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

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

+ THREE INSIGHTS FOR THE WEEK
January 10-16, 2021

1. John Furner knows retail — he started as an hourly associate in a Walmart garden center and is now the CEO and president of Walmart U.S.

Speaking recently with MIT Sloan professor Zeynep Ton, Furner shared what he learned reinvesting in frontline workers at Walmart subsidiary Sam’s Club:

To boost product quality, invest in employees. Fresh food is paramount to Sam’s Club shoppers, but the highest paid workers weren’t the ones behind the meat counter or at the bakery, they were in back offices away from customers. Furner implemented a training program that could boost frontline workers’ pay by as much as $7 an hour. The result was a drop in employee turnover — in some cases by as much as 70%.

Use technology to simplify and enhance jobs. Sam’s Club reduced its product variety, simplifying shelving and automating some processes with new technology, including artificial intelligence. The changes encouraged associates to move up to more challenging jobs.

Predictable scheduling is good for everyone. A switch to block scheduling helped employees work in predictable shifts and made it easier to establish status and inventory check-ins. The structure also helped managers know how many staff were needed to accomplish particular goals, Furner said.


2. Business leaders are preparing for what promises to be a challenging year.
These recent insights from MIT Sloan Management Review can help:

The new elements of digital transformation. According to MIT Sloan principal research scientist George Westerman and Capgemini Invent executive vice president Didier Bonnet, the five core elements of digital capabilities for today’s enterprises are: customer experience, operations, employee experience, enhanced business models, and digital platforms.

Minimum viability for AI products. As identified by Thomas Davenport, a visiting fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, and Glasswing Ventures managing partner Rudina Seseri, the six key characteristics of a minimum viable product in the AI market are: proprietary data, hybrid models, integration potential, domain knowledge, immediate value, and initial performance.

The value of recommendation engines to enterprise decision-making. According to MIT Sloan visiting scholar Michael Schrage, recommendation engines can do more than suggest movies or songs to try next. The combination of data analytics and dynamic visualizations can offer high-potential leads to sales teams, provide prototype imagery and wireframes to user interface designers, and help executives change the tone and direction of a company-wide email.


3. How to convince vaccine-hesitant people to change their minds?
Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both directors at MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, have researched the challenge in India.

Speaking with Business Insider, Banerjee offered two strategies that his research suggests could be effective in the U.S. in winning over people who are hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19:

Peer pressure. Change agents, who Banerjee characterized as being “very chatty” in the community, have been shown to be effective in promoting everything from adoption of novel farming techniques to uptake of new forms of contraception. In the U.S., effective change agents might be doctors, nurses, and community leaders, alongside friends and family. They should be people that individuals know and trust well, Banerjee said, rather than figureheads in the media.

Small gifts. These could be a good way to incentivize people to get their second inoculation in particular. In India, Banerjee’s research showed, rates of essential childhood immunizations went up when parents were offered a kilogram of dry lentils in exchange for bringing their kids in for vaccination. In the U.S., a $10 gift card or lottery tickets might bring people back for a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Banerjee suggested.

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