Modern workplace: How MIT is expanding its flex work guidelines

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 days ago

Contirbuted by Dr. Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, Executive Education, MIT Sloan School of Management and Katerina Martchouk

Flex Work

A couple of years ago, the Office of Executive Education at the MIT Sloan School of Management began testing a fundamentally new approach to how, where and when our people work--by developing a set of team-based, flexible work guidelines that engage the entire team instead of making individual accommodations. The pilot proved highly successful and later served as a model for a number of pilot programs on flexible arrangements, now managed through MIT Human Resources, across MIT. We are very pleased with this accomplishment, and with the support and enthusiasm of our colleagues in the Human Resources departments at MIT Sloan and MIT.

Fierce Competition for Talent

Some academic institutions may be hotbeds of innovation, yet when it comes to developing and adopting workplace policies to accommodate today's workers, higher education has been lagging behind other industries, according to the widely publicized Gallup report “State of the American Workplace, 2017.” This is a serious concern for us at MIT, as we compete with industry in retaining and recruiting the best talent across our departments, labs and centers. From industry giants like Google, Biogen, and Akamai, to scores of exciting startups--many fueled by their proximity to MIT--Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., is a battleground for top talent. As the economy picks up and people feel more confident about their careers, we have to step up our efforts to continue to be among America's best employers (MIT was ranked #12 in the Forbes 2016 survey.) (Image: Copyright © 2017 Gallup, Inc.)

Exception Becomes the Rule

The Gallup report was very clear on what American employers need to do to not only hire and keep the best talent--but to keep employees engaged and productive.

As MIT Sloan professor Zeynep Ton points out, engaged employees are, in fact, more productive, which leads to more business value for employers. Ton teaches in The Good Jobs Strategy: Delivering Superior Value to Customers, Shareholders, and Employees, a new program designed to help leaders of service businesses understand how they can manage operations where everyone wins.

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Human centered design means better products--and better leadership

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 6 days ago

Matthew Kressy and students at MIT IDM

There is a shift happening in innovative product design--and it's putting people at the center of it. Human-centered design is the practice of connecting with the needs and emotions of customers to create compelling products and services. It's driven by a methodology of connecting with and developing empathy for users, and it replaces assumptions about users' needs and preferences with actual information acquired from the field. This process-heavy, people-oriented approach includes researching existing products, interviewing and observing customers, quick and iterative prototyping, and resonance testing--all with the goal of achieving solutions that create value.

"We believe that through a deeper understanding of people, we can identify and create more successful solutions for people, companies, and society," says Brian Matt, Senior Principal Director of the design and innovation consulting firm Altitude | Accenture. "We try to get into their world, and see it through their eyes," adds Dan Ostrower, Principal Director.

The human-centered design process also requires a product team to present their findings to their organization, and often up the chain, to achieve buy in. In many cases, this is where the hard part begins. Matthew Kressy, Director and Co-Founder of MIT Integrated Design & Management (IDM), refers to this as the expression phase. "The purpose of expression is to transfer that empathy to the organization," says Kressy. "The individuals on the [product] team may care, but now they have to get the organization to care, with the obvious goal of designing and manufacturing a product that will better match with the needs of the users."

Kressy is an expert in product design and development. As an entrepreneur and founder of Designturn, he has designed, invented, engineered, and manufactured products for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between. Kressy believes in interdisciplinary, design-driven product development derived from deep user research, creative concept generation, and rapid prototype iteration, and he is passionate about teaching this approach to the design process in design schools--and business schools.

In his two-day MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Leadership by Design: Innovation Process and Culture, Kressy presents the ways in which highly successful companies, such as Tesla, Apple, and Procter & Gamble innovate continuously by connecting with customer needs and emotions to create compelling products and services. These companies have created action-based organizational cultures in which empathy is generated, trial and error is encouraged, and failure is celebrated as a source of learning.

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New research shows integrated solutions are key to digital transformation

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 days ago


Digital disruption is rapidly changing the entire competitive landscape for companies, prompting them to learn how to apply new technology and organizational capabilities. In a working paper published earlier this year, "Designing Digital Organizations—Summary of Survey Findings," researchers including Jeanne W. Ross of the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) looked at the digital capabilities of 171 senior business and IT leaders and offered recommendations on how companies can stimulate their digital transformations.

Digital disruption, as Ross explains in this 2016 video, involves the impact of "SMACIT"—social, mobile, analytics, cloud, and the Internet of Things. In the course of their research, the paper's authors noted that efforts to leverage digital technologies and enhance customer information and engagement is resulting in the need for greater integration of products, services, and processes across entire organizations.

Among the report's key findings:

  • The extent to which digitized solutions are integrated and customer engagement is personalized predicts a company's performance relative to competitors.
  • Companies that create both integrated digitized solutions and personalized customer engagement demonstrate more innovativeness and agility.
  • Companies rely on three key technology resources to build this innovativeness and agility: an operational backbone; a digital services platform with reusable business, technology, and data components; and linkages between newer digital services and data and infrastructure services embedded in the operational backbone.

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Industry leaders share wisdom on leading, innovating, and disrupting

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 13 days ago

Ray Wang speaking at MIT

What defines the path to success in today's business world? From lessons about embracing failure and passion to the importance of mentorship, top executives share their views on success and more as part of the Innovative Leadership (iLead) Series, presented by the MIT Leadership Center and MIT Sloan. The iLead Series was developed to give a platform to a diverse set of thought leaders in problem-focused leadership. The series celebrates innovators who make a difference by finding solutions to tough, edgy problems in a complex, fast-moving world.

The following talks from the 2016 and 2017 iLead Series can be viewed on the iLead website and on the MIT Leadership Center's YouTube channel.

Embracing digitization and mentors: When John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco Systems Inc., was recovering from tumultuous times at his company in 2011, he looked for a mentor and found former General Electric Company chief Jack Welch, who told him that those tough times could be the best years of leadership. Today, he is an enthusiastic supporter of digitization, cautioning that the U.S. is the only major country without a strong digitization plan and is at risk of losing its economic power. "Either you disrupt or you get left behind. There’s no entitlement just because we led before." Watch the video.

Learning from failure: Andy Plump, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. Inc., says whether you lead or follow it helps to embrace failure, and that partnerships with outside companies will make it easier to fail fruitfully. He calls it "honorable failure" and adds, "When we have a failure now, we bring it to a public setting and we learn from it." Watch the video.

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Is exercise contagious? Yes, but in ways that might surprise you

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 14 days ago

Exercise is contagious

If you're involved in the marketing efforts of your business, you may be aware of influencer marketing, a practice where companies and brands focus on key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market, often using social media. The ability of individuals to persuade and influence behavior by way of social channels is by no means limited to business, of course. Research shows how some "ordinary" individuals really can influence friends when it comes to specific activities.

For example, let's look at fitness. Between wearable devices and tracking apps, there are many methods with which to track, communicate, and share fitness accomplishments--or even just their daily activities. Fitbit has more than 23.2 million active users. RunKeeper claims it has 50 million runners. And Strava, a running and cycling tracker, reportedly has approximately 1.2 million active users (note: Strava does not release its numbers publicly). Clearly, lots of people, presumably across a wide range of demographics, use various fitness devices and apps on a regular basis.

One might assume that choosing to work out (or to not) is an individual decision based on motivation, training goals, how one is feeling that day, weather, and more. In a new study recently published in Nature Communications and widely covered by the New York Times, the LA Times, Runner’s World, and more, Sinan Aral, Professor of Information Technology and Marketing at MIT Sloan, proved that social networks can influence exercise routines.

The research project included a collaboration with a fitness device maker to better understand the influence of social networks on activity. By taking activity data and overlaying it with both weather data and social network information, Aral was able to deduce that less active people had a bigger influence on their friends than those who were very active, like marathon runners.

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Coveted teaching awards presented to MIT Sloan faculty

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 18 days ago

As well-respected experts throughout the world, MIT Sloan faculty are certainly used to getting awards and accolades for their achievements. However, many will admit that among the most coveted are the MIT Sloan Excellence in Teaching Awards, given to honor educational innovation and excellence.

This year, the 2016-2017 Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Sinan Aral, the David Austin Professor of Management and a Professor of Information Technology and Marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management. Aral teaches in the popular Digital Marketing and Social Media Analytics program at MIT Sloan executive Education. His research focuses on social contagion, product virality and measuring, and managing how information diffusion in massive social networks such as Twitter and Facebook affects information worker productivity, consumer demand, and viral marketing.

Funded by MIT Alumnus J. Burgess Jamieson, SB '52, and his wife, Libby J. Burgess, the Jamieson Prize was established in 2006 to honor faculty contributions to educational innovation and excellence. Simon Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship at the School, also received the Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

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Time-maximizing strategies of highly successful people

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 27 days ago

Bob Pozen on maximizing productivity

There are few executives today who don't wish they could be more productive. Even the most successful individuals are looking for new and better ways to get more accomplished while maintaining or increasing their quality of life.

"Regardless of location, industry, or occupation, productivity is a challenge faced by every professional," says Bob Pozen, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan and author of the bestselling book, Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. Pozen was Executive Chairman of MFS Investment Management and previously President of Fidelity Management & Research Company (while a full-time lecturer at Harvard Business School and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review). In other words, he knows a thing or two about time management.

Nonetheless, Pozen still finds himself working to improve his own skills, both at work and at home, to get the most out of each day. He also believes that staying tuned into the perspectives of other productivity experts is critical to a well-rounded outlook.

With that in mind, here are some tips from Pozen and other highly successful people who do their best to keep time on their side.

Get your priorities straight
"Most professionals have not taken the time to write down their goals and prioritize them," says Pozen. "Without a specific set of goals to pursue, many ambitious people devote insufficient time to activities that actually support their highest professional priorities." This discrepancy between top priorities and time allocations can happen to anyone, in any field, at any level of an organization.

His MIT Sloan Executive Education course, Maximizing Your Personal Productivity: How to Become an Efficient and Effective Executive, begins with an important session on goal setting that forces participants to reflect on their core values and professional priorities. "No matter what your career aspirations are, you should begin by thinking carefully about why you are engaging in any activity and what you expect to get out of it." Pozen takes participants though a six-step exercise to establish their highest-ranking goals and to better match their time allocations with these top goals. Learn more about these steps in a previous post.

Pozen also reminds us that time, in and of itself, is not the best measure of your productivity or of your employees' commitment. "“The key metric is what you get accomplished, not how many hours you’re in [the office].” Read more in this recent Talent Economy article, "Is Time Still the Best Measure of Work in the Knowledge Economy?"

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Making sense of IoT with the best of MIT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 28 days ago

Contributed by Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education

Making Sense of IoT with the Best of MIT

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) in London, and participating in several conference events as a speaker. One panel in particular--"IoT in Society," which focused on the intersections of various areas of life and work—brought the idea of interconnectedness into high relief. The Internet of Things is--of course--not limited to "things" or just to the Internet or even to the tech sector. As business leaders grapple with the IoT reality and prepare their organizations and themselves for the future, understanding the importance of interconnectedness among different sectors of business and life is essential.

Here at MIT, we have a long history of different kinds of thinkers collaborating, which is just what organizations need to be doing, and which makes the Institute a naturally appealing place for managers to learn how to develop the skills needed to lead in the era of IoT. We have faculty members in engineering and technology, and science and social science, as well as business--all at the cutting edge of their fields, but also used to actually interact with each other and collaborating both in research and teaching. And so the ability to bring all of those resources into an executive education program, for example, and collaborate with partners from across departments, is unusual for a business school. MIT's Sloan School of Management is in a fortunate position to tap into the whole of MIT.

The executive education programs that we offer--in partnership with the School of Engineering, the Office of Digital Learning, MIT Media Lab, and the Computational Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL)--are about "demystifying" IoT, as our Digital Capability Leader Paul McDonagh-Smith puts it. A tech industry veteran, McDonagh-Smith knows where we need to shed the light. Prior to working with us, he spent decades at companies like Nortel and Avaya, and now is driving a lot of the development of our IoT-focused programs and making sure that we engage the best partners from across MIT.

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