Category: Research

When the walls come down: Weighing the pros and cons of modern work spaces

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 24 days ago

MIT Sloan Professor Christian Catalini weighs in on the pros and cons of modern work spaces

A corner office--replete with windows and great views--was once a highly coveted perk in the world of work. Many businesses today, however, have opted for a more open floor plan. Over the past two decades, workers have seen office walls shrink to partitions and then disappear altogether in favor of shared offices, open spaces, and "bull pens." Also influencing our view of the traditional office setting is the growing popularity of remote work--more and more employees are choosing their home office over a corner one.

So how do these different environments actually affect the way we work? Do open floor plans truly make us more creative and collaborative, or are we just more distracted? Conversely, does confinement make us more productive? Could cubicles have a comeback? A recent Boston Globe article cites a mix of feelings over the open floor plans that, according to architecture and design firm HOK, account for more than 80% of office renovations in the past two years.

"One way an open office space can foster a more collaborative environment is by increasing the chances that people will interact and exchange ideas," says MIT Sloan Professor Christian Catalini. Catalini has studied how proximity impacts collaboration and ultimately the generation of new ideas, using data from a large, science-intensive campus: after co-location, scientific labs were 3.5 times more likely to collaborate with each other than before. Moreover, the discoveries resulting from their daily interactions (serendipitous or not) were more likely to be of high impact.

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Podcast roundup: MIT Sloan experts lend their voice to the latest business insights

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 2 days ago


Need something to listen to on your next commute? How about podcasts by experts here at MIT Sloan? Hear what our faculty has to say about critical issues ranging from collective intelligence to innovation to neuroscience and how these issues affect organizations and executives around the world.

Collective intelligence: its impact on our society today and tomorrow
What is collective intelligence and how does it impact the future of organizations? MIT Sloan Professor and Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence Thomas Malone defines collective intelligence, and explains the components that contribute to a "smart" group--as well as changing hierarchical structures in the workplace, and how collective intelligence is helping to address the problem of global climate change. Professor Malone leads the Intelligent Organizations 4Dx (live online) course.

Applying the benefits of neuroscience in the working world
Tara Swart--world-renowned neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and coach of C-suite executives--comments on the positive and negative effects of technology in our professional lives, the prevalence of the imposter syndrome among executives, and some simple measures to ensure we maximize our brainpower on a daily basis. MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Swart leads Neuroscience for Leadership and Applied Neuroscience: Unleashing Brain Power for You and Your People at MIT Sloan Executive Education.

What four-year olds know that adults don't about creativity
What is creativity and why do many of us lose it as we grow older? MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Hal Gregersen talks about the barriers to creativity brought on by our society and what we can do to overcome them. Gregersen teaches in The Innovator's DNA: Mastering Five Skills for Disruptive Innovation and Innovation and Images: Exploring the Intersections of Leadership and Photography.

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MIT entrepreneurs: The world's 10th-largest economy

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 months and 13 days ago

Living MIT graduates who have started and built for-profit companies do not qualify as a nation. However, if they did, they'd be the world's 10th largest economy, with gross revenue falling between the GDP of Russia ($2.097 trillion) and India ($1.877 trillion), according to a report released earlier this week.

"The report confirms what has long been clear: Our community's passion for doing, making, designing and building is alive and growing," President L. Rafael Reif wrote in an email to the MIT community. "As we do our part by continuing to foster our students' natural creativity and energy, it is inspiring to see the potential our alumni hold to extend MIT's power to do good for the world."

As of 2014, the report estimates, MIT alumni have launched 30,200 active companies, employing roughly 4.6 million people, and generating roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenues.  An update to a previous reported authored in 2009, the new report outlines key entrepreneurial trends, such as the declining age of entrepreneurs, and alumni contributions to company growth and innovation, such as patents filed. Other key results for entrepreneurial impact and trends:

  • 25% of alumni have founded companies, with more than 40% of these labeled as serial entrepreneurs
  • 11% of alumni who have graduated in the 2010s have already founded companies, compared with 8% who founded companies within five years of graduating in the 1990s, and 4% in the 1960s
  • 80% of alumni-founded companies have survived five or more years, while 70% have survived 10 years. (Across the U.S., roughly 50% of all new companies last five years, while only 35% last 10 years.)
  • MIT entrepreneurs favor the East and West coasts: More than 30% of all the surveyed companies are located in Massachusetts, with 8% in Cambridge; 20% are located in California. Approximately 23% operate in other countries.

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Simple Rules: A new book by strategy expert Donald Sull

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 2 months and 3 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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Beware the negative review

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 6 months and 11 days ago

Business owners and foodies alike are relatively well versed in the dynamics around Yelp and other crowd-sourced review sites. Recently, trust is a primary area of concern. Just this week, Jonah Bromwich stately plainly in his New York Times article, "Two Apps to Guide you to Good Food," that "I don’t trust Yelp reviewers." And it appears he may have good reason.

negative review

recent study by MIT Sloan Professor Duncan Simester and Eric T. Anderson of Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University, found that approximately 5% of product reviews on a large retailer's website were submitted by customers who had no record of purchasing the product. These insincere reviews were also significantly more negative than others. As a result of findings such as these, many businesses are now including language in their contracts to ban customers from (or even fine them for) writing negative reviews--a reaction that has created it's own ripple of controversy. Anti-disparagement clauses, however, are probably unenforceable and are now illegal in California and may soon become illegal in every state.

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Can data analysis help change behaviors?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 6 months and 24 days ago

Can scientists prove whether individual behaviors, such as eating or exercise habits, are contagious? Research from Alex 'Sandy' Pentland, Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and the Director of the Human Dynamics Lab at MIT, shows that may be possible.

"If individual behavior is contagious, then we can change this behavior either by changing the behavior of several influential elements in the social network, or by changing the social network itself," concludes Pentland.

Pentland and his research team studied 70 college students living in a residence dormitory at a North American university, with the student subjects spread evenly across the freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior grade levels. Participants were given a Windows mobile phone, through which scientists collected data from self-reported surveys designed by experts in political sciences and medicine. Cell phone sensors recorded proximity and location every six minutes and documented communication.

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The odd man out may make for a better team

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 1 month and 17 days ago

Understanding dispersed team dynamics is a timely consideration, as non-traditional teams are becoming more and more commonplace. Corporations are cutting down on real estate costs, offering employees more flexible work models, and investing in expertise located anywhere and everywhere around the world, resulting in geographically dispersed collaborations. While collocated teams (every team member working on the same site) may have the advantage over dispersed teams in many respects, studies show that more thoughtful configuration of dispersed teams may actually give them the upper hand.

“Within dispersed teams, there is first and foremost a mutual knowledge problem,” says JoAnne Yates, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management, who teaches in the new, upcoming Executive Education program, Communication and Persuasion in the Digital Age. “When you’re collocated in the same building, you are aware of what your team members know and do not know. And you understand context. When working across distances, this is not necessarily true, and there are all kinds of failures that can come from that. You may not, for example, understand delays in communication. When you don’t get a response right away and you’re expecting one, you make all kinds of assumptions, and most are disparaging about the other party. Then perhaps you find out there was a holiday—like Patriot’s Day, which occurs only in Massachusetts. It’s important to have ways of understanding the specific context your colleagues are working in and of establishing trust and common ground.”

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It’s time to rethink wages

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 3 months and 22 days ago

For the last year or so, there’s been a significant amount of news coverage around the wages paid to low-income earners, such as those working at fast food outlets and in retail stores. There have been public protests, calls for boycotts, and legislation to raise the minimum wage in some states.

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