Category: Digital Transformation and Emerging Technologies

New research shows integrated solutions are key to digital transformation

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 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.

Continue reading

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

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 17 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.

Continue reading

Making sense of IoT with the best of MIT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month 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.

Continue reading

7 systems principles you need to know before implementing IIoT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 27 days ago

The system principles you need to know before implementing IIoT

The use of Internet of Things technologies in manufacturing--known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)--has been heralded as a way to improve operational efficiency by correcting inefficiencies and identifying problems sooner. Ultimately, this will also lead to more rapid supply chains and greatly enhanced customer satisfaction. In many ways, the IIoT stands to revolutionize manufacturing, from behemoth organizations down to "mom-and-pop" manufacturing shops. This is why IIoT is often referred to as the "4th Industrial Revolution."

However, before any facility, plant, or organization starts down the path of implementing IIoT, there are a number of factors to examine and consider. Dr. John Carrier, Senior Lecturer of System Dynamics at MIT Sloan, detailed these steps in the recent MIT Sloan Executive Education webinar, "The 7 System Principles You Need to Know Before Implementing IIoT." Carrier takes an even deeper dive into system dynamics as applied to the industrial Internet in his new Executive Education program, Implementing Industry 4.0: Leading Change in Manufacturing and Operations.

If you want to understand a system, try and change it

The seven principles Carrier presents in his webinar can serve as a checklist of what to assess, analyze, and potentially adjust before implementing any aspect of IIoT. He likens this process to preparing to move to a new home. If you take the time to assess, examine, and identify which belongings are worth keeping and which should be tossed, your new home will have less clutter and contain more items of value, instead of just "stuff." In theory, your move should also take less time and money. In the words of Kurt Lewin, the late German social psychologist, "If you want to understand a system, try and change it."

Carrier also points out that implementing IIoT can help expose the "hidden factories" within manufacturing operations--a chaotic mix of unstable and ad hoc procedures and norms.

Continue reading

Implementing IIoT: A systems challenge disguised as a technological one?

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

Industry 4.0

The current challenge facing operations across the globe can be summarized as follows: Make an increasing variety of products, on shorter lead times with smaller runs, but with flawless quality. Improve our return on our investment by automating and introducing new technology in processes and materials so we can cut prices to meet local and foreign demand. Mechanize – but keep your schedules flexible, your inventories low, your capital costs minimal, and your work force contented.1

While these words succinctly address the majority of challenges companies are trying to address with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it should be noted that they come from Wickham Skinner's 1966 Harvard Business Review article, "Production Under Pressure."

Advances into IIoT and initiatives such as Industry 4.0 may seem to operations executives to be more of a threat to defend against rather than an opportunity. Perhaps this is why a 2016 Cisco survey found leaders skeptical regarding investment in IIoT2. As expressed by Daryl Miller, vice president of engineering at Lantronix, "Companies need to keep the IoT simple by adapting their existing systems to become compatible with the IoT."3

In other words, the introduction of a new technology often reveals a lack of understanding of the current system, rather than that of the new technology. Therefore, adoption of IIoT is primarily a systems problem, rather than a technological one.

Continue reading

Nothing says love like putting down your devices

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 10 days ago

Nothing says love like putting down your devices

It's hard to find bigger fans of technology than the staff, faculty, and global participants of MIT and MIT Sloan. We love using it, inventing it, and sharing it with the world. Tens of thousands of innovators have masterminded new technologies while here, or took programs to understand how best to bring those innovations to market. We also love using technology in the classroom itself, from management flight simulators and collaborative software to some of our newer experiments with telepresence and virtual reality. MIT researchers have even launched a new decision-making tool to help teachers, administrators, governments, and development practitioners around the world make smart decisions about incorporating technology in the classroom.

Given all of the above, the title of this post may seem counterintuitive. And yet, in light of Valentine's Day, we thought it worthwhile to remind our readers and ourselves that our love of all things digital can sometimes thwart true connection.

Breaking up [with smartphones] is hard to do

Smartphones, the most likely culprit, have been reshaping our etiquette for years now. Particularly in America, our "always on" state of mind has posed significant challenges for users vis-à-vis their relationship to others--whether colleagues in the boardroom or a romantic partner across the dinner table. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, for many Americans, cellphones are always present and rarely turned off, and this constant connectivity is creating ever-evolving social challenges. Of the 3217 people surveyed, 89% of cellphone owners say they used their phone during the most recent social gathering they attended. And similar studies have shown that the mere presence of cellphones in face-to-face conversations inhibits the development of closeness and trust and reduces the amount of empathy we feel from our partners.

Americans are not alone in their smartphone temptations. A national study released last week in Australia shows that nearly a quarter of Australians have played second fiddle to a smartphone on a first date, with their prospective partner switching their attention to their digital device. The Intel Security study of 1200 Australians found more than a third of people have argued with friends or family about their smartphone use.

Continue reading

Shifting realities: Augmented, virtualized, and mixed realities in the classroom

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 12 days ago

Contributed by Paul McDonagh-Smith, Digital Capability Leader, MIT Sloan, Office of Executive Education. With a focus on driving digital transformation and harnessing emerging technologies, Paul works with the team to create learning programs to fit how we live and work in today's digital age.


Let's be honest—reality isn't what it used to be. Right now, all around us, carbon world experiences are being augmented, virtualized, and mixed by a series of emerging technologies and their offspring products. These new flavors of reality are offering tantalizing opportunities to imagine and invent improved online learning interactions to complement what we're currently doing in classrooms and on campus.

In one corner, we've got augmented reality (AR) overlaying content in the form of computer generated, gesture features and 360-degree video onto the physical world. Aiming to add meaning and context to our carbon-based reality, this content floats over it like a butterfly, if you will.

In the other corner, virtual reality (VR) is loitering with some serious heavyweight intent, looking to replicate or simulate physical and imagined environments via hardware such as Google Cardboard and HTC Vive. Whether using pre-rendered or rendered software, VR computer generated immersive experiences are getting ready to rumble.

Positioned somewhere in the middle of the ring, we've got the hybrid of mixed reality (MR), which in effect merges real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects can co-exist and interact in real time. MR hardware includes products such as Microsoft's Hololens device, which might be seen as ushering in a new era of holographic computing.

Continue reading

Attending by telepresence robot--no falling down stairs, please

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 30 days ago

Contributed by Paul McDonagh-Smith, Digital Capability Leader, MIT Sloan, Office of Executive Education. With a focus on driving digital transformation and harnessing emerging technologies, Paul creates learning programs to fit how we live and work in today's digital age.

telepresence robotics  at MIT Sloan

Earlier last week, from my home office desk here in London, I logged into one of our telepresence robotics units stationed in the Executive Education suite of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Using telepresence robotics is a normal occurrence among our team, where units get "hired" for a number of jobs including teaching and learning in class, collaborating with team members, meeting with external companies as well as doing plain old-fashioned, day-to-day work.

But this day was a little different. I was using the robot to attend a Sloan Fellows and EMBA Alumni event on campus in Cambridge, MA.

As I logged onto the unit (via a website) I saw my colleague, Lisa, waiting for me at the front desk. Having asked the robot to drive me to where Lisa was standing (the robot has mapped the floor space and can either be used in autonomous or manual mode), I had just enough time to give myself a pep talk.

"Please don’t trip anybody up, don’t knock coffee cups out of anyone’s hands, and above all please don’t fall down the stairs with the Robot, again," I murmured to myself in a positive mantra.

Continue reading

Search innovation@work Blog

Subscribe to Blog by Email

Cutting-edge research and business insights presented by MIT Sloan faculty.

Interested in writing a guest post?