THINKING FORWARD – Ideas for your work from MIT Sloan School of Management


Ideas for your work from
MIT Sloan School of Management | Office of Communications

December 1-6, 2020

1. Some people are fearful the coming revolution in artificial intelligence and robotics will take people’s jobs. Satya Nadella sees a way forward.

Speaking at the Nov. 18 MIT AI and Work of the Future Congress, the Microsoft CEO envisioned a near future where technology moves beyond knowledge work to help employees on the construction site, in care management, and on manufacturing shop floors. “And hopefully wages go up,” he said.

In a discussion with MIT economist David Autor, Nadella detailed how “small AI” can empower workers. “STEM is going to be important, but it’s not like we need everybody to have a master’s in computer science,” Nadella said. “The goal is to go the other way — can I take expertise and democratize it to help productivity gains of a frontline worker?”

He cited the instance of someone newly employed at a car factory in Ohio who is able to learn their job holographically from a remote engineer, thanks to technologies like augmented and virtual reality.

“That’s all gaining productivity,” Nadella said. “And that means those jobs should have better wage support … something I think we should always choose when it’s available.”


2. Analytics and AI talent is a scarce and valuable resource for every company, but particularly for those with a desire to be data-driven, according to Thomas Davenport, a fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Writing in MIT Sloan Management Review, Davenport detailed how TD Bank Group, the largest bank by assets in Canada, made a series of internal investments directed at assessing, hiring, and motivating its data and analytics talent. Steps included:

  • More effectively managing existing data and analytics talent. TD’s analytics team worked to create standardized job groupings and classifications, ultimately identifying and describing 65 different roles across seven job families.
  • Understanding the data roles needed. TD’s initial job-mapping exercise led to a clearer vision for how individuals can move around, upskill, and grow their career paths within the organization.
  • Acquiring and retaining new employees. To source talent, TD acquired artificial intelligence company Layer 6s and doubled down on the strong relationships the bank had built with a number of Canadian universities.

Building a data and analytics community. The bank provided opportunities for data- and analytics-oriented employees to share knowledge, hear about trends in the industry, and take time off to work specifically on AI projects for social good.


3. Networking is how business gets done — but access for women and entrepreneurs of color is often limited. How can they build community, and how can the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem support them?

A recent panel hosted by MIT Sloan, “Next Level: Elevating an Inclusive Community of Entrepreneurs,” offered insights. Among them:

Access matters as much as capital. Leandrew Robinson, co-founder and CEO of Hingeto, a platform connecting online retailers and brands, spoke of “underground railroads in the innovation economy” that exist among Black entrepreneurs. They’re helpful but also reinforce otherness.

“Why is it a whisper when you’re [offered] access?” Robinson asked. “Those who already have access, have opportunities, and have the luck to get out have to be intentional about sharing that with all communities.”

Difference is an asset. MIT Sloan lecturer Malia Lazu said companies with diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their industry on profitability and 70% more likely to capture new markets. For minorities in any organization, imposter syndrome can be turned into an advantage: the ability to bring a new perspective.

“Let me flip it around and say, ‘I’m actually the only unicorn here, because I’m actually the only one who’s been a Black man in America for X amount of years or a woman in this room.’ So that’s a great takeaway,” she said.

Plus, outsiders often recognize and appreciate other outsiders — and can help form connections. You never know how someone else arrived at success, so differences matter.

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