MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Category: Big Data

Can big data save the world?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 11 months ago

Can big data save the world?

Cape Town is moving towards Day Zero of its water supplies. Millions of displaced refugees are facing dire emergencies in camps and along migratory routes. And every day thousands of people are suffering gross inequities at the hands of the U.S. criminal justice system. Here's how big data is helping to prevent future water shortages, coordinate life saving response, and yield much-needed criminal justice policy changes.

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Three analytics integration lessons from the sports data revolution

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 1 month and 23 days ago

Three analytics integration lessons from the sports data revolution

You may not think of your organization as a sports team, but when it comes to data and analytics, there are more similarities than you might think. Those similarities can reveal how analytics, if effectively deployed, can lead to better decisions and more successful organizations. According to Ben Shields, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, executives can view sports as a petri dish for how their organizations can maximize the value of analytics. Although there are many lessons to be learned from the sports industry revolution, one especially valuable innovation is analytics integration—the ability of an executive to integrate an analytics program within the rest of the organization.

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Moneyball for business managers: The 7 components of a successful analytics program

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 4 months and 27 days ago


In 1977, Bill James published a landmark manual that codified the empirical analysis of baseball (Sabermetrics). During the Oakland A's 2002 season, General Manager Billy Beane famously used some of these concepts to field a team that, as a result, over-delivered on their value relative to their salaries. Beane’s innovative approach was chronicled by author Michael Lewis in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The sports data revolution was born. In 2008, five NBA teams had an analytics team; by 2016, all 30 teams had data scientists on board. From football to tennis, golf, and even little league baseball, new statistical tools are changing the game.

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How meta data is changing expectations of privacy at work

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 4 months and 19 days ago

How metadata is changing expectations of privacy at work

Workplace privacy and the expectations that go with it is a thorny and ever evolving issue. A few decades ago, many employees likely had high expectations of privacy in the workplace, as the breach of it was relegated mostly to overheard phone conversations. More recently, with the advent of email and its proliferation into the workplace, the thinking around workplace privacy has changed. Today, many organizations require their employees to sign paperwork indicating they understand that any and all emails sent through the company's email system and servers are the property of the organization—and that the employee should have no expectation of privacy.

While one may agree to the idea that the organization owns the emails sent through its own system, they may be taken aback at the thought of someone--a manager, an IT person, an HR executive--actually reading those emails. In most cases, of course, no one is reading any one employee's emails unless there is cause to, such as suspected misbehavior.

This topic was a discussion point at the recent Boston CHRO Leadership Summit (MIT Sloan Executive Education was a sponsor). The executive boardroom session, "The Gold Mine Between the Lines—Analytics-Driven HR," focused on organizational analytics and how they are evolving to drive wide-scale transformation. This discussion included the use of meta data around email to understand how an organization collaborates and reaches (or does not reach) performance management goals. The diverse group represented private sector businesses, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies. Interestingly, some of the participants commented that their millennial employees (in general) aren't concerned by the idea of their employer looking at email meta data, or even the contents of email.

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Data dilemma: To raise or not to raise the interest rate

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 years and 3 months and 2 days ago

By Roberto Rigobon, Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management and Professor of Applied Economics at MIT Sloan; a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research; and a visiting professor at IESA.

Roberto Rigobon

Nearly seven years ago the Federal Reserve put its benchmark interest rate close to zero as a way to bolster the economy and has not raised that rate since. For the past several months, the Fed has struggled to decide when it will dictate an increase, and it appears the announcement is imminent this week. While this increase is actually more of a "normalization," a December tightening of rates will have lasting consequences. 

First, let's address why leaving interest rates too low for too long is a bad idea: primarily because low interest rates can lead to bad behavior. Banks might take too much risk--after all, almost every investment looks good when the financing cost is close to zero. Individuals are also more likely to borrow too much and save too little--hence increasing leverage ratios. What harm is a loan when the interest rate is negligible?

By moving interest rate targets up or down, the Fed attempts to achieve maximum employment, stable prices and stable economic growth. The Fed will tighten interest rates (or increase rates) to stave off inflation. Conversely, the Fed will ease (or decrease rates) to spur economic growth. Raising the rates is good for the economy, but only after the economy has consolidated and is in good health. Which, right now, it is.

So if the economy is strong, why is it taking so long for the Fed to decide? To put it bluntly, they have bad data.

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Should we fear our own data?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 years and 7 months and 11 days ago

fitness tracking

Fitbit, one of the companies making wearable fitness trackers, has sold more than 20.8 million devices and has 9.5 million paid active users as of March 31, 2015, according to That's a lot of consumers using the device to track their physical activity, daily steps, and other vitals related to health and wellness (Fitbit has many integrations with other applications, enabling users to track calories, water intake, and other variables). Most of these users of tracking devices like Fitbit and Garmin may think the data on their activity belongs to them. However, they would be wrong (see our previous post, "The downside of wearable fitness technology").

In fact, not only do those companies own our data, but our own data can be used against us: to date there have been two criminal court cases where the prosecution used wearable device data to make their cases. The potential for courts and even third parties to use the data collected by fitness trackers against us could put a significant damper on this popular category of consumer devices.

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The downside of wearable fitness technology

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 years and 2 months and 13 days ago

It’s almost the time of year for making New Year resolutions, and as always, fitness goals will top most lists. With so many fitness products and technologies available, there are no shortage of tools to help to those goals come to fruition. As reported by Investor’s Business Daily, Morgan Stanley “expects wearable device shipments to increase from 6 million units in 2013 to 248 million in 2017.” Samsung has issued its own research, saying “it expects spending on technology such as smartwatches and fitness trackers to increase by 182% this Christmas, compared with last Christmas.”  So is there a wearable fitness device on your wish list—or shopping list—this year?

The options are starting to feel endless. According to Wired, “As of September 30 [2014], there were 266 wearable devices on the market (including 118 fitness wearables), with 23 slated for release before the year is out.” Most fitness trackers monitor activity, steps, calories, sleep, and more. Popular devices come from FitBit, Jawbone, Garmin, Samsung, Microsoft, TomTom, and other technology and sports equipment vendors. Fitness bracelets, for example, monitor everything from your heart rate to your sleep cycle, providing a range of metrics that can be analyzed on smartphones and/or computer applications.

What to do with all this data? Users can decide to increase the amount of time they exercise, add more walking steps to their daily routine, adjust their hours of sleep, or recalibrate their calorie intake. The metrics these technologies provide are intended to help users eliminate the “mystery” behind meeting their own fitness goals, whatever they may be.

But what most consumers don’t realize is a potential big downside to these smart devices: the potential loss of privacy. While the average consumer may think that the data collected lives on their device or in their app, it really lives on servers owned and maintained by the device providers. For this reason, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has called these devices a “privacy nightmare.”

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The case for a corporate sustainability dashboard

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 years and 3 months and 11 days ago

A recent article in MIT Sloan Management Review, "Bridging the Sustainability Gap," details the challenges businesses face in getting investors to recognize--and presumably reward--sustainability efforts. In essence, corporate sustainability efforts are growing in importance, but mainstream investors do not yet view them as relevant. The challenge, as laid out by the article, is that for investors to care, companies need to be able to measure and report on their sustainability initiatives and results. But why measure something few people seem to care about? It's a classic, chicken-or-the-egg dilemma.

The article states, "With modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) technologies and software, it's a solvable problem if management has the will." So maybe now is the time for companies to build and rely on a sustainability performance management dashboard. Corporate dashboards are used throughout many large enterprises and mid-sized businesses to measure, monitor, and make decisions on data for managing finances, operations, risk, and more. If you can measure it, and have trusted data to rely on, chances are you can create a dashboard for it. 

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