The world according to MIT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 days ago

MIT has long been recognized as a pinnacle of science, technology, and all things innovative. And, it has the credentials to prove it: in the last few years the institution has been recognized as the #1 college in the country by QS, a leading global career and education network; as the fifth-best college in the country by Forbes; and at or near the top in nearly every category in the U.S. News &World Report's annual rankings of the United States’ best colleges and universities.

These honors are certainly noteworthy in and of themselves, but to put them into perspective it helps to examine arguably the most remarkable honor of all: if MIT were a country, it would have the 11th largest economy in the world.

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Managing the seasonality of products

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 days ago

The seasonality of products is an issue that manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers are well aware of. We all know back-to-school advertising, products, and sales hit stores in July. Soon after, we see Halloween items. And before Halloween even arrives, we start to see Christmas advertisements and promotions. Getting ahead of the season has become standard operating procedure.

But when is it too early to issue a seasonal product? Many craft beer aficionados are beginning to argue that the practice of "seasonal creep" has gone too far. Simply put, seasonal creep is when a beer specific to a season appears on store shelves way before the season actually hits. The best example is the category of pumpkin beers.

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Work Without Limits

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 days ago

By Dr. Peter Hirst, Executive Director of MIT Sloan Executive Education

At the end of October, an important event took place in Norwood, MA--the Work Without Limits Annual Conference and Career Fair. Work Without Limits is a Massachusetts-based statewide network of engaged employers and innovative, collaborative partners that aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. Their goal is to position Massachusetts as the first state in the nation where the employment rate of people with disabilities is equal to that of the general population.

The conference received national attention when Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez addressed the 350 attendees during her speech. "Like you, we believe the road to change is to focus on the positive, to emphasize what all people—including people with disabilities—can do," she said and encouraged "employers and workers across the country to continue to work towards more inclusive workplaces every month, and every day of the year." Full article

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Should retail stores be open on holidays?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 8 days ago

We recently watched a conversation on social media on the subject of retailers choosing to open on holidays--in this case, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. It's quite the heated topic: it has spawned a Facebook page urging consumers to boycott stores open on Thanksgiving, and there are any number of memes floating around listing the retailers who are choosing to open. And unfortunately, many of those retailers are the biggest ones here in the States.

One would think there's little controversy in urging businesses to let their employees have a day off of work to spend at home celebrating the holiday. But the "other side" can point to the fact that we have a free market society, and businesses can choose to operate (for the most part) however they want. The dark--and somewhat unspoken--side of that argument ignores the fact that many of these businesses are retailers and many retail workers are not given a choice in the matter. A common comment, of which we've seen a few variations, is that if people don't like working on Thanksgiving, they can just go get another job.


Opinions like these reveal some biases people have against retail jobs, display a lack of understanding of the retail market, and fly in the face of some hard facts. One might think of retail jobs as the domain of teenagers and retirees who simply need some "extra cash." That idea is simply not true. As MIT Sloan School of Management Adjunct Associate Professor Zeynep Ton pointed out in the webinar, "The Good Jobs Strategy: Why Good Jobs are Good for Business," there are 4.3 million salespeople in the U.S., the average sales associate is female and 38 years old, and many of them are supporting families. These retail jobs are considered "bad jobs," due to their low wages, erratic schedules, and lack of opportunities for advancement. But while it may appear one retail job is just like the next, few people, regardless of income level or other demographic information, can just "decide to go get another job." Employees need to factor in seniority, benefits, transportation, and numerous other variables that impact their ability to change jobs.


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The case for a corporate sustainability dashboard

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 18 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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Crisis management consultant says MIT Sloan programs strike the right balance

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 18 days ago

Being known as an “international man of disaster” is a good thing in the case of Hsing Lim, a crisis management consultant who works with business, government, and non-profit organizations to offer assistance when natural disasters strike.

Lim, who earned his Management and Leadership certificate from MIT Sloan in 2008, was on hand on March 11, 2011, when the command ship of the U.S. 7th fleet received word that the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami had struck. Due to his close ties with the government, military, and corporations in Japan and the United States, Lim was able to offer his crisis management expertise to help with relief efforts in the devastated areas.

“For the tsunami recovery, I worked with governments, militaries, aid agencies, business corporations, and civil societies in Japan, the U.S., Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, and several EU countries to source essential items and organize fundraising projects.”

Lim began focusing on disaster management shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. The independent consultant has received numerous awards and commendations for his efforts. Lim also has been lauded by David Boden, past president of the American Association of Singapore (AAS), as a key contributing member of the American community in Singapore and for his volunteer role as Chair of the AAS Community Philanthropy Committee. 

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Program participant credits MIT Sloan's EDP for company growth

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 24 days ago

According to Grant Fraser, his enrollment in the MIT Sloan Executive Education Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) could not have come at a better time.

Fraser, who founded Digitonic—a mobile marketing agency headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2011—says EDP has made a “massive difference to me personally, as well as to my organization. I am very grateful for what I was taught and for the opportunity that Scottish Enterprise gave me to attend the course.”

The Managing Director of Digitonic credits the MIT Sloan program for doubling his company’s turnover and raising the profit margins to just under $1M. Fraser adds that the tools and strategies he acquired while taking the EDP course helped him to secure a 10% equity stake, which was used to introduce innovations at the company and expand it internationally. In addition, thanks to lessons learned while on campus, Fraser says he was able to “make the pitch and close the sale just 21 days after the process began.”

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The ups and downs of dynamic pricing

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 24 days ago

In 2013, fourteen of the top 30 global brands by market capitalization were platform-oriented companies—companies that created and now dominate arenas in which buyers, seller, and a variety of third parties are connected in real time. These leaders include companies such as Akamai, LinkedIn, Airbnb and Uber. (See our earlier blog posts on Airbnb and Uber). 

Of those brands, Uber in particular is known for its use of dynamic pricing—price fluctuations driven by supply and demand. For example, on a rainy Saturday night, Uber may raise its fares because its drivers are in high demand and more consumers opt for car services over public transportation or a walk in the rain. Why is this not considered price gouging, you ask? Because Uber is transparent about their dynamic model—the app alerts users that the current rate is higher than usual, and by how much, giving the consumer the option to decline and find alternate means of transportation.

As Uber investor and board member Bill Gurley points out in his blog post on Uber’s dynamic pricing model, this strategy is not new. Hotels, airlines, and rental car companies have long relied on dynamic pricing. This is why your flight during the Thanksgiving holiday will cost more than a plane ticket purchased almost any other time of year.

Of course, dynamic pricing can also benefit the consumer. Hotels loathe empty rooms. The same pricing model that raises the rates on some days also allows hotels to offer last-minute deals to fill inventory. And in those cases, the consumer wins.

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