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Ideas Made to Matter


7 with ties to MIT Sloan honored at Thinkers50 awards


MIT Sloan professor Sinan Aral won the Digital Thinking Award, which honors a researcher who “sheds the most original and valuable light on the new digital reality of business,” at the 2021 Thinkers50 Awards.

The biennial competition recognizes business leaders from around the world. Six other members of the MIT Sloan community were honored by Thinkers50 during a virtual ceremony on Nov. 16.

Aral, the director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, “forensically and persuasively gets to the reality inside social media and tech,” according to the award citation.

His recent research has included social media, which was the topic of his 2020 book, The Hype Machine, and the spread of misinformation.

“Drawing on two decades of research and business experience, Aral goes under the hood of the biggest, most powerful social networks to tackle the critical question of just how much social media actually shapes our choices, for better or worse,” the citation said.

Aral and six other members of the MIT Sloan community were named to the 2021 Thinkers50 Ranking of the top 50 management thinkers. They include:

Erica Dhawan, MBA ’12, an expert in collaboration, communication, and teamwork, and author of Digital Body Language, for “connecting the dots for leaders as they seek to break team silos, drive exponential growth, and innovate through teamwork.” 

Hal Gregersen, a senior lecturer in leadership and innovation, and “catalytic questioner and global innovator,” for “exploring how asking the right questions builds leadership and innovation and drives purposeful change.”

MIT Sloan principal research scientist Andrew McAfee, the co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, and Erik Brynjolfsson, PhD ’91, a Stanford professor and director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab. They are co-authors of The Second Machine Age, and “their work continues to provide a road map to success in a digital economy,” the citation said.  

Geoffrey Parker, PhD ’98, a professor at Dartmouth College, and Boston University professor Marshall Van Alstyne, PhD ’98. Parker and Van Alstyne, both visiting scholars at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, “developed the concept of two-sided markets, which is used extensively in platform business models, and developed the first comprehensive analysis of platform technology.”

Dhawan and Matt Beane, SM ’14, PhD ’17 were on the shortlist for the Digital Thinking Award. Elizabeth Altman, SM ’92, was shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea award, and MIT Sloan assistant professor Jackson Lu was shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Radar Award.

Read next: 2 MIT Sloan professors named to Top 40-under-40 list 

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