Custom program helps global giant Schlumberger integrate product development and innovation technologies

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 days ago

Schlumberger integrate product development and innovation technologies

How does a legend in the oil field sector maintain its leadership position? Schlumberger--known for its industry-leading technology and deep expertise in the oil field sector--recently challenged itself with that question. The global company employs approximately 100,000 employees who hail from more than 85 countries and encompass 140 nationalities. With such a diverse workforce, the ability to share knowledge and ensure smooth teamwork is critical to the success of its business.

"Our personnel have grown much more diverse over the last few decades, and our increasingly decentralized R&D operations are regularly generating new product lines," explained Schlumberger's Management Development Director Joe Perkins. "The challenge for us is to find a common language that will enable us to look at innovation and product development as an integrated chain, from the field to the lab on through to our business operations."

With that goal in mind, Schlumberger executives decided to collaborate with MIT Sloan to develop a custom program, which was inspired by several Schlumberger senior executives who participated in the School’s popular program, Driving Strategic Innovation: Achieving High Performance Throughout the Value Chain (DSI). A joint program with IMD, the DSI program draws on an integrative value chain framework created at MIT and helps participants learn how to build organizational relationships that facilitate knowledge transfer within the firm and across the value chain.

While enrolled in the DSI course, the executives discovered that MIT Sloan's ability to integrate advanced research, new technology, and innovative business practices was exactly what Schlumberger needed to stay ahead of the competition. They also realized that the DSI course encompassed critical elements that could be applied at Schlumberger--from causal loops in the energy market to innovation, value chains, supply chains, and marketing.

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What's your company's rallying cry?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 days ago

get your executive team in synch, like the the U.S. women’s eight

Rowing is, perhaps, the ultimate team sport. Regardless of the number of oarsmen/oarswomen or the size of the boat, the way to win is to row together as a team. A team of weaker individuals rowing as a team will beat out a team of stronger athletes rowing out of synch. Without that commitment to work together, the boat has no "swing."

The world recently saw how a committed rowing team can achieve the nearly unthinkable: the U.S. women's eight, in capturing the Gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, won their 11th straight world and Olympic title. As Time pointed out, "The Cold War-era Soviet Union hockey team won 14 straight world titles from 1963-1976. No other national team run, really, is comparable."

What makes it even more remarkable is that unlike a sports dynasty that may lose one or two key players a year due to trades or retirement, rowing might only keep one or two team members from year to year. This year's US women's team in Rio consisted of two members who rowed and won the Gold medal at the London Olympics, and seven Olympic rookies. (An "eight" consists of eight oarswomen and one coxswain). When other crews threatened to pull away and win the Olympic gold medal in Rio last week, coxswain Katelin Snyder began her rallying cry: "This is the U.S. women’s eight." That simple phrase, chosen at the most critical moment in the push for gold (the boat was in third at the time), may not sound like much to us, but the women were charged by it. She was reminding her team that a legend was on the course. They were there to capture the gold, and their 11th championship.

The team that rows together, wins together

It takes hundreds of hours of training to row in synch, as a team, and experience the elusive swing of a boat. Somedays, practice can feel like eight individuals rowing one clunky boat. The others are magic. Organizations, in their pursuit of business success, can take insipiration from these Olympic efforts. After all, aren't all companies striving to cultivate a winning team that out performs the rest of the field, despite turnover or inherent weaknesses?

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Learning about climate change through interactive simulations

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 12 days ago

Learning about climate change through interactive simulations

Scientists like to think that fact-based presentations using the best scientific evidence could change the opinions of people who don't believe in climate change. Unfortunately, that approach doesn't work. Even seeing the impact of climate change doesn't always work; NPR recently reported that some visitors to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, still dispute climate change, despite seeing first-hand how quickly the glacier is shrinking. That's not just a story about a few people: Research shows that showing people research doesn't work. If facts and evidence don’t work, and first-hand experience doesn't work, can anything help people learn for themselves that climate change is real, and that the world powers and developing countries alike must act now to prevent further damage to human well-being?

John Sterman, Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management at MIT Sloan, believes the answer is yes. Sterman says "No one can tell you what to think. The key is creating an environment in which people can learn for themselves." But how can this be done for climate change? By the time the effects are obvious, it will be too late. In such situations, simulation is the best method.

As Sterman detailed in a recent MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@workTM webinar, "The Dynamics of Climate Change—from the Political to the Personal," C-ROADS (Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support) is a free, award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policy scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. C-ROADS translates how national and international policy changes will affect greenhouse gas emissions, average global temperatures, sea level, and ocean acidification. Users--be they policy makers, scientists, business and community leaders, citizens, or students--can analyze up to 15 different nations or negotiating blocs at the same time, while also asking "what-if" scenario questions of the model. The model runs in less than a second, so users get immediate feedback showing the likely impacts of their policies. "No one tells you what scenarios to try," Sterman says. "You are free to explore and see what it would take to limit global warming and climate change."

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Mobile giant asks MIT to help it maintain its edge

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 18 days ago

china mobile

Although China Mobile is the largest mobile company in the world, several years ago the successful, high-ranking member of the global Fortune 500 realized it needed to up its game to compete in the world market. The telecom giant recognized that applying innovation to all aspects of its company--from new products and services to operations processes and marketing strategies--was the way to address the rapid changes occurring in the telecommunications industry and also ensure its long-term success.

"In order to maintain China Mobile’s leadership position in the world, we need our executives to think strategically, have a global perspective, and hone their innovation skills--all contributing to improved management capabilities," explained Mr. Zhang Xi, HQ HR, General Manager at China Mobile.

In an effort to expose the company's senior executives to the most progressive ideas about innovation, China Mobile explored working with leading U.S. universities known for their research in that area. In addition to Tsinghua University in Beijing, the MIT Sloan Custom Program was selected. "We believe that MIT has always been the cradle of the latest technology and scientific research in the U.S.," said Karen Li, Associate Director of Executive Education at Tsinghua University, adding that the two universities already have a long-term partnership in MBA programs.

At the outset of the program, China Mobile and Tsinghua University worked in tandem to leverage MIT's cutting-edge innovation research and identify critical business challenges facing the company. In particular, the China Mobile leadership team was interested in concepts that would help to propel the company as a whole--such as platform strategies and value chains. "Our main goal is to learn from the world-renowned faculty and best American companies and try to simulate best practices in our daily work," said Mr. Zhang.

To that end, executives in the custom program explored leading innovation and strategy research by MIT Sloan faculty, and visited research labs as well as companies in the MIT ecosystem. Program materials focused on general management concepts such as strategy and innovation. As the program progressed, the sessions combined content-rich lectures and small-group discussions on topics ranging from general management ideas about leadership and strategy to more industry-specific subjects like big data, mobile trends, and digital marketing.

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MIT Age Lab Director elected to AARP board

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 26 days ago

Joseph Coughlin

Joseph Coughlin, Founder and Director of the MIT Age Lab, was recently elected to the all-volunteer Board of Directors of AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons. The governing body of AARP, the Board provides strategic direction, sets policy, and provides governance oversight for AARP. Directors' responsibilities include approving AARP's strategic plan, approving the budget, and monitoring AARP's finances.

Dr. Coughlin--whose research explores how demographic change, technology, and social trends converge to drive future innovations in business and government--will serve a two-year term on the Board.

Dr. Coughlin is the author of more than 150 publications, a regular contributor to MarketWatch, and publishes Disruptive Demographics on He is one of Fast Company’s "100 Most Creative People in Business" and was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of "12 pioneers inventing the future of retirement and how we will all live, work, and play tomorrow."

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Leaders of change have a tough job—MIT Sloan makes it easier

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 24 days ago

"Like a good play or restaurant, this course left me wanting more." That was the sentiment from Brad Evans, Nuclear Operations Division Manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, when asked about his thoughts on the MIT Sloan program, Leading Change in Complex Organizations. His fellow participants agree. Leaders of change have a tough job, but MIT Sloan makes it easier to navigate by providing frameworks and encouraging executives to look at situations through multiple lenses.

Effective change leadership is an evergreen struggle for many organizations, so it's no surprise that the MIT Sloan program, which runs once a year in mid-May, continues to be popular with executives around the world. The 2016 program attracted 46 participants from 14 different countries spanning North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Deanna Lomas

Some might say leadership and change go hand in hand. Deanna Lomas, Director of Supply Chain at Telstra in Melbourne, Australia, would take that statement a bit further and quip, "Leadership is change … change of oneself, others, and systems to achieve what may seem impossible. This program teaches you the key tools to start the journey."

Participants in the program are introduced to MIT's approach to leadership, the 4 Capabilities Leadership Model that was created here at MIT Sloan. They learn about the power of networks, both inside and outside of their organizations, how to organize for innovation, and effective methods for managerial decision making. True to MIT's motto of "Mens et Manus," which is Latin for "Mind and Hand," the program also offers opportunities for participants to test their new knowledge through case studies and hands-on simulations that put the learning into practice.

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When the walls come down: Weighing the pros and cons of modern work spaces

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 30 days ago

MIT Sloan Professor Christian Catalini weighs in on the pros and cons of modern work spaces

A corner office--replete with windows and great views--was once a highly coveted perk in the world of work. Many businesses today, however, have opted for a more open floor plan. Over the past two decades, workers have seen office walls shrink to partitions and then disappear altogether in favor of shared offices, open spaces, and "bull pens." Also influencing our view of the traditional office setting is the growing popularity of remote work--more and more employees are choosing their home office over a corner one.

So how do these different environments actually affect the way we work? Do open floor plans truly make us more creative and collaborative, or are we just more distracted? Conversely, does confinement make us more productive? Could cubicles have a comeback? A recent Boston Globe article cites a mix of feelings over the open floor plans that, according to architecture and design firm HOK, account for more than 80% of office renovations in the past two years.

"One way an open office space can foster a more collaborative environment is by increasing the chances that people will interact and exchange ideas," says MIT Sloan Professor Christian Catalini. Catalini has studied how proximity impacts collaboration and ultimately the generation of new ideas, using data from a large, science-intensive campus: after co-location, scientific labs were 3.5 times more likely to collaborate with each other than before. Moreover, the discoveries resulting from their daily interactions (serendipitous or not) were more likely to be of high impact.

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Biotech giant turns to MIT custom program to challenge its executives

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 1 day ago

Serono turns to MIT Custom Program to challenge its executives

For a global biotech leader with an industry reputation as a pathfinder, the goal was to not only stay on top of its game, but to reach beyond its current levels of excellence. With eight biotechnologies on the market, numerous clinical development projects in the works, and sales in more than 90 countries around the world, Geneva-based Serono (now Merck Serono) was ready to move to the next level.

The industry leader chose to collaborate with MIT Sloan and the Thunderbird/Garvin School of Management to develop a custom program that would expand the business knowledge and leadership potential of its high-achieving worldwide management team. In the past, Serono executives had been disappointed in MBA-style programs that didn't challenge its leaders. "We tried an off-the-shelf program, and found it didn't give us what we needed," said Corporate Human Resources Director Serge Panczuk.

After researching numerous leading U.S. and European universities, Serono found that MIT Sloan was one of the only institutions whose faculty had the industry experience to challenge its senior scientists. According to Panczuk, many biotech scientists had difficulty relating to marketing before the program, but coming to MIT Sloan brought about an attitudinal sea change.

Panczuk said, "Being taught by a world-class MIT Sloan marketing professor who is immersed in real scientific research was eye-opening. Here was someone who could communicate with our senior scientists at their level and instruct them in methodologies and techniques they could use to take their work to a new level. For our senior scientists, attending MIT was like a child going to Disneyland."

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