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An Evening of Discovery at the MIT Museum


For one night only in early December, invited guests gathered at the newly expanded and reopened MIT Museum in Kendall Square for a series of lightning talks by MIT Sloan faculty.

“Even though economics is not as exciting as sending people to space, it’s critically important,” said Kristin J. Forbes, PhD ’98, (Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Professor of Management) while remarking on the museum’s many stellar exhibits. “If you want to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, research and development, you need a stable macro environment.”

Emilio J. Castilla (NTU Professor of Management) discusses "people analytics" at the MIT Museum.

Credit: Melody Ko

Following a brief introduction by Kathryn Hawkes (Associate Dean, External Relations and Global Programs), Forbes joined Emilio J. Castilla (NTU Professor of Management) and Scott Stern (David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology) to give short presentations on their latest research.

Castilla, who serves as co-director of the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research, discussed his desire to help real organizations answer practical questions—like, “How does one hire and retain the best and most diverse workforce possible?” His working solution is “people analytics,” which is “a data-driven approach to improving people-related decisions for the purpose of advancing the success of not only the organization but also of individual employees.”

“It promises to help us identify, attract, retain, develop, and promote talent in organizations in a very scientific way, [instead of] following our intuitions or our biases,” Castilla told the MIT Museum audience. “It can help us make the workplace more diverse and address inequality.”

Forbes then presented on her multiple efforts “to understand inflation in the role of globalization and how this all relates to financial stability,” which she believes will be “the biggest risk going forward.”

“These global shocks are hitting hard,” Forbes explained with examples from fluctuating oil prices, global demand and slack, and supply chain issues. “But the good news is that only about 40% of core inflation is affected by globalization. This means that what you do in your own country in terms of raising or lowering interest rates, other central bank policies, and other fiscal policies matters. That is where inflation settles.”

Stern concluded the faculty lightning talks with a discussion of his history with Kendall Square and his more recent work with the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), where he serves as faculty director. “We’ve had the opportunity to really bring a systematic approach—almost a root cause analysis—to working with stakeholder teams around the world in order to understand how to drive and accelerate innovation-driven entrepreneurship,” he explained.

In a decade of operation, MIT REAP has worked with teams in more than 80 regions across the globe, and in all that time, Stern and the team have learned a great deal about strengthening innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

“No one is in charge of entrepreneurship,” said Stern. “One of the things we learned very quickly was that stakeholders matter; universities, corporations, risk capital, and governments matter; and, of course, entrepreneurs and innovators matter. But very often, they were talking past each other. They wouldn’t even have a shared understanding.”

Across the hour-long program, which included a 20-minute Q&A at the end, Castilla, Forbes, Stern, and their guests endeavored to achieve a shared understanding of these research projects and much, much more.

“I feel that, for the architect who built this beautiful space, this is what they imagined,” noted Stern. “Research being presented in front of a small group of engaged people.”

For more info Andrew Husband Senior Writer & Editor, OER (617) 715-5933