Category: Faculty Insights

In the news: Our faculty weigh in on hot business topics

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 17 days ago


MIT Sloan Executive Education faculty are world renowned for their research and cutting-edge business thinking. Publications and news outlets seek their expert advice on everything from concise decision making to optimizing shareholder returns to executing complex business strategies. Here are just a few of their many recent takeaways circulating in the media.  

Bob Pozen on making big decisions, The Economist: "If you spend two months researching an issue before making a decision, you'll waste time gathering irrelevant facts and may miss critical issues. Start ruling out options after just two days and keep making tentative conclusions to focus your research and make better decisions faster."

Zeynep Ton on happier employees and higher profits, CNN: "The tradeoff between low prices and good prices is actually a false tradeoff. If companies run their operations well, they can have low prices, good jobs, and great shareholder returns at the same time."

Deborah Ancona on new management structures, Fast Company: "Leaders will come in and they'll change the structure without realizing that they haven't changed the norms of how things get done. People don't take the initiative that you need in that kind of structure because the culture is still one of hierarchy."

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MIT thought leaders weigh in on forthcoming business trends

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 29 days ago

At the dawn of each New Year, we ask the faculty at MIT Sloan Executive Education to weigh in on the key trends in their fields. Here are six MIT thought leaders on the topics and trends they see developing in the months to come.

Steven Eppinger on design thinking as a smart business practice
"There has been huge interest of late in applying 'designerly' behaviors to a range of challenges beyond the obvious areas of product and service innovation. Several aspects of design thinking can be applied directly to business process innovation and operational problem solving. Based on the current buzz around a wide range of innovation opportunities, I see this trend continuing in 2016." Eppinger teaches in Managing Complex Technical ProjectsSystematic Innovation of Products, Processes, and Services, and the Advanced Management Program. 

Tara Swart on technology and the future of the human brain in business
"It will be more important than ever to be harness brain agility and diversity of thinking in the face of accelerating technological capability. The people who can leverage their creativity, intuition, and empathy as well as analytical skills will be better placed to succeed in a changing business environment, tolerate ambiguity, and lead to step changes in innovation." Swart teaches in Neuroscience for Leadership.

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The leadership skill you're neglecting? Sleep.

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 4 days ago

Leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs strive to perform their jobs at the highest levels possible. In many of today's workplace environments, that means being 100% focused on both productivity and efficiency. We've all worked with the road warrior who can "sleep" (or not) on a red eye flight and show up at work the next day and put in a full 10+ hours of work. Or the co-worker who's at the office at 7:00am, and doesn't leave the office until 7:00pm. And in today's always-connected world, it is now the norm to respond to emails and continue to work outside of traditional work hours. In theory, those who approach their jobs with this attitude and commitment are the uber-dedicated, high performers of an organization.

However, research into how the brain works, and under what conditions the brain works best, points to these habits as being counterproductive.

"There's a perceived 'cut off' at the neck," explained Tara Swart, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan during a live webinar, Neuroscience for Leadership. "In reality, there is a strong brain-body connection. The conditions of our bodies directly affects the quality of our thinking."

Truly high performing leaders and executives have agile brains, and agile brains are very important in today's stressful world. But stress and high cortisol levels, lack of sleep, dehydration, and lack of oxygen (lack of exercise) all have a scientifically proven negative impact on how the brain functions.

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Handoffs: A moment of value addition or value destruction

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 7 days ago

Contributed by MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steve Spear

The Wall Street Journal article, "The Most Crucial Half-Hour at a Hospital," describes how converting shift change from "data dump" to in-context, collaborative problem solving can have marked affect on patient wellbeing.

This rings very true to me, as nursing handoffs have featured prominently in our healthcare work. In Pittsburgh, the Perfecting Patient Care System applies the principles of the Toyota-based Perfecting Patient Care System™ to offer a unique approach to improving patient care through continuous problem-solving on the front line of care. For example, the system successfully reduced time at shift change from 45 minutes to 15 minutes in order to free one hour per day for nurses to focus on eliminating surgical site infections. 

Radically improving information exchange between acute and extended care facilities also proved critical in work conducted by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement targeted at reducing readmission rates.  Ensuring a sound baton pass of information--not just data, but rich in the information of context, interpretation, recommendation, and suggested follow up helped preserve continuity of care over the transition from one institution and care team to another. The system focused on solving problems that occurred on the front line of care as soon as possible, giving a great deal of discretion to and demanding a high degree of engagement by the people in the flow of work.

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Data dilemma: To raise or not to raise the interest rate

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months ago

By Roberto Rigobon, Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management and Professor of Applied Economics at MIT Sloan; a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research; and a visiting professor at IESA.

Roberto Rigobon

Nearly seven years ago the Federal Reserve put its benchmark interest rate close to zero as a way to bolster the economy and has not raised that rate since. For the past several months, the Fed has struggled to decide when it will dictate an increase, and it appears the announcement is imminent this week. While this increase is actually more of a "normalization," a December tightening of rates will have lasting consequences. 

First, let's address why leaving interest rates too low for too long is a bad idea: primarily because low interest rates can lead to bad behavior. Banks might take too much risk--after all, almost every investment looks good when the financing cost is close to zero. Individuals are also more likely to borrow too much and save too little--hence increasing leverage ratios. What harm is a loan when the interest rate is negligible?

By moving interest rate targets up or down, the Fed attempts to achieve maximum employment, stable prices and stable economic growth. The Fed will tighten interest rates (or increase rates) to stave off inflation. Conversely, the Fed will ease (or decrease rates) to spur economic growth. Raising the rates is good for the economy, but only after the economy has consolidated and is in good health. Which, right now, it is.

So if the economy is strong, why is it taking so long for the Fed to decide? To put it bluntly, they have bad data.

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Simple Rules: A new book by strategy expert Donald Sull

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 24 days ago

Simple Rules small

The world is highly complex, and we struggle to manage the complexity of it every day. Most os us accept this complexity as unavoidable, attempting to manage the complex systems we face with complicated solutions. But meeting complexity with complexity can create more confusion than it resolves. So how can people better manage the complexity inherent in the modern world?

Donald Sull, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, swears by simple rules, whether in his personal life or in helping companies he consults with make better decisions. His latest book, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, co-authored with Stanford University's Kathleen Eisenhardt, aims to help more people put these simple rules in practice.

A decade ago, in the course of studying why certain high-tech companies thrived during the internet boom, the authors discovered something surprising: To shape their high-level strategies, companies like Intel and Cisco relied not on complicated frameworks but on simple--and quite specific--rules of thumb. The simple rules these companies had mapped out in order to manage complex processes helped them make on-the-spot decisions, adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, and bridge the gap between strategy and execution. All this even though they were in extraordinarily complex, challenging, and fast-moving industries.

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Getting to the right answers fastest

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 6 months and 25 days ago

Contributed by MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steve Spear. Spear teaches in Creating High Velocity Organizations and is author of The High Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition.

There are many different kinds of companies--those that are highly competitive, those on a mission, those who are life-style companies and those who are also-rans. Or, more simply, some companies strive to be the Coca-Cola of their market, others are happy being Avis ("We Try Harder"), and still others are fine being Wendy's, happily number three in their market.

Those that own or want to own their market have to get to the right answers first. The question is how they achieve that. After all, highly competitive companies often have the same set of opportunities and challenges. Look at the smartphone market to understand the value of being first. 

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Leader-led learning: The great differentiator

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 8 months and 22 days ago

Contributed by MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steve Spear. Spear teaches in Creating High Velocity Organizations and is author of The High Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition.

Certain organizations "punch above their weight," generating far more value (that accrues to everybody, not just customers or just shareholders, etc.), faster, and more easily. This despite them having access to the same technical, financial, and human resources as all their counterparts--and thereby enjoying the same advantages and suffering the same constraints.1

This becomes a wickedly important differentiator: Either because of having to get more yield out of exactly the same resources available to everyone, or because of having to be on the cutting edge of bringing high value-add products and services to market ahead of rivals.

The difference? They know much better what to do and how to do it, so operate on a frontier of speed, timeliness, efficiency, effectiveness, safety, security, and so forth others barely perceive. As with all knowledge, the source of their profound knowledge is accelerated learning, and that accelerated learning is the consequence of garnering feedback out of experiences across the spectrum of operational, design, and developmental and using that to feed forward into the next cycle of experiences.

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