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3 new courses cover advances every business should be tracking

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MIT Sloan students aren’t the only ones who take interest when new courses are added — they’re often a barometer of what’s about to bubble up in business.

Here’s what MIT Sloan faculty are drilling down on in three new and updated courses for spring 2019 — and why it matters to business leaders.

Innovation analytics

By definition, innovation is doing things that haven’t been done before, which makes it challenging to measure.

Yet, with innovation a source of tangible value to firms, it’s essential for organizations to be able to quantify the importance, value, and impact of specific innovations, said MIT Sloan senior lecturer Adam Jaffe, who will teach Innovation Analytics for the first time this spring.

That task has gotten a boost in recent years, Jaffe said, thanks to the emergence of new data sets from the U.S. patent office, Microsoft, and various economic researchers, alongside new techniques for analyzing them. Students will gather quantitative data on research and development, patents, product diffusion, and firm growth, and then evaluate the research using statistical methods, semantic analysis, and machine learning.

“We’re awash in data, and new ideas and new products are all around us. Being able to sift through the data to figure out which new things will make a difference is a key to success in the 21st century,” Jaffe said.

Digital technology and the law

From artificial intelligence and big data to blockchain and cybersecurity, advances in digital technologies are having a profound impact on how we live, work, and do business.

In some areas, there has already been a robust legal response; in others, “the law is far behind,” said MIT Sloan senior lecturer Louis Rodriques, who will co-teach Digital Technology and the Law with senior lecturer John Akula.

The course will look closely at current law developments in a variety of emerging fields, including:

  • AI in decision support and robotics
  • Big data and analytics
  • The internet, “internet of things,” and social media
  • Blockchain and fintech
  • Privacy and cybersecurity
  • The digital workplace
  • Intellectual property rights as they relate to software and other new technologies

The course will examine the law’s relationship to new digital technologies from a variety of perspectives, Rodriques said — including innovators planning careers in these fields; entrepreneurs starting up commercial ventures; and managers at current organization who are adapting their workplaces, business strategies, and models to accommodate these digital developments.

Global economic challenges and opportunities

Returning to MIT Sloan after working at the White House, the U.S. Treasury, and the Bank of England, professor Kristin Forbes gave the syllabus for Global Economic Challenges and Opportunities “a really big overhaul,” she said.

“I’m excited to bring a new perspective to the material,” said Forbes, pointing out that the global stage has shifted considerably since she last taught the class four years ago. “Many countries are focusing inward: We have Trump in the U.S., Brexit in the U.K., and the Yellow Vest movement in France.”

Forbes’s objective for the class is to both study the key economic forces that will shape the business environment for the next decade, and to give students the tools they need to understand and interpret these events.

Topics to be covered include Iceland’s 2008 meltdown, the Indian rupee crisis of 2013, trade policy and protectionism, global energy markets, shifts in global economic power, changes in fiscal and monetary policy, and currency wars.

“It’s important to understand the global nature of risk,” said Forbes. “The goal is to give students tools and analytics to prepare them to anticipate the next surprise.”

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