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Category Archives: Strategy and Innovation

Can the cab industry innovate?

Those of us who work and/or live in Cambridge are quite familiar with the controversies stirred up by the wildly successful business, Uber Technologies, Inc. Uber considers itself a technology company, offering a mobile app that connects riders with drivers. The company has taken an innovative approach to making it easier to get from one point to another, eliminating the need to hail a cab on the street.

But most cab companies—from those here in Cambridge and Boston to those in London and Paris—view Uber as an unregulated, competing cab company. Recently, Cambridge License Commission proposed making Uber and other related services subject to the same regulations as taxi cabs; this proposal was met with outrage by locals. Back in May, taxis and taxi drivers from Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline staged a protest outside of Uber’s local headquarters. Cab drivers have also protested in London, Madrid, France, Berlin, and other cities in Europe.

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The big data skill set

A while ago, Professor Tom Davenport, Fellow with the MIT Center for Digital Business, proclaimed that “data scientist” would be the “sexiest” job in the 21st century. This topic was discussed at The 2014 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, both during the session moderated by Davenport, “Big Data, Analytics and Insights,” and at one of the Big Data “Birds of a Feather” luncheon tables.

And, while data scientists may be “sexy,” that doesn’t mean they’ll solve all of an organization’s big data problems. According to the panelists during the session and practitioners during the luncheon discussions, there are two challenges faced by companies that are looking for data scientists: first, they are expensive and hard to find; and second a data scientist may not be the only specialist needed to truly understand big data. As one participant pointed out, “While a data scientist has the skills to analyze the data, they may not necessarily have the business insight to ask the right questions of the data.”  Continue reading

MIT Sloan Executive Education partners with Haiti

Strong leadership and innovation are ideals and skills that should not be limited to the business world. In fact, one could make a strong argument that innovation is needed more in non-profit and government organizations than in corporations. Of course, we’d argue that innovation is needed everywhere. And, that nearly every kind of organization can benefit from it.

MIT Sloan Executive Education strives to innovate in both our programs and our collaborations. Just one of these examples is our partnership with and commitment to the government of Haiti. As announced earlier in the spring of 2014, MIT Sloan Executive Education has partnered with the government of Haiti to bring ministers and senior officials to our campus in Cambridge to learn concepts and tools that can be applied to real-world challenges, such as poverty-alleviation, economic regeneration, and other issues that face the island government struggling to rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake.  Continue reading

Will big data go away?

That was just one of the many questions debated during the “Big Data, Analytics and Insights” session at this year’s MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, held in late May 2014. The panel was moderated by Professor Tom Davenport, Fellow with the MIT Center for Digital Business, and included Barry Morris, Founder & CEO of NuoDB; Darrell Fernandes, CIO of the Professional Services Group at Fidelity Investments; Don Taylor, CTO of Benefitfocus; and Puneet Batra, Founder of LevelTrigger.

The short answer to that question is “maybe.” The term “big data,” which Davenport pointed out took off during the last quarter of 2010, means different things to different people. For some, big data refers to unstructured data. But to others, it refers to the variety, velocity, and volume of data that companies can attempt to harness for competitive advantage. In order to bring clarification to the discussion, Don Taylor often refers to it as “unwieldy” data. Other terms that are gaining some traction in the industry are “data-wise,” “data intelligence,” and “e-knowledge.”  Continue reading

What do search, the customer decision process, and NYC taxi cabs have in common?

One would think that searching online, how customers select products to purchase, and NY taxi cabs have very little in common. Or, that it’s the start of a joke. Actually both statements are wrong—a quick look at NY taxi cabs reveals a lot about customer behavior.

As Duncan Simester—NTU Chair in Management Science and Professor of Marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management—pointed out in his MIT Sloan Executive Education webinar, “Understanding the Customer Decision Process: Why Good Products Fail,” “Customers exhibit some basic behaviors when they make purchasing decisions: they search for information, they make inferences, and when they can’t search, they use observable information. But this process invariably means tradeoffs.” Continue reading