MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Category: Faculty Author

What’s your next move? A Systems Approach to Industry 4.0

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 13 days ago

John Carrier Speaking

In response to being asked the number of chess moves he looked ahead, World Chess Champion Jose Copablanca reportedly replied, “I only look one move ahead at a time, but I always pick the right move.” With respect to your organization’s transformation, how will you find the right next move? understanding your system—and training your people to be “system thinkers”— is the key to leveraging the power of Industry 4.0 and the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things).

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Six questions your organization needs to address to thrive in the digital era

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education and Peter Weill - 8 months and 17 days ago

Peter Weill

The good news about being in the middle of a digitization era is the plethora of new technology available that allows companies to reinvent themselves. However, the challenge about digital transformation is that it involves massive change.

MIT Sloan Senior Research Scientist Peter Weill shared his thoughts on this conundrum in a recent webinar—Six Questions for Digital Transformation—adding it’s not about the technology per se, but about the way in which we change our organizations that matters. Weill, along with MIT colleague Stephanie Woerner, recently published an HBR Press book—What’s Your Digital Business Model? Six Questions to Help You Build the Next-Generation Enterprise—says the goal of the book was to understand how companies can thrive in the digital era.

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A leadership reading list: Faculty-authored articles you may have missed in 2017

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 5 months and 11 days ago

Faculty-authored articles on leadership

MIT Sloan Executive Education faculty are deeply involved in research as well as actively working with organizations around the world. And when it comes to sharing their findings and insights, they are also prolific scholars. In addition to several recently published books, our faculty have contributed dozens of articles to notable publications in 2017. Here are just a few of the articles they’ve authored with a focus on leadership breakthroughs.

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Sleeping your way to the top

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 5 months and 20 days ago

Contributed by Tara Swart, MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer, neuroscientist, and executive leadership coach.

What makes a good leader?

Senior executives, managers, and business leaders are paid to use their brains. So it is surprising how little emphasis many put on this vital organ.

In a fast-paced world that is constantly changing, the brain's executive functions, such as creative and flexible thinking, task-switching, bias suppression, and emotional regulation, are becoming increasingly important. But our ability to perform well at these outputs will be enhanced only if fed the right inputs. These include nourishing, hydrating, and oxygenating the brain appropriately, simplifying tasks to give the brain mindful time, and resting it.

That final element—rest—is one of the most crucial. We often hear stories about famous leaders such as Margaret Thatcher surviving and even thriving on very little sleep (Thatcher did suffer from dementia in her later life). It is true that an extremely limited number of people (1-2% of the population) have a genetic mutation that reduces the amount of sleep they truly require for optimal functioning to 4-5 hours a night. But for the rest of us, getting seven to nine hours of good, quality sleep every night is vital for staying on top of our game.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep deprivation will negatively impact your cognitive performance. Getting less sleep than the recommended amount can cause an apparent IQ loss of five to eight points the next day, and population norm studies have shown that losing an entire night’s sleep can lead to up to one standard deviation loss on your IQ. In other words, you're effectively operating with the equivalent of a learning disability.

Shorting your sleep can have longer-term effects as well. Our glymphatic system requires 7-8 hours to clean our brains, a process which flushes out protein plaques and beta amyloid tangles that can lead to dementing diseases if allowed to accumulate. Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep (which includes sleeping after drinking alcohol) inhibits this process and can therefore increase the risk of developing these types of disease.

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What Sort of Brexit Is It: Light Continental or Full English?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 7 months and 7 days ago

Contributed by MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer, Phil Budden


Late last June, the British referendum on the EU resulted in a "vote heard 'round the world." In the weeks after that shocking result, we saw market volatility, the departure of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and much speculation around how and when the UK would formally leave the EU. Fortunately, the state’s automatic stabilisers kicked in—from the Bank of England, through the Civil Service, to the reassuring presence of the Queen.

As the summer comes to an end, and the initial turmoil has subsided, many executives are asking what’s now going on, and what do they need to know for the fall. One thing is clear: the so-called "Brexi"” is a process, not a single event. The referendum on the 23rd of June was "advisory," so—in the British parliamentary system—it is for the Government (now led by Theresa May) to take this forward, including when to trigger the formal two-year process of negotiating with the EU under Article 50, and when to bring a deal to Parliament.

While the initial shock waves of uncertainty roiled the currency and stock markets (as well as the political parties), the immediate economic picture is still uncertain: it could have been much worse without the major efforts of the Bank of England, HM Treasury and wider Civil Service. Markets have now stabilised, but the fundamental economic picture will not be clear for a while. This is unsettling for executives making medium-to long-term plans, as the short-term state will remain so unclear until further data comes in, with those for the first quarter after the referendum (i.e. Q3) perhaps not being out before Thanksgiving.

Post Brexit: What to watch for?

I am often asked what sorts of issues executives might be watching out for in the coming months. A challenge is that those advocating Brexit did not have a fixed plan: this is partly how the "Leave" coalition secured the 52% vote, i.e. by not specifying what a vote for Brexit would entail.

At the end of this piece, I set out two extremes on the spectrum for Brexit options, with Britain's opening negotiating position likely somewhere between, depending on how the following key issues are addressed

Reviewing the statements of the “Leave” campaign’s members (and polling of its voters), it is possible to identify four key issues which would need to be addressed in the UK’s negotiating position: these are immigration, "control," budget, and the market (mnemonic: 'ICBM'). The issue now is for the Government—assisted by its professional Civil Service (known informally as "Whitehall")—to define a negotiating position that respects the 52%'s vote, identifies the national interest for the whole country, is acceptable to a majority in Parliament, and might be negotiable with the rest of the EU.

1. Immigration

Immigration was, effectively, the emotional issue that won the Brexit vote, but it is not clear how this will translate into a negotiating position. In the heat of the debate, it was often forgotten that “immigration” is a two-way street (with many Brits benefitting from living in the rest of the EU), and that most of the immigrants come into the UK from outside the EU. Exiting the EU (with its "free movement of people") would not stop the bulk of the immigrants into the UK, but it would put in jeopardy the rights of Brits in the rest of the EU.

Looking closely at immigration into the UK, it’s clear that some places with the greatest numbers (e.g. London) were in favour of this influx (as its Mayors had recognized), and it voted heavily to remain in the EU. This openness had helped London become Europe's hotbed of innovation-driven entrepreneurship. Other communities—which had already been experiencing wider social and economic challenges, and then faced a recent rapid rise in immigration—voted to leave the EU. (Sadly, one of the side effects of the Brexit vote has been a spike in racist attacks in England.) Immigration will clearly be one of the thorniest topics.

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Productivity wisdom: My top 5 articles

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 years and 7 days ago

Contributed by Bob Pozen, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan Executive Education

Regardless of location, industry or occupation, productivity is a challenge faced by every professional, following us throughout our respective careers. Even as a professor and published author on the topic, I still find myself improving my own skills, both at work and at home, to get the most out of each day.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that there is a crowd of journalists, thought leaders, and gurus tackling the topic from almost every conceivable angle. While I have my own conclusions on the best ways to stay productive, which you can read in my book and learn more about in my class, Maximizing Your Personal Productivity, staying tuned into the perspectives of other productivity experts is critical to a well-rounded outlook. In the spirit of broadening our collective productivity wisdom, below are five great articles on the topic I've enjoyed:

  1. Inc.: "Why the Excuse "I'm Overloaded" Doesn't Work Anymore" This is a harsh reality to those who think they're too busy, but it points to a fundamental rule of productivity--prioritizing. One of the first lessons I teach in my course is how to prioritize. It seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people looking to be more productive don’t prioritize tasks appropriately.
  2. Fast Company: "This Googler Explains How to Design Your Time Rather Than Manage It" Creating to-do lists is a vital task to daily productivity. In this article, Google’s Thomas Davies describes his "Quadrant-style" to-do list that categorizes his tasks under 4 responsibilities or "quadrants" that help prioritize tasks.

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MIT REAP helps London scale its innovation ecosystem

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

Contributed by MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer, Dr. Phil Budden.

REAP London small

MIT's Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP) is fostering a worldwide innovation and entrepreneurship movement helping regional ecosystems. The latest region to take its REAP learnings to the next level is Team London, which is one of the regions in REAP's Cohort Two (essentially, the second round) which comes to a close this June 2016.

REAP is MIT's unique, two-year global Executive Education initiative designed to help regions around the world, with an average of eight teams per Cohort, to accelerate economic growth and job creation through "innovation-driven entrepreneurship" (IDE).  Each team has to include representatives of the five key stakeholders in an "innovation ecosystem," and must work together--with the help of MIT faculty and their research--to analyze their region’s strengths, determine a strategy based on their regional comparative advantage, and then implement a first step to achieving that strategy. Teams attend four workshops over the two-year program and must collectively achieve a great deal in the action phases before and after the workshops.

Team London's stakeholders, after participating in three REAP workshops (2014-2015), determined that their region produces a lot of start-ups but not enough of these scale to their full potential. This insight confirmed that efforts by a variety of stakeholders--including the UK Government of Prime Minister David Cameron--had successfully accelerated the innovation-driven enterprises in their ecosystem, which early insights had highlighted. With "London calling," MIT responded with its insights from Kendall Square, and then a place for London--following the visit of the British Prime Minister to MIT--in its second REAP cohort. (See "London's tech hub looks to capture 'MIT magic'")

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Insights for GE as it relocates to Boston's unique "innovation ecosystem"

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

Formerly known as General Electric, GE announced this January that it is moving its corporate headquarters from suburban Connecticut to downtown Boston. In the Boston Business Journal's recent coverage of the story, GE Chairman/CEO Jeff Immelt said: "GE is a $130 billion high-tech global industrial company, one that is leading the digital transformation of industry. We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations."

Formed by the 1892 merger of Thomas Edison’s company with Massachusetts' own Thomson-Houston Electric Company, GE is not alone in considering the Boston area as a world-class hub of innovation. Earlier this month, Bloomberg confirmed what many of us who live and work here know to be true: Massachusetts is the most innovative state in the nation.

So what does GE's move to Boston mean for the Commonwealth, for the City, and in particular for our innovation ecosystem? And what might GE like to know, even at this stage, as it thinks through how best to leverage the innovation and entrepreneurship that drive much of the activity in Greater Boston and beyond?

Let us start with defining the expression "innovation ecosystem" that has been so widely used in the discussions of GE's decision.  In our work at MIT, we define an innovation ecosystem as the connections among five key stakeholders: entrepreneurs (of course), universities (as you'd expect), and risk capital providers (beyond just VCs)--but also with key roles for government and large corporations. 

Innovation model

In our research on, and teaching about, such ecosystems around the world, we emphasize that an ecosystem relies upon the collective actions that these stakeholders take to contribute and share resources (talent, ideas, infrastructure, money, connections). 

Our work also shows that such innovation ecosystems are complex and sometimes fragile things.  Many places in the world wish to emulate such an innovation hub, but few pull off the alchemy necessary to launch or sustain such ecosystems.  As such, we have been increasingly highlighting (e.g., in BetaBoston,) the importance of a certain innovation diplomacy within and among the various stakeholder groups, recognizing the interests of the other parties, and taking actions that find opportunities for mutual long-term benefit.

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