Sleeping your way to the top

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 days ago

Contributed by Tara Swart, MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer, neuroscientist, and executive leadership coach.

What makes a good leader?

Senior executives, managers, and business leaders are paid to use their brains. So it is surprising how little emphasis many put on this vital organ.

In a fast-paced world that is constantly changing, the brain's executive functions, such as creative and flexible thinking, task-switching, bias suppression, and emotional regulation, are becoming increasingly important. But our ability to perform well at these outputs will be enhanced only if fed the right inputs. These include nourishing, hydrating, and oxygenating the brain appropriately, simplifying tasks to give the brain mindful time, and resting it.

That final element—rest—is one of the most crucial. We often hear stories about famous leaders such as Margaret Thatcher surviving and even thriving on very little sleep (Thatcher did suffer from dementia in her later life). It is true that an extremely limited number of people (1-2% of the population) have a genetic mutation that reduces the amount of sleep they truly require for optimal functioning to 4-5 hours a night. But for the rest of us, getting seven to nine hours of good, quality sleep every night is vital for staying on top of our game.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep deprivation will negatively impact your cognitive performance. Getting less sleep than the recommended amount can cause an apparent IQ loss of five to eight points the next day, and population norm studies have shown that losing an entire night’s sleep can lead to up to one standard deviation loss on your IQ. In other words, you're effectively operating with the equivalent of a learning disability.

Shorting your sleep can have longer-term effects as well. Our glymphatic system requires 7-8 hours to clean our brains, a process which flushes out protein plaques and beta amyloid tangles that can lead to dementing diseases if allowed to accumulate. Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep (which includes sleeping after drinking alcohol) inhibits this process and can therefore increase the risk of developing these types of disease.

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Tips for networking with your peers while at MIT Sloan Executive Education

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 9 days ago

Networking at MIT

There are many reasons to engage in continuing education, including developing core competencies, learning new business skills, or preparing for a new role. However, the benefits of attending executive education programs often extend well beyond the specific skills and frameworks acquired. At MIT Sloan Executive Education, our participants consistently remark on the value of networking with like-minded peers from around the world. And while both our in-person and online programs enable participants to connect and collaborate, our in-person programs—ranging from two days to one month in duration—provide remarkable opportunities for personal connections.

What to expect at MIT

MIT Sloan Executive Education programs are typically held in rooms with tables that seat six to eight participants. Often the tables are round, allowing for a great deal of interaction. Faculty lead exercises that require or encourage table mates to work together. This is an excellent way to meet others in a small, friendly setting. Participants are also often asked to rotate tables, enabling even more interaction.

On the first day of class, breakfast is served in the room where the course is held. Talking to another person as you grab coffee or sit to eat your morning bagel will feel natural. The course breaks for lunch, which is held in the same building where the classes take place, so this is another terrific opportunity to take a seat next to someone you have yet to meet.

In the evening, after the first day of the program, there is a cocktail hour that is held near the classroom. If you missed your chance to talk to someone during the day, this is a very relaxed time to connect with others.

Tips for networking with your peers

If you are planning to enroll in one of our courses, here are a few tips to help you break the ice with the other program participants:

  1. If you're anxious about approaching strangers, just remind yourself that others feel the exact same way! It's often a welcomed relief when one person makes the first overture. Everyone wants to connect with someone else, and it's always nice when someone else takes the initiative to start a conversation.
  2. During breaks, talk to someone who was at your table during class, and bring up a comment that they said during the lecture, or ask them how they like the class so far. Or, sit with someone at lunch and strike up a conversation.

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Unlocking the potential of analytics: A Q&A with Ben Shields

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 17 days ago

Ben Shields is a Lecturer in Managerial Communication at MIT Sloan. His research focuses on the intersection of social media technologies, data analytics, and audience behavior in the sports, media, and entertainment industries.Shields served previously as the Director of Social Media and Marketing at ESPN.

Recently we asked him a few questions about the topic of sports analytics and his upcoming MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Sports Analytics Management.


MIT: The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is happening in the spring. Can you tell us a little about this conference?

Shields: The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is the premier event in the industry. Founded in 2007 by MIT Sloan alum and Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey and CEO of Kraft Analytics Group Jessica Gelman, the conference has grown from about 175 participants in its first year to more than 4,000 in 2016. A similar crowd will be on hand this year.

The conference is the nexus point for the most innovative researchers, executives, and students to share new analytics approaches, debate current trends, and network. It is an energetic, fun, and fascinating event that never fails to make you smarter.

MIT: Following the conference is the very first session of your new MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Sports Analytics Management. Is this program intended to pick up where the conference leaves off? What prompted you to design this course?

Shields: Through the influential conference, MIT Sloan has become a hub for sports analytics research and practice. However, the conference lasts only two days. With our Sports Analytics Management course, we are expanding the dialogue and learning opportunities about this fast-growing and exciting field of sports analytics throughout the year.

Our course is designed to complement and extend key themes from the conference. Critically, we focus on helping students develop an analytics strategy and program that works for their organization or initiative. Whereas conference attendees will learn about new research methods and key trends, students in Sports Analytics Management will have the opportunity to synthesize this new knowledge into actionable plans going forward. Today, the biggest barrier to unlocking the potential of analytics is often not a technical one; it’s how leaders and organizations set up and manage an analytics program. We address the latter in our course.

The sports industry has been a pioneer in the analytics revolution, and there is so much we can learn about analytics management from studying it. I designed this course to help executives in all industries identify strategies and best practices in sports analytics and apply and refine them to their own efforts.

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My Certificate at work in India's media and entertainment industry

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 24 days ago

Guest post contributed by Kiriti Rambhatla, MIT Sloan Executive Education Strategy and Innovation certificate holder (2011), who wrote to us recently to share some of the ways his certificate has impacted his career.

Kiriti Rambhatla earns MIT Sloan Executive Certificate

Before attending MIT Sloan Executive Education, I had been writing and hosting political, economic, and business televisions shows for the established news networks in India’s media and entertainment industry—the largest in the world—since 2009. I soon realized that success required a larger understanding macroeconomics of the industry, however. With more than 90% of the products (movies, television, comics) not making the cut, the competition and failure rates in the industry were a point of research interest for me. I chose to further explore relevant topics by earning an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation.

After securing the Certificate 2011, I returned to the industry with renewed focus. I had developed particular interest in areas like macroeconomics, strategy for global markets and managing successful strategy for products and technologies. I began hosting a successful socio-economic talk show. It was during the scripting of this talk show, however, that I also began to focus on what is known as character entertainment in India.

Much like the American comic book studios Marvel and DC, India has a fragmented comic book industry where I felt I could use my writing skills to build sustainable characters across television, movies, comic books, and video games. With the advent of OTT platforms like Netflix, there was a rudimentary ecosystem for OTT platforms for video content as well in the country.

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Fast fashion: What's the true cost of a bargain?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 24 days ago

Fashion waste, photo by Levi Brown/trunkarchive.com

American consumers love a bargain. In fact, consumers will often choose a bargain over ideals; this past spring an Associated Press-GFK poll found that, "when it comes to purchasing clothes, the majority of Americans prefer cheap prices over a Made in the USA label." This, despite decades of political rhetoric about the need to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.

But there's a bigger, hidden cost behind our love of a deal—particularly our love of cheap clothing. In today's market, there's no shortage of options for buying amazingly inexpensive, yet trendy clothing, including big box stores, "fast fashion" stores such as H&M and Primark, and off-shore clothing retailers advertising on Facebook. Some of the messaging inherent in these brands is that the items are so cheap, it's OK to purchase them for only one wear. You can buy that novelty sweater for the "ugly sweater holiday party" or any other frivolous clothing item for a one-time event. After all, it cost less than a night out, or even an entrée at many restaurants.

However, the dirty little secret that these retailers, manufacturers, and their supply chains don't share is the true cost of the disposable clothing industry. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded." According to MSNBC, "10 percent of the world's total carbon footprint comes from the fashion industry, and apparel is the second largest polluter of fresh water globally."

The fast fashion industry not only generates textile waste, but the economics behind it demand the clothes be produced using massive amounts of cheap material and cheap labor. This means relying on the laborers at the very lowest end of the wage spectrum in countries with few protections for workers. While the fashion industry on the whole is a job creator, many of those equate to low wages, forced labor, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, and even child labor, which is now rampant through apparel supply chains.

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Developing principled, innovative leaders: What does MIT Sloan's mission mean today?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 29 days ago

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

Peter Hirst MIT Sloan Executive Education

Perhaps as an antidote to the level of discourse on leadership during this year's U.S. presidential elections, Brexit, and the seemingly endless supply of corporate scandals (Wells Fargo being the latest example), I've been thinking a lot about the MIT Sloan mission recently: " ... to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice."

The phrase "principled, innovative leaders" especially has been on my mind—what does it mean, really? What qualities make a principled, innovative leader? Who are the principled, innovative leaders of our generation? Steve Jobs? Oprah Winfrey? Mark Zuckerberg? Are they empire builders or trail blazers? Maybe both? Are they always in the spotlight or working quietly behind the scenes? What difference does it make to employees, customers, shareholders, and society as a whole that business leaders are principled and innovative? The list of questions goes on and on, and it seems like a perfect opportunity to engage the wisdom of crowds to find answers.

Why is this important? Knowing what the MIT Sloan mission means to you can potentially guide the direction of our future executive education programs. That's why in the coming weeks I plan to ask anyone who is willing to share an opinion to do so. Please feel free to share examples or opinions of what principled, innovative leadership means to you, using the comment tool on this blog. What would you be encouraging me to keep in mind while I am thinking about articulating and implementing our vision of principled, innovative leadership at MIT Sloan Executive Education?

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Leading in a world of uncertainty

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

Leadership skills for an uncertain world

Digitization, globalization, political turmoil—most executives today feel like they are leading in a world of uncertainty. The imminent threat that does (or should) keep leaders awake at night is disruption. Uber, Airbnb, and before them, Amazon, all disrupted their industries. Who will be disrupting your industry next? How should you lead amidst all this uncertainty? How do you compete—and win—in a world where change is constant?

Deborah Ancona, Professor of Organization Studies at MIT Sloan, discussed this topic in a recent webinar, "Leading in a World of Uncertainty." Ancona covered several skills leaders should be adopting, one of which is referred to as sense-making. As Ancona previously told Forbes, sens-making is to "make sense of the context in which an organization or a team is operating ... how can we map what is going on out there so we can act in this environment that is changing."

One great example of sensemaking, according to Ancona, is a product development team at Bose. They were working on new technology and recognized the market trend towards smaller speakers. However, this trend was counter to Bose's corporate mentality that smaller products did not have the ability to project the audio quality for which Bose is known. But, through sense-making, the team was able to prove there would be market demand for the product. Yes, they had to fight for their cause, and push against an entrenched corporate philosophy, but in the end, they secured the resources to develop a mini speaker. And that mini speaker is now a best-selling product.

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8 ways to launch a successful digital platform

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 7 days ago

PlatformRevolution

The digital platform—connecting people, organizations, and resources in an interactive ecosystem through technology—is taking the business world by storm. The platform model powers many of today's biggest and most disruptive companies, like Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber. Platform businesses bring together producers and users in efficient exchanges of value (think Uber drivers and passengers), and they leverage network effects—the more participants, the greater the value produced.

Building a platform business differs from traditional product or pipeline marketing in a number of ways, perhaps most notably by virtue of its pull (rather than push) strategies. Instead of creating awareness through channels like advertising and PR (that's the push), the goods and services of a platform must attract users with incentives for participating (the pull). In network businesses, marketing must be baked into the platform. While push strategies are still valuable to a platform model, they can easily get lost in a sea of abundance and distraction.

However, platforms and the pull they require poses a conundrum. How can you begin to build a user base for a two-sided market when each side depends on the prior existence of the other? Geoffrey Parker, a visiting scholar and research fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, refers to this as the chicken-or-the-egg dilemma in Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy – And How to Make Them Work for You. In the book, Parker and his co-writer’s Marshall W. Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary, propose eight strategies for beating this dilemma and successfully launching a platform business. We summarized them briefly here, but you can learn more about them in depth in Parker's online MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Platform Revolution: Making Networked Markets Work for You (online), which starts next week (November 7).

  1. The follow-the-rabbit strategy: Use a non-platform demonstration project to model success and attract users and producers and then convert to a platform. (Amazon, for example, started as an effective pipeline business, then converted itself into a platform by opening its system to external producers.)
  2. The piggy-back strategy: Connect with an existing user base from a different platform, such as when PayPal piggybacked on eBay’s online platform, or when YouTube rode the Myspace growth wave by offering its powerful video tools to attract members of the social network.
  3. The seeding strategy: Create value units that will be relevant to at least one set of users, and other users (who want to interact with the first set) will follow. Take Adobe, for example, which launched its PDF document-reading tool in part by arranging to make all federal government tax forms available online. The IRS saved money on printing and postage, and taxpayers got fast and easy access to documents. Millions of people were turned on to Adobe this way and since adopted Adobe as their document platform of choice.

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