System Architecture, a new book by Bruce Cameron

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 days ago

System Architecture

A new book, System Architecture: Strategy and Product Development for Complex Systems, by Bruce Cameron, Director of the System Architecture Lab at MIT and a Lecturer in Engineering Systems, focuses on modern complex systems and the science behind them. It is the result of 20 years of research by Cameron and his fellow co-authors Edward F. Crawley, President of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow and Daniel Selva, a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell.

At the highest level, Cameron explains how to look at system architecture as a series of decisions that can be actively sorted and managed. Readers are provided with examples of good architectures and the modes of thinking required to analyze system architectures. The case studies presented range from building farm equipment to the International Space Station.

Continue reading

MIT's Thomas Kochan Earns Lifetime Achievement Aspen Faculty Pioneer Award

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 days ago

Thomas Kochan, the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Work and Employment Research and Engineering Systems at MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Co-Director for the Institute for Work and Employment Research at MIT was recently named the "Lifetime Achievement" award winner of this year's prestigious Aspen Faculty Pioneer Awards from the Aspen Institute of Business & Society Program. The Faculty Pioneer Awards were created in 1999 to honor educators who "demonstrate leadership and risk-taking--and blaze a trail toward curriculum that deeply examines the relationships between capital markets, firms and the public good." 

According to the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, the focus on this year's awards was to recognize and honor faculty who are teaching about inequality in their MBA classrooms. The awards honor faculty who are prompting students to think expansively about their role as managers as well as global citizens, now and over the long term.

Continue reading

Oilfield company taps into MIT philosophy for customized approach to organizational learning

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 8 days ago


Although Aker Solutions is an international company with 28,000 employees in more than 30 countries, the company discovered it needed a stronger level of management if the company wanted to reach its ambitious growth targets in an increasingly complex marketplace.

The Norway-based company that provides oilfield products, systems, and services for customers in the oil and gas industry worldwide, turned to MIT Sloan Executive Education Custom Programs for assistance.

"It was important that the school we partner with is responsive and adaptive to our business," says Bjarte Johannessen, Head of Organisation Development at Aker Solutions. "The reason we chose MIT is the Mens et Manus philosophy. It resonates well with us, because we are an organization of highly competent people who deliver products, systems, and services to very demanding customers. A very strong academic, scientific foundation combined with practical application is key to how we think about organizational learning in our company."

Continue reading

Innovating innovation: Tesla

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 days ago

Tesla was recently named to the top of The World's Most Innovative Companies list, produced by Forbes magazine. This is despite the fact that the company will not be turning a profit this year. Of course, there is a strong expectation that the company will become profitable. But in the meantime, its approach to innovation is, in itself, innovative and somewhat counter to the standard operating procedures used by many so-called innovative companies.

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center, and co-author Jeff Dyer, recently examined some of the unusual strategies and tactics used within Tesla in "Decoding Tesla's Secret Formula," an article that accompanied the Forbes' list. Here are some of the ways Tesla is defying convention--even the convention of innovation.

Forget the MVP

The Lean Startup methodology recommends companies focus on developing a minimum viable product (MVP) before creating a full-blown product. The idea is that the MVP is the core of a build-measure-learn feedback loop that helps guide a company to building a product that solves a real problem, and one that companies will buy. The measure-learn aspect of the loop addresses the "buy" aspect of developing a product.

According to Gregersen, Tesla takes a completely different approach. "Tesla never pursued the classic route of going after low-end, price-sensitive customers first with cheaper, inferior technology. It doesn't pursue nonconsumption, or customers who don’t currently drive cars," writes Gregersen. "Tesla has instead proved to be a different kind of disruptor, a high-end version that can be just as troublesome for the incumbents." 

Continue reading

Is your lean startup violating labor laws?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 19 days ago


Many entrepreneurs today are well familiar with the principles of a lean startup. In a nutshell, they are guiding ideas on how startups can operate with much less waste. But over the years, what was really a theory on how to quickly build products that would be accepted in the marketplace became a practice on how to create entrepreneurial organizations with minimal financial investment. "Bootstrapping" and "working on a shoestring" have become synonymous.

Operating as leanly as possible makes much sense to most entrepreneurs--especially those who have not yet been funded. Many startups will leverage free and inexpensive services and technology to cut costs, and others will forgo hiring employees and instead rely on contractors to perform much of the work. While the latter may seem like a wise approach to building a lean organization, there is growing risk in that model. There are fundamental legal differences between a contractor and an employee, and startups fueled by the work of contractors need to be aware that government (state and federal) are cracking down on organizations that are intentionally or inadvertently violating labor laws.

Workforce magazine refers to the misclassification of employees as independent contractors as "the topic du jour in employment law." According to the U.S. Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division's formal interpretation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, “Misclassification of employees as independent contractors is found in an increasing number of workplaces in the United States, in part reflecting larger restructuring of business organizations." The government advisory concludes, "In sum, most workers are employees under the [federal law's] broad definitions."

Continue reading

A Q&A with executive certificate holder Sidita Hasi

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 22 days ago

Sidita Hasi

The following Q&A was conducted with Sidita Hasi, a recent recipient of an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership and an executive for FedEx Trade Networks. To earn her certificate she completed the following short courses: Neuroscience for LeadershipMaximizing Your Personal ProductivityCommunication and Persuasion in the Digital Age, and Creating High Velocity Organizations.  

What is your role at your company? Are there particular challenges you face that prompted you to enroll in executive education?

I currently work as a Project Leader for FedEx Trade Networks, the freight forwarding and customs brokerage arm of global shipping giant FedEx Corp. At the core of our corporate mission is delivering and exceeding customer expectations, what we call the "Purple Promise." I am responsible for overseeing and leading projects in regard to air/ocean global transportation and acting as the middleman across departments to solve issues that might impact product development and service quality. I also analyze development opportunities and support top management decision-making.

As we continue to grow and change in terms of internal organizational structure, new products and services--as well as the high velocity of industry changes in the recent years--there is a strong focus on continuous process improvement. Change is considered to be a survival competitive strategy rather than luxury or situational.

Continue reading

MIT Sloan Executive Education Professors named to Thinkers50

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 26 days ago

We are excited to announce that several of our MIT Sloan Executive Education faculty members have been named to the biennial Thinkers50 awards.


The Thinkers50 was launched in 2001 as the first-ever global ranking of management thinkers. Its goal is to identify and share the best management thinking in the world, and it has been described by the Financial Times as the "Oscars of management thinking." The list offers several categories, including Breakthrough Idea Award, Digital Thinking Award, Ideas into Practice Award, Innovation Award, Leadership Award, Social Enterprise Award, Strategy Award, Talent Award, RADAR Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.

Continue reading

Why commonality sometimes fails

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 2 days ago

Commonality, or the reuse and sharing of components, manufacturing processes, architectures, interfaces, and infrastructure across the members of a product family, is a strategy targeted at improving corporate profitability. Companies from Toyota to GE use product platform strategies to deliver more variety to their customers and compete more effectively. For example, Black and Decker uses shared motors and batteries across a range of power tools. Volkswagen models such as the Jett and TT share similar underbody components and other aspects.

Typical benefits of a commonality, or a product platform strategy, include:

  • Shared development costs
  • Common testing procedures
  • Production economies of scale
  • Amortized fixed costs
  • Reduced inventory

By definition, commonality seems like an obviously good thing. Why incur the cost of making different parts for different products if the parts do the same thing?  Because as it turns out, commonality is not always the right thing to do. And even when it is right, it can be difficult to achieve.

Dr. Bruce Cameron is a lecturer in MIT's Engineering Systems Division and a consultant on platform strategies. His research at MIT uses a healthy dose of systems thinking to tease out when commonality makes sense and how to get companies to pull it off. Cameron oversaw the MIT Commonality Study, which closely examined 30 firms over eight years. The study was the first work to uncover that many firms fail to achieve their desired commonality targets, showing weaker investment return on their platform investments. "That type of behavior and phenomenon is seen in studies that we did in automotive, consumer products, and transport," says Cameron.

Continue reading

Search innovation@work Blog

Subscribe to Blog by Email

Media Gallery

Visit the Media Gallery to view videos and read articles and blog posts written by MIT Sloan Executive Education faculty and staff.

Interested in writing a guest post?