MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Category: Innovation

MIT Sloan Executive Education hosts Mass Innovation Nights

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 11 days ago

Mass Innovation Night 101 at MIT Sloan Executive Education

This week, MIT Sloan Executive Education is hosting Mass Innovation Nights 101 (#MIN101), the Boston region’s premier monthly startup showcase and networking event. This month’s event, to be held on Wednesday, August 9th, will be held at MIT’s Samberg Conference Center and will feature new startups influencing innovation and tackling process improvement.

“Over the last eight years, we’ve built a successful social media-powered group that has worked together to support local entrepreneurs,” said Bobbie Carlton, Founder of Innovation Nights and Innovation Women. “It’s really a great example of how much a group can accomplish working together, without huge budgets and expensive tools.” Carlton adds, “as a major global driver of innovation, MIT is a natural partner for us.”

Free-of-charge and open to the public, monthly Mass Innovation Nights events feature business experts, networking, tabletop demos, and presentations from the winners of an online vote taken before the event. Here are the innovations participating in Mass Innovation Nights 101:

  • Openbridge is an integration platform that helps teams harness the power of performance data across a variety of sources, including social networks, video platforms, and web analytics tools.
  • TwelveJobs uses detailed information from job seekers and employers to algorithmically help find the perfect match.
  • WatchRx uses a smartwatch to help the elderly take their medications on time and to live independently in their homes as long as possible.
  • Vinolytics simplifies wine management, offering what to drink when, what it is worth, where it comes from and how to buy or sell it.

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A third way of innovating: The Power of Little Ideas

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 17 days ago

Power of Little Ideas

There is no shortage of innovation advice—you have surely heard the persistent drumbeat, “disrupt or be disrupted,” for example. Conventional wisdom says that there are two types of innovation: incremental or radical. But this is a false dichotomy.

According to David Robertson, MIT Lecturer and author of The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation, there is another way to innovate. This distinctive approach, which Robertson refers to as the Third Way, improves the value of a core product by innovating around it.

This third strategy consists of creating a family of complementary innovations around a product or service, all of which work together as a system to carry out a single strategy or purpose. And crucially, unlike disruptive or radical innovation, innovating around a key product does not change the central product in any fundamental way. While continual improvement of your product is, of course, a good thing, Robertson encourages respect for what made that product great in the first place.

“People will tell you to drop your core product and go ‘disrupt,’ … but it didn’t work for LEGO!” says Robinson. “Innovation can be damaging.”

Robertson is referring to LEGO’s reaction to competitive threats and market shifts in the late 1990s that caused the company to innovate away from its signature snap-together bricks in favor of diverse new products, including a line of toys designed around two blockbuster movie franchises, Harry Potter and Stars Wars. When no new movies from either franchise appeared in 2003 or the first half of 2004, however, a harsh reality was revealed: the bottom had dropped out for LEGO. Its attempts to create revolutionary change almost pushed the company into bankruptcy.

In the wake of that disaster, the company examined its series of failed experiments, and one bright spot emerged—a quirky construction toy called Bionicle, which differed in three key ways from what the company had done before: the plastic pieces were used to construct action figures; the toy came with a LEGO-created story of heroes battling villains to the save the world; and the plastic pieces were surrounded by complementary innovations, from new packaging to comics to an array of licensed merchandise.

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Fashion statements apropos of MIT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 21 days ago

© 2012 Tangible Media Group / MIT Media Lab / Photo by Hannah Cole

The latest fashion trends can be found in couture magazines and the runway at Bryant Park, but did you know that you can also spot the latest innovations in fashion here at MIT?

In fact, MIT has a long history at the intersection of high fashion, high tech, and innovation—from our pioneering efforts in textile programing, adaptive clothing for people with disabilities, wearable computing, new biologic fabric that literally breathes, and the many successful ventures spun out of our Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship.

A surge of startups

For years, fashion-minded MIT students and alumni have been creating companies targeting niche consumer styles and voids in the retail industry. These companies include everything from traditional ventures in textiles and garments to tools that enhance the online shopping experience to completely reinventing the stiletto.

  • Ministry of Supply, co-founded by a group of MIT Sloan students and an MIT engineering alumnus, uses thermal analysis, robotic engineering, and advanced materials to design better-fitting men’s business attire. The company has developed a rapidly growing science-based clothing line and the industry’s first 3-D robotic knitting machine.
  • AHAlife is a curated online marketplace of thousands of luxury fashion items and other high-end products. AHAlife re-creates the in-store experience of discovery while shopping online by featuring quality, well-crafted products with a story.
  • Sundar, a global mobile search engine startup for sourcing materials and suppliers, was incubated at MIT and founded by MIT Sloan alumnus Jag Gill. “Our mission is to streamline the discovery and sourcing process by providing sophisticated search, curation, and data-driven insights on what to purchase, produce, and stock to buyers and sellers 24/7,” said Gill in this Forbes feature.

A minisurge of MIT start-ups like these in recent years is driven by a budding category of fashion industry entrepreneurs. “About two years ago, we thought these companies were outliers,” said Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, in this Boston Globe article. “Now the pace has definitely picked up.”

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MIT’s Charles Fine envisions the future of urban mobility

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 27 days ago

Faster Smarter Greener by MIT's Charles Fine

We’ve had a century-long love affair with the car and, for the most part, it’s been a great ride. But our relationship with automobiles is changing.

In the U.S., recent studies suggest that Americans are buying fewer cars, driving less, and getting fewer licenses with each passing year. People are more attached to their smartphones than their cars; millennials in particular value cars and car ownership much less than they value technology. Combine this disenchantment with the fact that, in many cities around the world, cars are not always the quickest mode of travel. And, of course, emissions from the rapidly growing number of cars threaten the planet. It makes one wonder: is our global love affair with vehicles cooling?

We recently spoke with MIT Professor Charles Fine about his new book, slated to hit the stands in September: Faster, Smarter, Greener: The Future of the Car and Urban Mobility. Fine teaches operations strategy and supply chain management in MIT's Communications Futures Program, and he is Faculty Director of the MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Driving Strategic Innovation: Achieving High Performance Throughout the Value Chain. His research focuses on supply chain strategy and value chain roadmapping, with an emphasis on fast clockspeed manufacturing industries. Fine's work has supported the design and improvement of supply chain relationships for companies in electronics, automotive, aerospace, communications, and consumer products.

Faster, Smarter, Greener brings Fine’s research into the future, envisioning a new world of urban mobility that is connected, heterogeneous, intelligent, and personalized—what Fine and his coauthors Venkat Sumantran and David Gonsalvez refer to as the CHIP architecture. This architecture embodies an integrated, multimode mobility system that builds on ubiquitous connectivity, electrified and autonomous vehicles, and an open, entrepreneurial marketplace.

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Human centered design means better products--and better leadership

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 1 day ago

Matthew Kressy and students at MIT IDM

There is a shift happening in innovative product design--and it's putting people at the center of it. Human-centered design is the practice of connecting with the needs and emotions of customers to create compelling products and services. It's driven by a methodology of connecting with and developing empathy for users, and it replaces assumptions about users' needs and preferences with actual information acquired from the field. This process-heavy, people-oriented approach includes researching existing products, interviewing and observing customers, quick and iterative prototyping, and resonance testing--all with the goal of achieving solutions that create value.

"We believe that through a deeper understanding of people, we can identify and create more successful solutions for people, companies, and society," says Brian Matt, Senior Principal Director of the design and innovation consulting firm Altitude | Accenture. "We try to get into their world, and see it through their eyes," adds Dan Ostrower, Principal Director.

The human-centered design process also requires a product team to present their findings to their organization, and often up the chain, to achieve buy in. In many cases, this is where the hard part begins. Matthew Kressy, Director and Co-Founder of MIT Integrated Design & Management (IDM), refers to this as the expression phase. "The purpose of expression is to transfer that empathy to the organization," says Kressy. "The individuals on the [product] team may care, but now they have to get the organization to care, with the obvious goal of designing and manufacturing a product that will better match with the needs of the users."

Kressy is an expert in product design and development. As an entrepreneur and founder of Designturn, he has designed, invented, engineered, and manufactured products for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between. Kressy believes in interdisciplinary, design-driven product development derived from deep user research, creative concept generation, and rapid prototype iteration, and he is passionate about teaching this approach to the design process in design schools--and business schools.

In his two-day MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Leadership by Design: Innovation Process and Culture, Kressy presents the ways in which highly successful companies, such as Tesla, Apple, and Procter & Gamble innovate continuously by connecting with customer needs and emotions to create compelling products and services. These companies have created action-based organizational cultures in which empathy is generated, trial and error is encouraged, and failure is celebrated as a source of learning.

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What does the Trump administration mean for climate change efforts?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 30 days ago

climate change policy

On November 4, 2016, the historic Paris Agreement on climate change policy (#OurAccord) became international law. "Humanity will look back on November 4, 2016, as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster," said UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa and Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar in a joint statement that day.

Four days later, on November 8, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. And overnight, the set of policies required to fulfill the promises of the Paris Accord were under threat.

Here's what we know. President Trump has called human-caused climate change a hoax. He has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency "in almost every form." Trump has attacked Obama's Clean Power Plan as "a war on coal." And, perhaps most significantly, he has promised to renege on the U.S. pledge under the Paris Agreement, which commits more than 190 countries to reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution.

And so now, we wait.

However, as recently reported by ClimateWire, "For every conservative who dreams about ripping up the Paris Agreement, there's a company executive who wants to stay in." Shortly after the election, hundreds of U.S. businesses urged Trump to uphold the Paris climate deal. More than 360 companies and investors--from DuPont, eBay, and Nike to Unilever, Levi Strauss & Co., and Hilton--made their plea in an open letter to the incoming and outgoing administrations and members of Congress. (The signatories have since grown to over 700.)

And many companies are walking the walk. In a recent press release, Google announced it will reach 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality in 2017. Iron Mountain signed a 15-year wind power purchase agreement that will supply 30% of its North American electricity needs with renewable energy. And here in Boston, MIT, Boston Medical Center, and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation have formed an alliance to buy electricity from a large new solar power installation, adding carbon-free energy to the grid and demonstrating a partnership model for other organizations in climate-change mitigation efforts.

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Success isn't comfortable: Lessons in leadership from the Human Capital Institute

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 months and 12 days ago

confused executive

There is value in discomfort--business value. If you happened to attend the Human Capital Institute's Learning and Leadership Development Conference held in Boston last month (MIT Sloan Executive Education was a sponsor), you heard more than one session speaker tout the benefits of being squarely outside of one's comfort zone. According to speakers like MIT's own Hal Gregersen, who presented a keynote speech at the conference, business leaders need to get uncomfortable to be successful.

Three ways discomfort drives success

We generally think of people who enjoy uncomfortable situations as thrill seekers--or masochists. Most people don't take pleasure in being nervous, humbled, or overly challenged. We are conditioned to appear as confident and competent in front of our peers as humanly possible. And we avoid tasks that are out of our wheelhouse because, frankly, we don’t want to screw up. However, in the context of leadership development and business success, staying comfortable is actually a dangerous game. And, most importantly, a missed opportunity.

Here are three takeaways from the recent HCI conference that remind us of the value in discomfort.

Executives who learn to stretch their comfort levels and ask tough questions make better leaders and innovators.

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and a Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan Executive Education, says it's all too easy for senior leaders to isolate themselves in a "good news cocoon" where everyone says things are fine and no one challenges your ideas or asks tough questions. It's comfy, and it's dangerous. Powerful organizational and industrial forces can keep any senior leader from asking (or hearing) uncomfortable questions, creating a perilous, answer-centric environment rife with blind spots. They lose sight of the big picture of how things really are, ultimately missing opportunities for innovation and increasing the risk of disruption.

"Executives who ask and invite probing questions are much better equipped to manage threats and spot opportunities," said Gregersen in his keynote speech, The Leader's Dilemma: Asking Tough Questions (Before Someone Else Does). Having interviewed hundreds of the world's most innovative CEOs as part of his ongoing leadership research, he finds that those who seek out uncomfortable, risky, and challenging situations in search of a line of inquiry have greater success at leading innovative products and process. By becoming better questioners, leaders unlock new solutions, innovations, and processes, ultimately creating greater business value.

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Certificate helps executive “future proof” his career

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 months and 30 days ago

MIT Sloan Certificate holder Robert Robertson

Robert Robertson is president of the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute and recently received an Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation at MIT Sloan Executive Education. In this interview, Dr. Robertson shares his thoughts about the experience and how he has applied those lessons in his professional endeavors

Initially, what made you consider the MIT Sloan Executive Certificate?
The reason I chose the MIT Sloan Executive Certificate was because of the reputation of the School and recommendations from previous attendees.

Can you share some lessons learned from your MIT Sloan experience? Were you able to apply them in your workplace?
The scope and speed of change challenges us all to think outside the box, and these programs afforded the means to address that reality. The training was very practical and relevant. The programs provided excellent cases and exercises that engaged everyone, and in addition, there was a very good range of participants, which added value to the work. Also, the ability to link disruptive innovation to my work was very useful.

What were the highlights of your experience with the programs you completed?
The instructors, the environment, the materials, and the planning by all involved were highlights of the programs. In fact, I have retained the materials and still use them. They are excellent! All of the faculty presenters were well prepared, and the sessions were definitely world class. It is difficult for me to single out any one instructor in particular. In my experience, all of the professors reached an exceptionally high standard across the board.

Was there anything that surprised you about the programs?
What surprised me initially was the consistent quality across all of the courses. Also, the diversity of the cohorts and the ease with which you could work with the participants was really a plus. It was an enriching experience to be able to work with people from so many different factions. For example, I had course mates from the U.S. military, the European commission, and a large Japanese company. The differences in terms of experience that the participants brought to the table were applicable immediately to my current situation.

Were you able to connect with your classmates? If so, what were the benefits of doing so?
The networking opportunities were an important aspect of the classes. I have had good connections from the certificate experience and have maintained contacts in Southeast Asia, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh, who have shared emerging issues, trends, and problems—and given me good feedback, which has assisted me in my teaching.

Did the programs meet your expectations? Would you recommend them to colleagues? Overall, the programs exceeded my expectations. They were well organized, and the takeaway materials were excellent. I found the programs to be a very useful and well worth the time and energy to attend. I would highly recommend the experience.

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