Building better buildings with digital tools

Picture1Ingenious apps are exploding on the marketplace daily, but they have little worth if the people they’re designed for have no interest in using them. Keiko Miyazaki, SF ’14, head of global strategy and marketing for PanaHome Asia Pacific, Panasonic’s real estate arm, says the construction industry is a case in point.

Not everyone is comfortable living and working in digital environments, Miyazaki points out, and professionals in the construction industry, as a group, tend to be more resistant than most. Based in forward-focused Singapore, PanaHome is expanding across Asia into Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where builders and contractors are more deeply entrenched in traditional methods.

Miyazaki entered the building industry two years ago motivated to help advance it into its digital future, one of Panasonic’s key goals. She says the industry naturally lends itself to digital tools and that those tools have the power to increase creativity, efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. She gives as an example apps that aim to produce a sort of virtual construction site, digitizing all aspects of a building project in one central cloud-based database, making it easy to monitor individual—as well as intersecting—aspects of a project as it progresses.

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Effective negotiation: Seven essential elements

“Only at MIT,” a few students grumbled. Only at MIT would you be relegated to a 400-student waiting list for a negotiations class—held during the winter break. MIT Sloan Professor Jared Curhan’s three-day crash course “Negotiation Analysis” was one of 700 courses—some for credit, some just for fun—offered during MIT’s legendary Independent Activities Period. IAP takes place every January and many students come back to campus a month early just to take part.

CurhanWhy were so many trying to get into Curhan’s class? A widespread acknowledgement that, no matter the field or industry you’re in, negotiations is a critical skill. The 80 students in Curhan’s class represented a cross-section of the university—28 different sectors of MIT, from nuclear science to management to urban studies.

Curhan built the not-for-credit mini-course around a framework developed at the Program on Negotiation (PON), an interdisciplinary consortium of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Tufts. Curhan serves on the PON executive committee. The framework is actually seven elements essential to every negotiation:

1. Parties: Be aware of all the potential stakeholders—not just those who are sitting around the table with you, but those who influence and feel the impact of the decision.

2. Alternatives: Consider your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Before you approach your preferred vendor to initiate a key transaction, solicit offers from backup vendors.

3. Options: Be creative in addressing the interests of all relevant parties. Before you ask for an extra week’s vacation, for example, anticipate and be prepared for the objections and know how you might address them.

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  Leadership  

New MIT competition rewards ideas that support earners on lower economic rungs

ideIn a prime example of innovation breeding innovation, MIT’s revolutionary new Inclusive Innovation Competition (IIC) rewards ideas that are just as groundbreaking. Sponsored by the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) in collaboration with the MIT Innovation Initiative (MITii), the competition will award a total of $1,000,000 dollars in prizes to organizations that are inventing a more sustainable, productive, and inclusive future. In particular, ideas must improve economic opportunity for middle- and base-level income earners.

The competition was invented to support solutions-focused organizations that have harnessed technology to develop breakthrough approaches that raise economic prospects for workers around the world. Funded with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NASDAQ Foundation, and Eric and Wendy Schmidt, the contest is open to for-profit and nonprofit organizations of any size, age, type, or global origin.

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  Innovation  

Lester Thurow: Tribute to a Global Economic Pioneer

Lester ThurowMIT Sloan Professor Lester Thurow, dean of the School from 1987 to 1993, was one of the few economists in the 20th century to become a household name—in part, because he discussed topics of interest to ordinary citizens in words they could understand.

Thurow, who died on March 25 at the age of 77, spoke out early and eloquently about income inequality, believing that a more equitable sharing of economic burdens and benefits would generate prosperity. In a tribute to him in The New York Times, Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that “he was one of the first important economists to suggest that too much inequality is bad for society.”

Thurow was a true thought leader, advising governments, speaking to diverse groups, from economists to senior citizens, and writing iconic books like the 1980 bestseller The Zero Sum Society: Distribution and the Possibilities for Change, which offered recommendations about the best way to balance free-market aspirations and government stewardship of the economy. In The New York Review of Books, John Kenneth Galbraith called it “an extraordinarily good and lucid examination of current economic difficulties.”

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  Economics