MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Archive: July 2015

Scarecrow finally has a brain

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 3 months and 30 days ago

Contributed by Jeffrey Ton, as originally published on his blog, Rivers of Thought, on July 15. Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana.

I have a confession. I do not have a Master's Degree ... I don't even have a Bachelor's Degree. There I said it. I feel better! I am glad to get that off my chest! While it has never really been a secret, it is something that I have kept close to the vest for ages. It's amazing to me how often it comes up in conversation. "I graduated from IU" or "I graduated from Purdue," or "I graduated from Notre Dame," or UCLA, UK, BSU, Wisconsin, THE Ohio State University, or countless others…and then…"Where is your Alma Mater?" How do I answer THAT? I usually reply, rather self-consciously, "I went to Indiana State," or "I went to Judson," (which is true, I attended both), being very careful NOT to say I graduated from ...

You see, I was going to be a rock star! Hey, it was the 70's, it's all I ever wanted to do from my the age of 10 or 11. I left for college at Indiana State to major in Music Theory and Composition. I discovered very quickly ... you have to have talent! I did not. Over the next couple of years, I got married, transferred schools, and my first son was born. To provide for my family, I put my college studies on hold and began to work one, two and sometimes three jobs.

Honestly, the hold was never removed. By the time my wife finished her degree and we were in a position for me to go back to school, I was teaching college level computer classes. Say what? Yep, I was teaching night classes at a local university in computer programming, word processing and data processing. How that happened is really the story of how I have achieved all that I have achieved in my professional life. It's really a story of lifelong learning.

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What a difference a week makes: The impact of executive education

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 3 months and 28 days ago

By Colleen Berger, Program Director, MIT Sloan Executive Education

As a Program Director at MIT Sloan Executive Education, I have a very special window into our classrooms. I have the opportunity to work with faculty, listen in on content, and meet executives from around the world who have come to us for practical solutions to critical business problems. For me, the experience of being in the classroom, meeting our participants, and witnessing their breakthrough moments is inspirational. For the executives who attend, the impact these programs deliver is enormous. And in many ways, the personal benefits are unexpected.

Nora Domínguez

May's Leading Change in Complex Organizations program was attended by 33 people from 16 different countries, each seeking tools and frameworks for guiding successful organizational change. This weeklong course took a deep dive into managerial decision-making, sharing a unique analytical framework that addressed the change process and provided executives with the independent, third party expertise for which they came to us. These students returned to their organizations with fresh perspectives on leadership and change--perspectives they gained not only from the teachings, but from one another.

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Observation changes the game

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 4 months and 3 days ago


What sets truly disruptive innovators apart? According to Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and co-author of The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, innovators have a special set of skills that help them create value-generating ideas. Observation is one of those skills, and one that engages multiple senses. The observations innovators make spark questions that, and as we covered in our previous post on this topic, can challenge common wisdom. Innovators carefully watch the world around them, and they connect common threads among unconnected data. They are keenly aware of what doesn't work and innovate uncommon business ideas to solve them. 

For innovators, this observation skill is always turned on. For the rest of us, it's an untapped resource.

Developing your skills of observation

So what does Gregersen's research tell us about improving our own ability to observe, and turning those observations into value? He suggests the following tips for developing this important skill:

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Getting to the right answers fastest

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 4 months and 3 days ago

Contributed by MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steve Spear. Spear teaches in Creating High Velocity Organizations and is author of The High Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition.

There are many different kinds of companies--those that are highly competitive, those on a mission, those who are life-style companies and those who are also-rans. Or, more simply, some companies strive to be the Coca-Cola of their market, others are happy being Avis ("We Try Harder"), and still others are fine being Wendy's, happily number three in their market.

Those that own or want to own their market have to get to the right answers first. The question is how they achieve that. After all, highly competitive companies often have the same set of opportunities and challenges. Look at the smartphone market to understand the value of being first. 

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So you want to be the next Uber?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 4 months and 10 days ago

Using mobile app

One can only imagine the sheer volume of pitches angel and VC investors get today that start with, "We'll be the next Uber…" or "We'll be the Uber of X industry." Uber has become a generic term for a highly visible, seemingly successful disruptive business. It is a perfect example of a successful platform company.

As we wrote a few weeks ago in Why platforms beat products every time, 14 of the top 30 global brands by market capitalization in 2013 were platform-oriented companies. Both established companies and startups are flocking to the platform business model. But as participants in the recent MIT Sloan Executive Education program Platform Strategy: Building and Thriving in a Vibrant Ecosystem learned, creating a successful platform is much more complicated than simply connecting two parties and collecting the revenue. (In the case of Uber, the two parties are people with cars sitting idle and people who need rides from one place to another.)

What makes a platform a platform?

 "Just because something is called a platform, doesn’t make it a platform from a business perspective," says Catherine Tucker, Associate Professor of Marketing at MIT Sloan. “A platform business must have network effects--people value it more highly the more others use it." The easiest way to think of the network effect of a platform is to consider Skype or the fax machine--they’re only valuable if many people are using them.

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Should we fear our own data?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 4 months and 17 days ago

fitness tracking

Fitbit, one of the companies making wearable fitness trackers, has sold more than 20.8 million devices and has 9.5 million paid active users as of March 31, 2015, according to That's a lot of consumers using the device to track their physical activity, daily steps, and other vitals related to health and wellness (Fitbit has many integrations with other applications, enabling users to track calories, water intake, and other variables). Most of these users of tracking devices like Fitbit and Garmin may think the data on their activity belongs to them. However, they would be wrong (see our previous post, "The downside of wearable fitness technology").

In fact, not only do those companies own our data, but our own data can be used against us: to date there have been two criminal court cases where the prosecution used wearable device data to make their cases. The potential for courts and even third parties to use the data collected by fitness trackers against us could put a significant damper on this popular category of consumer devices.

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