MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Category: Insights from our Associate Dean

You’re never done: 10 years of digital transformation at MIT Sloan Executive Education

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 days ago

10 Years of Digital Transformation at MIT Sloan

Saying that organizations need to be serious about digital transformation is like saying that people need to be serious about breathing. Digital transformation is not a matter of choice, no matter the industry, geography, size or structure of your organization. However, you do have a choice in how you go about ensuring your organization’s success or, frankly, survival, as technology continues to influence and often define how business is done.

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Making sense of IoT with the best of MIT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 5 months and 29 days ago

Contributed by Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education

Making Sense of IoT with the Best of MIT

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) in London, and participating in several conference events as a speaker. One panel in particular--"IoT in Society," which focused on the intersections of various areas of life and work—brought the idea of interconnectedness into high relief. The Internet of Things is--of course--not limited to "things" or just to the Internet or even to the tech sector. As business leaders grapple with the IoT reality and prepare their organizations and themselves for the future, understanding the importance of interconnectedness among different sectors of business and life is essential.

Here at MIT, we have a long history of different kinds of thinkers collaborating, which is just what organizations need to be doing, and which makes the Institute a naturally appealing place for managers to learn how to develop the skills needed to lead in the era of IoT. We have faculty members in engineering and technology, and science and social science, as well as business--all at the cutting edge of their fields, but also used to actually interact with each other and collaborating both in research and teaching. And so the ability to bring all of those resources into an executive education program, for example, and collaborate with partners from across departments, is unusual for a business school. MIT's Sloan School of Management is in a fortunate position to tap into the whole of MIT.

The executive education programs that we offer--in partnership with the School of Engineering, the Office of Digital Learning, MIT Media Lab, and the Computational Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL)--are about "demystifying" IoT, as our Digital Capability Leader Paul McDonagh-Smith puts it. A tech industry veteran, McDonagh-Smith knows where we need to shed the light. Prior to working with us, he spent decades at companies like Nortel and Avaya, and now is driving a lot of the development of our IoT-focused programs and making sure that we engage the best partners from across MIT.

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Developing principled, innovative leaders: What does MIT Sloan's mission mean today?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 17 days ago

Contributed by Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education

Peter Hirst MIT Sloan Executive Education

Perhaps as an antidote to the level of discourse on leadership during this year's U.S. presidential elections, Brexit, and the seemingly endless supply of corporate scandals (Wells Fargo being the latest example), I've been thinking a lot about the MIT Sloan mission recently: " ... to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice."

The phrase "principled, innovative leaders" especially has been on my mind—what does it mean, really? What qualities make a principled, innovative leader? Who are the principled, innovative leaders of our generation? Steve Jobs? Oprah Winfrey? Mark Zuckerberg? Are they empire builders or trail blazers? Maybe both? Are they always in the spotlight or working quietly behind the scenes? What difference does it make to employees, customers, shareholders, and society as a whole that business leaders are principled and innovative? The list of questions goes on and on, and it seems like a perfect opportunity to engage the wisdom of crowds to find answers.

Why is this important? Knowing what the MIT Sloan mission means to you can potentially guide the direction of our future executive education programs. That's why in the coming weeks I plan to ask anyone who is willing to share an opinion to do so. Please feel free to share examples or opinions of what principled, innovative leadership means to you, using the comment tool on this blog. What would you be encouraging me to keep in mind while I am thinking about articulating and implementing our vision of principled, innovative leadership at MIT Sloan Executive Education?

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Life of purpose and other discoveries from the FRED Forum 2015

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 8 months and 18 days ago

Contributed by Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education

Motivating leaders is not hard--these are the people who are used to raising their hand when no one else will. The big question is what drives them each and every day and how do they sustain that drive? What inspires them and compels them to action? And what can we learn from them? Answering these questions and developing the practice of leadership to make the world a better place is the goal of FRED Leadership incubator. The organization's annual conference, the FRED Forum, is something I look forward to with great anticipation, and this one was no exception.

Held last fall in Denver, Colorado, the FRED Forum 2015 focused on the question of purpose--in work and in life. The four-day conference brimmed with inspiring talks, thought-provoking workshops, illuminating field trips, and opportunities to learn from leaders from a variety of backgrounds for whom the purpose of their work is to improve the lives of others and make the world better.

Finding purpose through discovery and reflection

Richard Leider


On the first day, Richard Leider, a renowned executive life-coach and author, guided us through a workshop on how to identify and articulate our individual purpose in life. An interesting experiment in self-reflection, it was no small task by any measure. Leider encouraged us to think of purpose along six essential principles:

  1. Purpose is a choice.
  2. Purpose is a practice.
  3. Purpose is an aim outside yourself.
  4. Purpose begins with believing you have one.
  5. Purpose is more than saying "yes" to what you already have, it's also saying "no" to deterrents.
  6. Purpose gives life focus and meaning.

While each person's purpose is a deeply personal matter, Leider pointed us in a general direction of leading a meaningful life by growing and giving, as people and as leaders in our fields.
Of course, having a clear purpose does not guarantee that you will succeed, but striving in the right direction will get you closer to fulfilling your purpose, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The next several speakers shared lessons and perspectives gained from experiences that could have easily embittered them but instead gave their work a clear purpose.

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Embodied leadership: Is neuroscience the next frontier in management?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 9 months and 5 days ago

Contributed by Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education


There has been much excitement in the media lately about how breakthroughs in neuroscience can be applied to improve our daily lives. From brain-boosting juices and snacks, to game apps designed to keep our brains agile, to marketing techniques promising more effective selling--neuroscience has captured public imagination.

While it's important to separate the hype from actual science, the fact that advances in brain-imaging technology have finally given researchers the tools to see with greater accuracy what's going on in our brains is full of promise. Long-held beliefs about how the brain works are now turning out to be if not exactly untrue, then at least up for debate. It's understandable that people are excited by the potential implications of these new possibilities. 

Applying Neuroscience Insights to Leadership Education

As Associate Dean of Executive Education at MIT Sloan School of Management, a big part of my job is to champion scientific knowledge as it applies to management and leadership education. So, needless to say, I was quite excited to learn what brain-based insights can teach business leaders.

My first glimpse of the tremendous potential that advances in neuroscience can bring to business leadership happened at the UNICON 2013 conference--a meeting of executive education providers from the world's leading business schools. It was there that I met Dr. Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and executive leadership coach who gave a compelling presentation on how brain science can be applied in management and leadership education.

Her presentation posed a number of thought-provoking questions. How can our understanding of the agility and diversity of thinking affect our leadership effectiveness? Is it actually possible to create a whole new mindset and to disrupt deeply embedded leadership patterns? Can we truly overcome what Harvard Graduate School of Education professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey call our "immunity to change"? Can leaders truly be transformed and, in turn, transform their organizations? I was so impressed by what I saw that I immediately started thinking of ways to bring her knowledge to MIT Sloan

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Africa is not a country--reflections on a week in South Africa

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 9 months and 11 days ago

By Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education

Johannesburg smaller

It's coming up to a year since I attended the UNICON Director's Conference hosted in Johannesburg by the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) of University of Pretoria. Founded in 2000, GIBS has become one of the most respected business schools in Africa, which makes it not only a major center for business learning, but also an influential member of the region's business community. Looking back at this past year, I am realizing how timely and useful that week in South Africa has been for me.  (Photo ©Lonely Planet) 

If you were to believe the covers of the popular U.S. and European business publications, the African continent might be seen as poor, disease-ridden and politically unstable, and therefore not a great place to do business. Of course, this is a gross oversimplification, which institutions like GIBS are working hard to change.

Feeling the Context 

In just that brief visit to South Africa, one of the 54 countries on the continent, I enjoyed a variety of wonderful experiences--the historic landmarks and vibrant neighborhoods in Johannesburg, the majestic scenery and wildlife in the Madikwe Game Reserve, the lush beauty of wine country outside of Cape Town--that made me appreciate why so many people fall in love with Africa.  

Obviously, we all know that Africa is not a country and that South Africa is not the only economy on the continent. Yet, I would venture to guess that like me, not many business leaders around the world fully appreciate the continent’s great diversity of economies, stages of development, and challenges, as well as political, cultural and religious differences. As my fellow UNICON conference participant Adam Gordon, Director of Executive & Corporate Education at Wits Business School in Johannesburg, pointed out in a Forbes blog post after the event, understanding the economic, cultural and historical context of different African countries is extremely important for business education providers interested in working with clients in Africa. It seems self-evident that it is equally important for any company or organization looking to expand into African markets.

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Learning virtually everywhere: MIT Accenture Technology Executive Development Program

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 1 month ago

By Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education

Peter Hirst MIT Sloan Executive Education

I've been writing a lot lately about how industry and higher education institutions need to collaborate to prepare professionals, managers, and leaders for the rapidly evolving marketplace. From the glaring talent gap in the Internet of Things economy, to the complex relationships between business schools and corporate training programs, the need for better, more efficient leadership in the area of talent development continues to be a central issue for me and my colleagues in the field of executive education.

As the Associate Dean of Executive Education at MIT Sloan School of Management and a board member of organizations such as The International University Consortium for Executive Education (UNICON) and the Internet of Things Talent Consortium, I see firsthand how technology-driven companies struggle with finding the right people and training their staff to anticipate and meet market demands. Industry, academia, government, and non-profits are starting to recognize the need to collaborate more and address this problem in a systemic way. However, an industry-wide approach to more effective talent development is yet to manifest.

Adapting to a changing marketplace

One example of a learning experiment that is currently underway at MIT Sloan Executive Education and Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company, is the MIT Accenture Technology Executive Development Program. Accenture serves clients in more than 120 countries and employs over 358,000 people across its five businesses--Accenture Strategy, Accenture Consulting, Accenture Digital, Accenture Technology, and Accenture Operations. How can a company of this size and complexity keep its sights on the future and remain nimble enough to solve its clients' problems and anticipate their needs quickly and constantly? How can employees around the world acquire new skills to stay ahead of the competition in a marketplace that changes in a blink of an eye? What skills do they need now and in the long term?

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Who will power the IoT economy?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 1 month and 6 days ago

By Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education

IoT smaller

From driverless cars and sensor-laden industrial equipment to connected kitchens and smart cities---the Internet of Things (IoT) is cropping up everywhere, or so it seems. Recognizing the tremendous economic potential, tech giants and startups are investing heavily in IoT products and platforms. A recent report estimates that "the IoT will result in $1.7 trillion in value added to the global economy in 2019." Yet many employers are struggling to find the talent to propel the rapidly developing IoT economy towards the full extent of its promised value.

At last year's Internet of Things Word Forum in Chicago, Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Services, presented startling findings based on data from CareerBuilder, IBSG, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • One-million shortage of qualified workers in the Internet security industry in the next five years
  • Two million jobs needed in information technology and communications in the next ten years
  • Over 11 million people unemployed in the United States at that time
  • 45% of employers unable to find qualified candidates for open jobs

 As of this August 2015, the number of unemployed people in the U.S. dropped to 8 million. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth came primarily from healthcare, social assistance, and financial services sectors--not technology companies.

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