Making sense of IoT with the best of MIT

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

Making Sense of IoT with the Best of MIT

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) in London, and participating in several conference events as a speaker. One panel in particular--"IoT in Society," which focused on the intersections of various areas of life and work—brought the idea of interconnectedness into high relief. The Internet of Things is--of course--not limited to "things" or just to the Internet or even to the tech sector. As business leaders grapple with the IoT reality and prepare their organizations and themselves for the future, understanding the importance of interconnectedness among different sectors of business and life is essential.

Here at MIT, we have a long history of different kinds of thinkers collaborating, which is just what organizations need to be doing, and which makes the Institute a naturally appealing place for managers to learn how to develop the skills needed to lead in the era of IoT. We have faculty members in engineering and technology, and science and social science, as well as business--all at the cutting edge of their fields, but also used to actually interact with each other and collaborating both in research and teaching. And so the ability to bring all of those resources into an executive education program, for example, and collaborate with partners from across departments, is unusual for a business school. MIT's Sloan School of Management is in a fortunate position to tap into the whole of MIT.

The executive education programs that we offer--in partnership with the School of Engineering, the Office of Digital Learning, MIT Media Lab, and the Computational Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL)--are about "demystifying" IoT, as our Digital Capability Leader Paul McDonagh-Smith puts it. A tech industry veteran, McDonagh-Smith knows where we need to shed the light. Prior to working with us, he spent decades at companies like Nortel and Avaya, and now is driving a lot of the development of our IoT-focused programs and making sure that we engage the best partners from across MIT.

McDonagh-Smith echoes our firm belief that understanding--and harnessing--IoT goes far beyond just the sensors. "While it's useful to create an IoT program that focuses on how sensors and the flow of data and information through organizations can be managed effectively, it's actually quite simple and fairly easy to understand," he explains. "What hasn't been crystal clear is what does this really mean to the way you manage and lead your organizations? The industrial borders and boundaries are blurring or merging in some places, and the combination of hardware plus software plus connected devices changes the business equation. We need to understand the permutations of that formula. We need to look at variables individually and collectively; how they interact with each other, and what that means for organizations: your approach to skills, your approach to workforce management, your organizational structure."

Upcoming executive education programs in IoT

Our two new executive education programs are designed to provide managers with practical concepts and frameworks to not only make sense of what IoT is, but to understand how to lead and manage an organization in the age of IoT--from crafting a digital vision to rethinking business models to optimize operations, and, ultimately, to creating a new organizational culture that will drive the success of the organization. Dr. John Carrier, a Senior Lecturer in System Dynamics at MIT Sloan, is leading a two-day, on-campus program focused on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Implementing Industry 4.0: Leading Change in Manufacturing and Operations. Dr. George Westerman, a Principal Research Scientist with the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy, is helping us develop a new online program on IoT management and leadership. Westerman has been studying digital technology leadership and innovation for many years and recently co-wrote the award-winning book "Leading Digital."

Our own programs are not all we are doing to help equip business leaders for the IoT economy. MIT Sloan Executive Education has been actively involved with the Internet of Things World Forum for several years, and, specifically, as a founding member of the IoT Talent Consortium. The Talent Consortium was conceived at the Internet of Things World Forum in 2014, and includes among its founders Cisco, General Electric, Global Knowledge, Rockwell Automation, and Microsoft. This year, I was pleased to tell our IoT Talent Consortium colleagues and the wider IoTWF audience about our newest programs and learn what’s happening in the industry as a whole, so that we can fine-tune and continue to improve our essential IoT-focused education.

Read more about our work with the IoTWF and the IoT Talent Consortium, as well as our perspectives on IoT in these previous posts:

“Beyond Devices: What Business Leaders Need to Know About the Internet of Things”
Who will power the IoT economy?
Implementing IIoT: A systems challenge disguised as a technological one?
The Internet of Things: Phenomenal or inevitable?

Photo Credit: Peter Hirst

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