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Category Archives: Research

Pitch perfect: Using human signals to convince and persuade

The art of the business plan pitch could fill volumes of b-school literature. But what if the real secret sauce had less to do with content and everything to do with delivery?

honest-signalsAlex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, has conducted research around the power of unconscious forms of communication. The tools have revealed subtle patterns in how people interact, enabling Pentland and his colleagues to predict outcomes of situations ranging from job interviews to first dates to pitches for funding.

Pentland conducted a study of business plan pitches, during which “rising-star” business executives gave their presentations to venture capitalists, while Pentland and Felix Heibeck, Research Assistant at the MIT Media Lab, watched. “The skills the executives required—the ability to clearly formulate ideas, effectively communicate to a group of peers and then persuade others to pursue those ideas—are indispensable in business as well as everyday life,” said Pentland.

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Mobile money on the rise

While the developed world continues trudging through a slow economic recovery, parts of the developing world’s economy are being rapidly transformed by a new form of disruptive technology: mobile money.

Mobile money—a cash management service available on mobile phones or the internet—is having more than a moment; it’s making a profound impact, powerful enough to shift economies across country borders. Studying the impact of mobile money in its most successful beta launch to date in Kenya can teach us a lot about the impact and adoption of disruptive innovations within a country and beyond its borders.

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The new competitive advantage: not leaning in, but leaning forward

Microsoft recently announced a significant restructuring in hopes of reclaiming its lost market share and the trust of its customers. In response, many are asking, “Is restructuring the answer? What changes will Microsoft need to make to regain its competitive edge?”

The Lean Forward Approach

According to Steven Spear, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan and recognized expert on high velocity organizations, the most successful organizations are the ones creating high value with their products, in less time, using less effort. These organizations, says Spear, use the lean forward approach: they consistently seek immediate clarification and amplification of their customer’s voice by leaning into their users’ domain to discover the problems as well as delights of their experience.

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Studies show gender gap still exists on scientific advisory boards

While the number of women holding positions on scientific advisory boards (SAB) is increasing, it may come as a surprise that those numbers are still low.

According to the U.S. National Science Foundation, although the proportion of women in industrial and academic science is on the rise—women make up 25 percent of tenured academics in science and engineering and more than 25 percent of industry scientists in research and development—when it comes to women serving on SABs, the numbers aren’t as positive. And, women are losing out because of it: membership on these boards is not without its advantages, including access to promising research, consulting opportunities, and monetary rewards.

A paper published last October by MIT Sloan Professor Fiona Murray, along with Toby Stuart at the University of California, Berkeley, and Waverly Ding at the University of Maryland in College Park, examined the gender gap in corporate SABs. As part of the study, they reviewed a national sample of 6,000 life scientists whose careers span more than 30 years. In addition, the group looked at all publicly available lists of U.S. biotech SABs, including about 500 companies.

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Gender stereotypes in negotiation—does Sheryl Sandberg have it right?

How do you negotiate when you need to make a positive impression? The answer may depend on your gender.

lean-in-book-coverIn Sheryl Sandberg’s much discussed Lean In, the author describes research findings that women perceived as hard-charging types are liked less. She advises women to smile profusely during a negotiation, use the word “we” instead of “I,” and express appreciation to your bosses. Of course, Sandberg is aware of the contradictions implicit in these instructions, given the tenet of the book itself and adds, “No wonder women don’t negotiate.”

Her point is not lost on negotiation theorists who understand that for both genders there exists a tension between claiming value for oneself and being likeable in a conversation or negotiation. Women are assumed to be warm and relational, which might represent a barrier to advocating for themselves, whereas men are assumed to be competitive and thus less empathic in a conflict.

In “Making a Positive Impression in Negotiation: Gender Difference in Response to Impression Motivation” (Negotiation and Conflict Management Research), MIT Sloan Professor Jared Curhan and Jennifer R. Overbeck, of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, examined the ways in which impression motivation—the attempt to regulate other people’s impressions of oneself—affects a negotiator’s ability to claim value and to actually make a positive impression on his or her counterparts.

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