Ideas for your work from
MIT Sloan School of Management | Office of Communications
+ THREE INSIGHTS FOR THE WEEK
January 17-23, 2021
1. At the recent MIT Sloan CFO Virtual Summit, a panel of business executives tackled the challenge of financial planning in the unknown. Some of their survival tips:
- Focus on the short term when budgeting. Skip the multiyear plans; instead, offer investors a range of outcomes just for 2021.
- Offer guidance, no matter what. “If you have nothing to say, say that,” said Judy Romano of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. “If you don’t communicate, people will start making it up.”
- Plan for the worst. Robust business continuity scenarios helped companies pivot quickly when COVID-19 shutdowns hit.
- Identify skills gaps — and hire or reskill as necessary. Hiring doesn’t necessarily need to stop in a pandemic. An additional data scientist, for example, can help uncover insights relevant right now.
- Invest where it makes immediate sense. Zoetis, which manufactures products for farm and companion animals, increased its investment in direct-to-consumer advertising to reach customers spending more time at home with their pets.
Experiment now — and keep what works going forward. Innovation born of the pandemic is often worth keeping long-term. “It would be a shame to let some of the efficiencies that we’ve uncovered in our businesses not survive,” said Workday’s Tom Peff.
2. Female founders in the U.S. get less than 3% of venture capital dollars, with Black and Latina women receiving just 0.64% of venture capital funds between 2018 and 2019.
How to better support female entrepreneurs? At a recent panel discussion presented by the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, entrepreneur Jasmine Edwards and Susanne Althoff, author of “Launching While Female,” offered actionable advice:
- Go beyond performative acts like tweeting and become a true ally by constantly asking what is most needed, educating yourself on the issues that unrepresented entrepreneurs face, and being willing to hear when you are wrong and correct course.
- Go beyond mentorship to sponsorship. Sponsors take a more active role, Althoff explained. “These are the people who pick up the phone, make an introduction for you, bring you into a room you otherwise would not have an invitation to,” she said.
- Speak up against microaggressions, which can have a damaging effect on a woman’s entrepreneurial climb. Intervene if you see a woman not getting credit for her idea or being talked over or interrupted.
Use your votes and dollars to support female-owned businesses and push for policy changes such as reducing or eliminating student loan debt, which disproportionately affects women.
3. George Chu doesn’t believe in abandoning an idea. Instead, he uses an informal process of brainstorming, testing, and waiting to find the right application for it.
Chu, MBA ’04, is senior vice president of finance and business analytics at City Year, the education nonprofit that places young adult volunteers in schools around the country. In a recent Q&A, Chu offered insight on the power of small, meaningful decisions and how he works with ideas:
On sourcing ideas: My current favorite place to mine ideas is World War II, and in particular the birth of operations research. The combination of new techniques, high stakes, and focused talent and investment allowed people to move quickly from data to action, often with simple but powerful insights. War is a terrible crucible.
On finding common ground: Equalize the fact base, create shared language, and 80% of the time we’ll find we agree — or close enough. The 20% left over is healthy. We should fight over some stuff, but imagine the productivity gain if we can focus on the 20% and not the 80%.