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

July 11 – July 17, 2021

1. Taking a stand on social issues in a hyperpolarized environment can threaten both business and social capital. How do CEOs decide which social stances to embrace, and why?

On a panel at the recent EmTech Next conference, hosted by MIT Technology Review, Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., and Paul Polman, the former CEO of Unilever, offered advice:

  • Pick your causes with care. “When we decide to weigh in on something, it warrants a conversation, or multiple conversations, with the board,” Bergh said.
  • Take a stance that reflects the values of your stakeholders. Research showed Levi Strauss that its young customers care about climate action and gun safety, two causes the company supports.
  • Commit to the long term. When Polman rolled out the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, designed to decouple the firm’s growth from its environmental footprint, shareholders were not happy. Eventually, Unilever saw eight years of top-line growth while delivering a total shareholder return of 290%.
  • Partner for greater impact. When Levi Strauss committed to getting the vote out in 2018, it partnered with Patagonia and PayPal to co-found Time To Vote. Some 2,000 companies have since joined the effort.


2. As the founder of Browning the Green Space, Kerry Bowie aims to advance equity and inclusion in clean energy. “I want to make sure that Black and brown people don’t miss out on the wave of green jobs,” Bowie said of the coalition, which provides a pipeline for career advancement, access to capital, and adoption of green products in communities of color.

Bowie, SB ’94, MBA ’06, deploys a passion for streamlined efficiency in all of his projects, including the Majira Project, which helps grow small businesses and startups led by people of color, and Msaada Partners, which supports underrepresented entrepreneurs.

In a recent Q&A, Bowie shared how he works with ideas:

What inspires you? My passion is efficiency. I just want things to work better. Maybe that’s the engineer in me. I like solving hard problems with big, hairy, audacious goals.

How do you know if an idea is a good one? One of my mentors talks about “Are you uniquely qualified to do this thing? Is it a super, super big problem, and do you have a vision to fix it?” Browning the Green Space [tackles] a super big problem.


3. If you’re still piecing together your summer reading list, consider books by MIT Sloan Executive Education faculty members. Just a few of the titles highlighted:

Remote, Inc.: How to Thrive at Work . . . Wherever You Are by Bob Pozen and Alexandra Samuel. The authors provide strategies and tools to help workers make thoughtful choices about combining remote and office work and make the most of their days at home.

Crack the C-Suite Code: How Successful Leaders Make It to the Top by Cassandra Frangos. Frangos reveals the hidden dynamics for reaching the top and offers tips for actively improving your chances for success.

Designed for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success co-authored by Jeanne Ross. Digital design, not strategy, is what separates winners from losers in the digital economy, Ross argues in this essential guide for retooling organizations.

Overload: How Good Jobs Went Bad and What We Can Do About It by Erin L. Kelly and Phyllis Moen. The authors draw on five years of research to show how organizational change and work redesign strategies can address burnout, overload, and turnover.

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