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

February 7 – February 13, 2021

1. Companies invested roughly $50 billion in artificial intelligence last year, and that figure is expected to reach $110 billion by 2024.

Such an explosion in investment raises many questions, but central among them for MIT Sloan senior lecturer Renée Richardson Gosline is how to recognize and counteract the bias that exists within AI-driven decision-making.

In a new MIT Sloan Experts Series talk, Gosline said society needs a thorough understanding of the biases that exist in both humans and algorithms — and the ways in which different groups place their trust in AI.

The talk addresses:

  • The value of greater transparency around the data and assumptions that feed into AI models.
  • The need to address the vast information asymmetry between data scientists working in this field and everyone else whose lives are deeply affected by the work — those who “eat the output,” as Gosline put it.
  • The ways in which Black people and people of color disproportionately “end up on the wrong side” of algorithmic bias.

The ability and responsibility of globally influential companies  to use their position to advance more equitable approaches to AI.

2. PepsiCo has a strong history of boosting diversity and inclusion, but the company still has work to do, according to Merary Simeon, the North America vice president of diversity and engagement. Which is why the food, snack, and beverage giant has committed to making its programs more proactive.

Speaking at the MIT Sloan Retail Conference last December, Simeon offered advice for other firms seeking to deepen their equity efforts:

  • Set goals — and make a plan to achieve them. Pepsi has pledged to increase the number of Black managers by 30% and add at least 100 Black associates to its executive ranks — in part by working more closely with historically Black colleges and universities. A task force of Black employees, mostly executives, meets once a month and reports on progress.
  • Expand focus to the wider community. In June of 2020, the company announced that it would invest $400 million over five years to support Black businesses and communities.

Promote responsible allyship to ensure underrepresented employees aren’t burdened with having to educate co-workers. Make mental health services available as well.


3. Two researchers with MIT Sloan ties have been named to the 2021 Thinkers50 Radar list, which features management thinkers expected to make an impact in the coming year.

Matt Beane was hailed as a “leading researcher on better working relationships with robots.” His research explores what advances in robotics mean for managers and the workplace, including recent papers on knowledge management for collaborative robots and what robotic surgery can teach us about “shadow learning” when approved methods for learning and training fail.

Beane, SM ’14, PhD ’17, is an assistant professor at University of California Santa Barbara and a digital fellow at both the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and Stanford University’s Digital Economy Lab.

Jackson Lu was cited for his “telling research on the upsides and downsides of globalization for individuals, groups, and organizations.” His paper on the “bamboo ceiling” suggests the reason East Asian people are underrepresented in leadership positions in America is partly due to cultural differences in assertiveness.

Lu is the Mitsui Career Development Professor and an assistant professor of work and organization studies at MIT Sloan.


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