Category: Faculty Insights

Productivity wisdom: My top 5 articles

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 12 days ago

Contributed by Bob Pozen, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan Executive Education

Regardless of location, industry or occupation, productivity is a challenge faced by every professional, following us throughout our respective careers. Even as a professor and published author on the topic, I still find myself improving my own skills, both at work and at home, to get the most out of each day.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that there is a crowd of journalists, thought leaders, and gurus tackling the topic from almost every conceivable angle. While I have my own conclusions on the best ways to stay productive, which you can read in my book and learn more about in my class, Maximizing Your Personal Productivity, staying tuned into the perspectives of other productivity experts is critical to a well-rounded outlook. In the spirit of broadening our collective productivity wisdom, below are five great articles on the topic I've enjoyed:

  1. Inc.: "Why the Excuse "I'm Overloaded" Doesn't Work Anymore" This is a harsh reality to those who think they're too busy, but it points to a fundamental rule of productivity--prioritizing. One of the first lessons I teach in my course is how to prioritize. It seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people looking to be more productive don’t prioritize tasks appropriately.
  2. Fast Company: "This Googler Explains How to Design Your Time Rather Than Manage It" Creating to-do lists is a vital task to daily productivity. In this article, Google’s Thomas Davies describes his "Quadrant-style" to-do list that categorizes his tasks under 4 responsibilities or "quadrants" that help prioritize tasks.

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MIT Sloan reading list: Books by Executive Education faculty

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 24 days ago

MIT Sloan's world-renowned faculty are experts in a vast number of subjects. Catch up on their latest research and breakthrough concepts in these books, authored or edited by the faculty themselves.
Reading List MIT Sloan ExecEd

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators
By Hal Gregersen, Jeff Dyer, and Clayton Christensen
By identifying behaviors of the world’s best innovators--from leaders at Amazon and Apple to those at Google, Skype, and Virgin Group-- the authors outline five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from ordinary managers: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking, and Experimenting. Gregersen teaches in the Advanced Management ProgramInnovation and Images: Exploring the Intersections of Leadership and Photography, and The Innovator's DNA: Mastering Five Skills For Disruptive Innovation.

Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs
By Michael Cusumano and David B. Yoffie
An analysis on the strategies, principles, and skills of three of the most successful and influential figures in business—Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs—offering lessons for all managers and entrepreneurs on leadership, strategy and execution. Cusumano teaches in Managing Product Platforms: Delivering Variety and Realizing Synergies.

Handbook of Collective Intelligence
Edited by Thomas W. Malone and and Michael S. Bernstein
In recent years, a new kind of collective intelligence has emerged: interconnected groups of people and computers, collectively doing intelligent things. Today these groups are engaged in tasks that range from writing software to predicting the results of presidential elections. This volume reports on the latest research in the study of collective intelligence, laying out a shared set of research challenges from a variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. Malone teaches in the upcoming program, Intelligent Organizations 4Dx (live, online).

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Health care loans: Combatting escalating drug costs with financial engineering

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 29 days ago

Escalating drug costs

In today's economy, for better or for worse, taking out a loan to cover the cost of a major expense--a new car, a new home, or a new baby--is commonplace. So why not apply that thinking to healthcare? Specifically, expensive medicine. That's exactly what MIT Sloan Professor Andrew Lo and his colleagues Vahid Montazerhodjat and David M. Weinstock are proposing in response to the ever-escalating cost of prescription medicine.

It's known as the "healthcare loan (HCL)" and is not unlike a home mortgage where a large expense is broken into smaller monthly payments that stretch over years. Everybody wins. Patients get the medicine they need. Drug makers reap the profits of a lucrative marketplace, and banks are able to bundle loans and resell their related cash flows to third-party investors (otherwise known as securitization). In their research, numerical simulations suggest that securitization is viable for a wide range of economic environments and cost parameters, allowing a much broader patient population to access transformative therapies while also aligning the interests of patients, payers, and the pharmaceutical industry.

"The basic idea is to create a new financial entity that offers healthcare loans to patients, issues bonds and equity to investors, and the proceeds from these new issues are used to pay for the loans," writes Lo and his co-authors in a recent article published in Science Translational Medicine.

Lo explains this concept as similar to today's home mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and other large consumer purchases. "As patients pay interest and principal on these loans, these payments flow through to the bondholders, and once all the bonds are paid off, the remaining funds go to the equity holders," Lo recently told Medscape Medical News.

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

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 28 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 - 4 months and 11 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 - 5 months and 16 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 - 5 months and 20 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 - 6 months and 12 days 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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