MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Archive: April 2015

Can a global consulting giant build a culture of innovation in India?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 10 months and 23 days ago

These days, innovation is one of the main drivers of growth and the market’s confidence in any company's future success. Yet innovation is disruptive and often risky. What if your company's core business is built on the exact opposite--providing clients with services firmly grounded in reliable and standardized practices? How do you combine that legacy with nurturing an environment where creativity and bold ideas can flourish?

Building on a foundation of executional excellence

This is the challenge that the global consulting giant Accenture is tackling in its India Delivery Centers (IDC)--methodically and systematically. Using the Gartner Innovation Maturity Model, which ranks levels of corporate innovation in ascending order as Reactive, Active, Defined, Performing, and Pervasive, Mr. Raghavan Iyer, the managing director charged with fostering innovation at IDC, says that the company currently is at Level 3 (Active), but has its sights set on Level 5, i.e. a world-class leader in new methods and practices where innovation is a core competency in all business activities. This is an impressive ambition and judging by my experience at IDC in Bangalore a couple of weeks ago, they are on the right track.

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An innovative model that combats supply chain disruptions

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 10 months and 25 days ago

If the nature of your business is manufacturing, chances are one of your biggest concerns is supply chain disruption. While there are plenty of traditional ways to manage ordinary risks, when dealing with high-impact occurrences like viral epidemics or devastating storms--when the risks are often difficult to quantify and prepare for--a different method can help.

A model developed recently by MIT Sloan Professor David Simchi-Levi and his colleagues William Schmidt and Yehua Wei offers an alternative solution that concentrates on quantifying supply chain risk by using a breakthrough Risk Exposure Index (REI). In essence, says Simchi-Levi, the model "focuses on the impact of potential failures at points along the supply chain (such as the shuttering of a supplier’s factory or a flood at a distribution center), rather than the cause of the disruption."

It's a mathematical depiction of the supply chain that can be computerized and updated by employing a common math technique, called linear optimization, to determine the best response to a disruption. Simchi-Levi says that a key component of the model is "time to recovery (TTR), or the time it takes for a particular node (e.g., a distribution center, supplier facility, or transportation hub) to be restored after a disruption." The model removes one node at a time and determines the supply chain response that would minimize the performance impact of the disruption at that node--allowing the company to identify the nodes that need the most attention. 

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Can collective intelligence solve climate change?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 11 months and 4 days ago

Climate CoLab connected earth

Earth Day is just a few days away, and climate change and its effects are everywhere in the news. For many of us, the dire state of our environment feels overwhelming, and climate change can feel like an unsolvable problem. Which is why the key to tackling it may be to treat it not as one problem, but as many.

Climate CoLab, a project of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, seeks to break down the large, complex problem of climate change into a series of more manageable sub-problems. A crowdsourcing platform and virtual think tank, Climate CoLab is an online platform where experts and non-experts from around the world collaborate on developing and evaluating proposals for what to do about global climate change. The project seeks to harness collective intelligence through online contests, constructively engaging a broad range of scientists, policy makers, business people, investors, and concerned citizens.

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Leadership lessons from a flock of geese

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 11 months and 10 days ago

Contributed by Jeff Ton, as originally published on April 8th on the author's blog

No, this post is not about a 2015 version of the 80's band, Flock of Seagulls. Nor, is it really about a flock of geese (lovingly referred to as Sky Carp by my friend Lance). This post is really about the lessons I learned while attending Transforming Your Leadership Strategy conducted by MIT Sloan Executive Education. I often joke that I feel smarter just by stepping on campus here in Cambridge. But, it really is no joke, I really do gain new insights each and every time I attend one of the classes here.

flock of geese

I believe what makes these courses unique and extremely valuable are the students themselves. The diversity of the participants is incredible. The countries and therefore the cultures represented included Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Kingdom, Greece, Spain, Ghana, France, Nigeria, Canada, Denmark, Brazil, and, of course, the United States. The industries represented ranged from NGO's, government agencies, banking, retail, financial, Army, and education (and many others). To be able to gather with these 60 professionals and discuss leadership was indeed a privilege.

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Beware the negative review

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 11 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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Did McDonald's take a step toward the Good Jobs Strategy?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 11 months and 16 days ago

After several starts and stops, the U.S. established the modern national minimum wage in 1938, at $0.25 per hour. Since 2009, the national minimum wage in the U.S. has been $7.25 per hour, with 29 states setting the minimum wage higher than that mandated by the government. The issue is a contentious political issue, both on the national and local levels.

But the thing about minimum wage is it's just that: the bare minimum organizations need to pay workers. And some organizations are beginning to realize that the classic model of paying as little as necessary does not lead to higher profits; in fact, some companies--such as Trader Joe's and Costco--have proven that paying higher wages results in greater profits.


McDonald's, one of the top companies in the Fortune 500 ranking, recently announced it would raise wages and offer benefits to 90,000 employees in its corporate-owned stores. The plan is to increase wages to at least $1 more than the local minimum wage, bringing the average worker wage to $9.90 per hour, and, by 2016, to $10 per hour.

“We know that a motivated work force leads to better customer service, so we believe this initial step not only benefits our employees, it will improve McDonald's restaurant experience," said McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, as reported by The New York Times. Investing in employees is one part of what Zeynep Ton, Adjunct Associate Professor of Operations Management at MIT Sloan refers to as the "The Good Jobs Strategy.”

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So many bad bosses, so few good leaders?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 11 months and 17 days ago

Search for the term "bad bosses" online and you might be shocked at the results. One survey reveals two in ten people say a manager has hurt their career; another states one in five workers have a bad boss; a third, as covered by Forbes studied the impact of bad bosses and found that a shocking "77% of employees experienced physical symptoms of stress from bad bosses."

Why do so many companies lack the team of leaders they envision, despite the time and resources they invest in leadership development programs? MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Douglas Ready and Jay A. Conger, Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, have studied leadership efforts at more than a dozen international companies over the last two decades, trying to answer that very question 

In the MIT Sloan Management Review article, "Why Leadership Development Efforts Fail," Ready and Conger reveal that most of these efforts are to no avail because of clear patterns of behavior that cause repeated failures and breakdowns over time. They also share and how IBM—one of the companies they worked with—cured these behaviors to create a leadership program that achieves results.

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System dynamics, sustainability, and Earth Day

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 11 months and 18 days ago

Earth Day--which will celebrate its 45th anniversary on April 22--has come a long way since its inaugural kick off back in 1970. Capitalizing on the energy of the sometimes turbulent 70s, today's Earth Day is much broader in scope than the original event.

This year's theme focuses on bringing together the different communities of climate, sustainability, poverty, and development to build a more inclusive global movement, according to Kathleen Rogers, President and CEO of Earth Day Network (EDN), an international nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day actions globally.

Launching the field of sustainability at MIT Sloan

In that watershed year when Earth Day was first celebrated, then-MIT Sloan Professor Jay Forrester—known by many as the father of system dynamics—initiated MIT's involvement with sustainability. Forrester created a system dynamics model of the world's socioeconomic system, which he published in a book titled World DynamicsThrough novel computer simulations (his World2 model), Forrester showed the dangers of continued, unrestrained resource usage and population growth. This project led to an extended study (World3) by one of Forrester's former Ph.D students, Dennis Meadows, and the publication of Limits to Growth, which sold 12 million copies, was translated into 37 languages, and has been credited as launching the environmental movement globally. The book was updated on it's 20th and 30th anniversary.

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