MIT's Digital Currency Initiative brings together global experts in areas ranging from cryptography to economics, privacy, and distributed systems to take on this important new area of research. Experts involved in the Initiative include MIT Professor Christian Catalini*, who moderated the recent CIO Symposium panel, "How Blockchain will Transform the Digital Economy." As Catalini described it, blockchain is “bringing together the fields of computer science, market design, and law.” In some ways, the opportunities around blockchain technology seem almost limitless—it can enable trusted micro-transactions, it is inherently auditable, and it addresses what can’t be addressed by traditional distributed databases.

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New approaches to the skills gap

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 28 days ago

Last week, George Westerman, Research Scientist at MIT Sloan and the MIT Center for Digital Business, showed a headline from the Wall Street Journal article, "CIOs, Facing IT Skills Gap, Eye the Gig Economy for Talent," to the attendees of a panel he moderated at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium 2016. The panel discussion, Developing your Organization's Skills for the Digital Future, played to a packed room.


While turning to freelancers and contract employees participating in the gig economy may be one solution to the talent gap, there are companies taking other approaches as well. One panelist in the skills discussion at the MIT CIO Symposium may have offered a solution for winning the talent war. Gerald Chertavian, CEO and Founder of Year Up, believes that there’s a wealth of untapped talent among the six million U.S. young adults who are "out of work, out of school, and without access to the economic mainstream." As he told the attendees, "These are smart, hard-working young people who just happen to have been born or live in the wrong zip code, essentially making a college education impossible for them."

Chertavian's organization works with more than 250 organizations and companies to develop the talent in these young people and move them into white collar, career-focused jobs, such as software engineers and (highly prized) Java developers. The list of companies turning to Year Up to address their talent shortage is impressive and includes Accenture, Airbnb, American Express, athenahealth, AT&T, Bank of America, Biogen IDEC, Cisco, Deloitte, Facebook, GE Energy, Google, and many others

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MIT marks 100 years in Cambridge

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month ago

MIT Alumni at Moving Day Celebration

Today MIT is synonymous with innovation and Cambridge. But it was only 100 years ago that MIT firmly planted itself in Cambridge. For its first 55 years, MIT was based in Boston; the school moved to Cambridge in 1916. So last week, as part of a series of "MIT 2016" celebrations, the school held commemorative Moving Day events to mark the occasion.

Back in 1916, MIT conducted a ceremonial crossing of the river, which included bringing the school's charter across the Charles River on a barge, the Bucentaur. This year's crossing of the river included a parade and competition with 26 entries on the water and 28 groups crossing the Massachusetts Avenue bridge. If you happened upon the event, you’d have witnessed many vessels crossing the Charles, including an electric hydrofoil craft, a motorized swarm of kayaks, a bamboo raft, and a pedal-powered floating platform in the shape of the dome from MIT's main building. Additional participants in the water crossing included the MIT varsity sailing team and rower Veronica Toro, who is hoping to row in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

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