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

May 2 – May 8, 2021

1. When put on the spot, negotiators often feel as though they must reply immediately so as not to appear weak or disrupt the flow of negotiation.

But new research led by Jared Curhan, Gordon Kaufman Professor and associate professor of work and organization studies at MIT Sloan, suggests that pausing during negotiations can improve outcomes — not only for the person who initiates the silence, but for both parties in the negotiation.

Using a computer algorithm to measure intervals of silence lasting at least three seconds during negotiations, Curhan and co-researchers found that periods of silence tended to precede breakthroughs in the negotiation. In fact, breakthroughs were more likely to occur after silent pauses than at any other point in the negotiation.

While the study examined a straightforward, transactional form of negotiation, Curhan said the findings likely have broader application, noting that a pause could help in any interpersonal situation where viewpoints clash.

“There is more room for agreement than people assume,” Curhan said. “Our study shows that one way to find that room and see a situation in a more holistic sense is through silence.”


2. Cryptocurrencies may be having a moment, but away from the headlines, it’s taken blockchain — the decentralized recordkeeping technology underlying digital currencies — more than a decade to make significant headway in consumer finance.

At the recent MIT FinTech Conference, industry experts offered ideas on how to facilitate more consumer-friendly blockchain options.

  • Provide more regulatory clarity. Governments around the world have different regulations for cryptocurrencies, and even within the U.S., there are different regulatory regimes. Many hope that 2021 will provide clearer guidance.
  • Improve collaboration across the banking system. Retail banks have been hesitant to dip their toes into the blockchain space, but panelists said collaboration is improving, albeit slowly.
  • Bring merchants into the fold. Creating a stronger tie between shoppers and merchants could also help consumer blockchain adoption.
  • Create a better user experience. “Crypto is still pretty hard to use. It kind of reminds you of e-commerce back in 1996 or ’97,” said one panelist. “Industrywide, I think we need to do more to create ease of use and simplicity.”


3. Deepfakes have received much (well-deserved) bad press — but the underlying technology holds plenty of potential for companies to build positive customer experiences.

Writing in MIT Sloan Management Review, researchers described how businesses are exploring the use of digital personas — digitally created “doubles” of individuals that reflect their style, personalities, and attitudes.

Firms are deploying digital personas to support their company’s brand, educate consumers, and champion social or environmental change. Snack brand Cheetos, for example, launched a Halloween marketing campaign that allowed users to build online avatars and dress them up in Cheetos-branded clothing.

There are technological challenges to overcome: An interactive persona that can engage in two-way communication, such as chatting with visitors in a crowded museum setting, is much harder to develop than a static persona programmed to give a limited set of responses.

And firms should be mindful of the associated risk and potential harm that deepfake technology poses to society. “Digital personas can deliver immense social and business benefits, but businesses do need to develop and execute a well-thought-out strategy to mitigate these risks,” the authors write.

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By MIT Sloan CDO