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

June 27 – July 3, 2021

1. Most companies take a backward approach to data and analytics — finding a purpose for data on hand or trying to extract value from available data.

That inevitably serves up answers to the wrong questions or delivers misleading insights, according researchers Bart de Langhe and Stefano Puntoni.

In a recent MIT Sloan Management Review webinar, the pair make the case for a more effective strategy they call decision-driven data analytics. The strategy determines what decision needs to be made and works backward to find data that will best deliver insights for that particular business objective.

In the webinar, de Langhe and Puntoni detail three steps that can help shift organizations toward a decision-driven practice.

  • First, decision-makers need to identify alternative courses of action, thinking wide then narrow, for a particular business problem.
  • From there, they should determine what data is needed in order to rank or evaluate the alternative options.
  • Finally, they should use the resulting analysis to select the best course of action.


2. Some 90% of companies in the S&P 500 index published sustainability reports in 2019, but not all organizations are setting targets for how they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A panel at the recent MIT Sustainability Summit explored how large companies are deploying metrics and standards to reach their climate goals:

At Amazon, detailed models allow it to see fine-grained details — such as the amount of carbon dioxide and electricity used in everything from data centers to packaging. Transportation logistics, for example, could use that information to address vehicle and fuel types, vehicle use rates, and route optimization.

Google established a metric called carbon-free energy to help “get us to a point where our energy use is carbon-free every day of the year, night and day,” said Laura Franceschini, a member of Google’s sustainability team. “We’re currently at about 60% carbon-free, and our goal is to get to 100% by 2030.”

Climate change is “a storm hitting every company at the same time,” said Patrick Flynn, MBA ’12, vice president of sustainability at Salesforce, which has implemented a wastewater recycling system in one of its San Francisco buildings. “Companies have a choice: Lean into it, steer the ship into it, or get swept aside.”


3. Social media is “rewiring the central nervous system of humanity in real time,” said MIT Sloan professor Sinan Aral. “We’re now at a crossroads between its promise and its peril.”

This spring, Aral led The Social Media Summit @ MIT, which brought together experts to discuss a range of problems posed by existing social media models. A new report from the summit, now available online, offers 25 potential solutions to address those challenges.

Among the areas of concern:

  • The spread of false news and misinformation.
  • The difficult balance between user privacy and platform transparency.
  • Lack of regulation for social media companies.
  • Algorithms that contribute to bias, racism, and polarization.
  • Blurred lines between free speech and harmful speech.


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