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Ideas Made to Matter


These 5 new courses track emerging business trends and skills


New additions to the MIT Sloan course list include classes on narrative leadership, tough tech ventures, the science of leadership, exaptation, and conducting behavioral science. Here’s more on each — and why those topics matter to business leaders.

Behavioral Science 2.0: Taking on the Crises and Emerging Victorious

Behavioral and social science research contributes to the understanding of why we act, think, and feel the way we do. Having more comprehensive knowledge of these behaviors can help organizations better support their workforces and consequently improve worker performance.

But recent concerns are causing researchers and the public to question the reliability and value of social and behavioral sciences. A new PhD course from MIT Sloan assistant professor  breaks down the replication crisis, generalizability crisis, and practicality crisis in the behavioral sciences and explores their causes and possible solutions. Almaatouq, a computational social scientist, will also discuss open scholarship practices, integrative modeling and experimentation, pragmatic methodology, and mass collaboration.

Engine Lab: Building and Scaling Tough Tech Ventures

Solutions to today’s biggest challenges won’t be coming in the form of an app. Instead, help will likely be in the form of deep tech (sometimes known as tough tech): transformative technology that solves global problems through breakthrough science and engineering in the hands of leadership teams.

To help future tough tech inventors, entrepreneurs, and investors, MIT Sloan professor of entrepreneurship  is teaching a project-based course on the life cycle of deep tech ventures, where she will provide a toolkit for assessing and managing the technical, market, regulatory, and scaling and supply chain risks associated with scaling tough tech for impact. Student teams will work with Boston-based deep tech ventures on pressing leadership issues, according to Murray.

“This is an opportunity to truly understand and inform the challenges and opportunities faced by deep/tough tech ventures and their leadership teams,” Murray said.

Exaptation Strategy

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In evolutionary biology, “exaptation” refers to an organism’s ability to take resources that no longer increase its adaptation to its environment and apply them to new environmental conditions.

In business management strategy, exaptation means redeploying assets that had been undervalued and recombining them to create and capture value in new, transformative ways. Exaptation underlies corporate strategy, organizational transformation, and platform strategy, which  professor of entrepreneurship and strategy, calls “the most important business strategy of our generation.”

Exaptation is at the heart of any global approach to sustainable development, which requires the adoption of previously unimagined strategies for reusing existing resources.

“In my experience, learning to identify opportunities for exaptation is truly eye-opening,” Sivan said. “It promises to give managers a set of new tools for unlocking the potential of their ventures and organizations.”

The Science of Well-Being

Work-life balance is often an elusive goal, given that professional success can come at the expense of personal well-being. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

A new course led by MIT Sloan professor  will look at the science behind the psychology of well-being, including misconceptions about happiness, what actually makes people feel fulfilled, and strategies to help build more productive habits and achieve better balance between career and personal happiness.

Rand, a professor of management science and brain and cognitive science, will also provide tools that students can use to improve their lives.

Storytelling: Leadership Through Narrative

In the era of data and artificial intelligence, skills that cannot be easily performed by machines will be even more important differentiators of individual performance. The ability to craft narrative stories, especially in the moment, continues to be a critical skill that ties together fundamental leadership capacities such as sensemaking, relating, visioning, and investing.

Storytelling is the tool that all leaders use to align people around a common worldview and guide them toward shared objectives.

In this new class, senior lecturer of managerial communication  will help current and future leaders develop the storytelling skills that bring life to qualitative analysis and move people toward better decisions. The class will also help students develop underlying leadership skills, such as giving and receiving feedback, assessing alternate perspectives, and maintaining equanimity in the face of criticism.

“From years of teaching students how to communicate about data, I’ve observed that it’s rarely lack of data that fails to move people to action,” Kazakoff said. “Instead, it’s the inability to turn analysis into clear, compelling narratives.”

Read next: Can happiness be taught? These 2 MIT Sloan business experts think so

For more info Tracy Mayor Senior Associate Director, Editorial (617) 253-0065