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Leadership Lessons In A Time Of Global Turbulence

Johanna Hising DiFabio,
Assistant Dean, Executive Degree Programs

This is a year when just stopping our heads from spinning for a day is an achievement to be celebrated. In the leadership realm, however, the weary have been afforded little rest. Yet, this is what leaders train for and how they define their careers. This is an opportunity to think about the management of organizations deeply, scientifically, humanely, holistically—and to find our way through an unprecedented set of crises that are testing our systems and challenging us to accomplish more than we ever have.

So, what better time for our faculty and alumni around the world who are on the front lines of decision-making to share their stories of challenge and opportunity, optimism and concern. In some cases, the lessons learned during years of study and practice have proven robust and provided the foundation of resilience and recovery. In others, the strategies may have been learned but not yet implemented. In all cases, we hear that people and ideas matter and that optimism, ingenuity, and a tireless pursuit of solutions will carry us through.



Leading the Smarter Enterprise: The Upcoming MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

How smart is your enterprise? Or maybe you don’t feel you are in a position to know. That’s what the annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium is all about. The one-day think tank brings to the MIT campus global CEOs, CIOs, senior IT executives, and academic thought leaders to explore late-breaking technological innovations. The 2019 symposium takes place Wednesday, May 22 at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium.

Senior business executives from around the world will discover how leading-edge academic research and innovative technologies can help address the practical challenges presented by today’s volatile business environment. In addition to the meeting at MIT, the symposium will include online conversations and educational webcasts.

Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Leading the Smarter Enterprise will examine how we can leverage data, machine learning, AI, and other insightful technologies to create organizations that engage more deeply with customers and stakeholders. Smart enterprises incorporate data-driven insights into every decision they make, promote talent growth, focus on consumer satisfaction, and know how to get to market more quickly than their competitors. They also know how to scale, and symposium participants will look at the key hurdles to scalability—culture, entrenched processes, and a lack of talent.

Bottom line: smarter enterprises require smarter CIOs and technologists. They require leaders who can act as cultural change agents, motivating and educating their peers in the reinvention of their organizations for competitive advantage.

An agenda packed with transformational ideas
The 2019 CIO Symposium kicks off with Crafting Data Strategies that Pay Off moderated by Barbara Haley Wixom, Principal Research Scientist, at MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research and ends with The Second Enlightenment, a talk by Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist and Co-Director, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Other sessions include:

Designing for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success, moderated by Jeanne W. Ross, Principal Research Scientist at MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research.

The Real Impact of Machine Learning and Robotics on the Workforce, a keynote speech by MIT Sloan Professor Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Future-proofing the Workforce for Digital, moderated by Kristine Dery, Research Scientist at MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research.

Review the full agenda.

The symposium will also feature the tenth annual Innovation Showcase, which features outstanding early stage companies that offer valuable cutting-edge solutions to enterprise IT.

The MIT Sloan CIO Symposium is co-organized by the MIT Sloan Boston Alumni Association, the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE), and the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research (CISR).

Register for the 2019 MIT CIO Symposium.

Watch video of the 2018 symposium

Jump-Starting America Proposes to Lift All Boats, Not Just the Yachts

The American economy looks relatively sound on the outside, but the reality is quite different, say Simon Johnson, Faculty Director of the MIT Sloan Fellows Program, and coauthor and MIT Economics Professor Jonathan Gruberin a new book due in April: Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream.

In this somewhat radical and highly anticipated prescription for the U.S. economy, Johnson and Grubernote that job opportunities and economic growth are increasingly concentrated in a few crowded coastal enclaves. Corporations and investors are disproportionately developing technologies that benefit the wealthiest Americans who live in the most prosperous areas of the country. The result of these developments is the destruction of middle class jobs in middle America. To turn this tide, they say, we must look to the lessons of the original American success story and embark on a plan that will create the industries of the future—and the jobs that go with them.

Impact on the economy of the “Big War”

Johnson and Gruber look back at the middle of the 20thcentury when massive public investment generated breakthroughs in science and technology that helped win World War II, innovations that then propelled the most successful economy the world has ever seen. Private enterprise built on these breakthroughs to create new industries such as radar, jet engines, digital computers, mobile telecommunications, life-saving medicines, and the internet. And those breakthroughs became the catalyst for broader economic growth that generated millions of good jobs. As Johnson and Gruber say, “We lifted almost all boats, not just the yachts.”

Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson tell the story of this first American growth engine and provide the blueprint for a second. They believe that their visionary, pragmatic, and possibly controversial plan will lead to job growth and a burgeoning economy in regions across the country that have been left behind.Jump-Starting America is the untold story of how America once created a legendary—and enormously successful—economic model and, most important, how it could be done again.


Hunger can be an organizational challenge

They’re called gleaners, and they’re an important force for good. These volunteers who harvest farmers’ expiring produce and deliver it to food banks have a worthy goal, but the outcome is not always what they envision—the hungry having fresh food to eat. In an article in the food trade publication The Griffin Report, MIT Sloan Visiting Assistant Professor Deishin Lee says that operational challenges often are thwarting the altruism of gleaners and the generous farmers who are donating the produce.

Lee and her interdisciplinary team of colleagues from Cornell and Boston College have worked closely with three food banks across the country to study how the produce harvested by gleaners is being processed. They discovered that gleaners indeed have an important role to play in feeding those in need. “It’s been estimated that about 6 percent of planted acres go unharvested in the United States,” she says. “These are edible crops fit for human consumption that will be left in the fields to be plowed under unless someone goes back to harvest or glean them.”

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The future of manufacturing is here, and it’s in 3D

Alan Mulally, SF ’82, the legendary turnaround-artist who resuscitated Ford Motor Company, has always stayed focused on what’s next. An early proponent of 3D printing, he said in an earlier SF Leadership Blog post, “Metal is in the near future. With the level of accuracy that is possible through this process, we are seeing a sudden and dramatic improvement in the quality and manufacturability of parts. It’s both economical and efficient because spare parts don’t have to be warehoused. Almost any part can be produced on demand—and its file can live in the cloud. Three-dimensional printing will revolutionize the manufacturing world.”

The company that arguably is creating the noisiest buzz in the 3D space is Burlington, Massachusetts-based Desktop Metal—one of BostInno’s “17 Boston tech companies to watch in 2017.”  CEO Ric Fulop, SF ’06, launched the startup in October of 2015 to bring metal 3D printing to design and manufacturing companies across the globe. Fulop and his team have raised $97 million in equity funding, including a $45 million round of funding led by Google, BMW, and Lowe’s. Previous investors include NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lux Capital, GE Ventures, Saudi Aramco, and 3D printing leader Stratasys. Desktop Metal is preparing for a product launch in late 2017.

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MIT Entrepreneurs Dominate Forbes Annual “30 Under 30” List

To date, MIT alumni have founded more than 30,000 companies employing 4.6 million people and producing annual revenues of $1.9 trillion. That makes the Institute roughly equivalent to the world’s 10th largest economy. And those stats are ticking up daily. Seventeen of the young entrepreneurs that Forbes magazine recently named to its “30 Under 30” list for 2017 are MIT students and alumni. Their buzz-worthy startups are widely diverse, ranging from a malaria detection device to all-natural cosmetics. Here’s the line-up:

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Augmented Reality Summit at MIT Media Lab brings the world’s AR pioneers together on the AR frontier

ARAugmented reality (AR)—a cousin to virtual technology—is quickly making itself indispensable in fields like medicine, architecture, industrial design, and entertainment, especially gaming. For those interested in leveraging the possibilities of AR, MIT’s annual Augmented Reality Summit is the center of the known universe.

AR in Action takes place at the MIT Media Lab January 17 and 18, 2017. The summit convenes the top minds in the augmented reality ecosystem, a diverse group of renowned thought leaders, visionaries, Fortune 100 executives, futurists, technologists, and AR practitioners, including Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalf and personal computer pioneer Alan Kay. Together, they will explore the challenges and opportunities that face inventors, integrators, investors, and other innovators working to bring the benefits of AR to the world.

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MIT Sloan’s Jay Forrester, change-maker and inventor of system dynamics, dies at 98


Jay Forrester “standing on top of the fruits of his many careers. He’s standing on a device that integrates servomechanisms, digital controllers, and a sophisticated feedback control system.” MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman

“From the air traffic control system to 3-D printers, from the software that companies use to manage their supply chains to the simulations nations use to understand climate change, the world in which we live today was made possible by Jay’s work.” MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman is talking about legendary system dynamics pioneer Jay Forrester, who died November 16 at the age of 98. [Read the full tribute in MIT News.]

A mid-century invention, system dynamics (SD) is the analysis and redesign of any interdependent social, managerial, economic, or ecological system. SD has gained legions of adherents over the decades, and Forrester worked to develop new iterations almost up to the time of his death.

The dynamic Midwesterner arrived at MIT in 1939 with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska and quickly grew to become a key actor in the development of digital computing and the national air defense system. He also led Project Whirlwind, a pivotal digital computing project, which led him to invent magnetic core memory, an early form of RAM. Forrester joined MIT Sloan in 1956 with the goal of applying his background in science and engineering to the essential issues that determine the success or failure of organizations.

“To me, Jay was MIT,” MIT Sloan Professor Nelson Repenning observed in a recent MIT Sloan tribute to Forrester. “He showed up to work on gunsights and radar mounts for the U.S. military, ended up playing a pioneering role in digital computing, and suddenly became a social scientist. I can’t imagine that happening anywhere else. It was the perfect match of a unique person [and institution].”

Forrester’s initial SD investigations were calculated by hand. He assembled a team of graduate students to interview employees in a company about how they made decisions at their individual operating points. “By tapping the wealth of information people possessed in their heads,” Forrester said, “we were able to build a model that revealed overall organization behaviors that resulted from the interconnected actions of many local decision-making individuals.”

In the late 50s and early 60s, Forrester and his students began building their simulation models with computers. By translating the policies, information flows, and interconnections of a company into computer instructions, they were able to create a model that could act out individual roles at each decision point. The computer would then feed the results of those actions into other connected decision points, allowing the model to generate the basis for its next round of simulated decision-making. The technology enabled the team to create a laboratory replica of a company that could be used to observe the behavioral consequences of company policies. “What we showed,” explained Forrester, “was that the policies believed to be the solution to the company’s problems were, instead, the cause of those problems.”

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Thomas Kochan offers a new way of working in Shaping the Future of Work

ThomasKochanThe working models that made sense for post-World War II employees do not necessarily work for the employees of today, and MIT Sloan Professor Thomas A. Kochan believes it’s about time those models were updated to fit a dramatically altered world. In his latest book, Shaping the Future of Work, Kochan outlines the steps that business, government, and academic leaders must take so that workers can perform their best work and prosper. These steps, he contends, are necessary for companies to realize positive outcomes and national economies to thrive.

Kochan’s goal is to inspire the creation of more productive businesses that provide good jobs and successful careers, resulting in a more inclusive economy and more broadly shared prosperity. But to revamp the system, he says, workers must acquire new sources of bargaining power and business, labor, government, and educational leaders must work together to meet the challenges and opportunities facing the next generation workforce.

In a recent interview with MIT Sloan News, Kochan raised the example of the Market Basket grocery store chain, where workers staged a successful walkout two years ago after the pro-worker CEO was fired. “It’s going to require a massive effort on the part of the public to do what we saw at Market Basket—to say, ‘This is the kind of company we expect to have competing here in the United States.’”

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Will 3-D printing revolutionize manufacturing—and the global marketplace?

MIT-3D-Printing-Inter-1MIT launched the 3-D printing phenomenon thirty years ago—even trademarked the term 3-D printing (3DP) back in the early 1990s. Today, the Institute is a nerve center of invention in what is technically referred to as additive manufacturing. The MIT Glass LabMIT Media LabMIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and MIT Computational Fabrication Group are just a few of the laboratories and centers at MIT that are exploding 3-D into a broad spectrum of fields.

MIT-3Dglass-1_0The MIT Glass Lab and the MIT Media Lab have developed a new high-temperature system to create transparent yet robust glass structures from computerized designs. The key to their success, just published in the Journal of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, is high temperature. Previous efforts working with glass have met with mixed results because the viscosity of glass changes dramatically with the degree of heat. Using a special high temperature process, however, researchers at the Glass Lab have found a way to design and print glass components of variable depth and complexity. The project began in an MIT additive manufacturing class.

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