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

+ THREE INSIGHTS FOR THE WEEK September 5 – September 11, 2021

1. Environmental, social, and governance-based investing requires more and newer sources of data, hidden where only a dogged, creative team can find them. George Mussalli, MBA ’00, is up for the challenge.

As chief investment officer and head of research at PanAgora Asset Management, Mussalli believes hard work can yield competitive advantage in the cutthroat world of quantitative investing. “The more obscure the data, the more valuable it is to us.

In a recent Q&A, Mussalli talked about how he works with ideas and his view of ESG investing today:

Where do you get ideas? I want my investors out in the field, talking to companies, testing products to understand what’s driving corporate and customer preferences. The market is a living, breathing entity. The only way you can identify the most actionable, pertinent company qualities is to be constantly aware of the changing world around you.

What’s the biggest idea you are working on right now? We believe sustainable investing is one of the biggest market disruptions and opportunities, which is revolutionizing investing today. Curiously, not much work so far has been done in quantitative ESG investing; as such, we intend to lead the quant ESG revolution.


2. Perhaps the most common piece of advice given to startups is that their singular focus should be achieving product/market fit.

Popularized by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, PMF encapsulates the notion that finding the right product for the right market is the most critical task of an early-stage startup, where iterative learning and experimentation lead to a magical combination of customer and product.

Writing in Quartz at Work, MIT Sloan researchers Erin Scott and Scott Stern push back against that notion, making the case that the best startup ideas have multiple paths to success. The pair cite the case of MIT Sloan startup PillPack, an alternative approach to pharmaceutical packaging that could have been implemented in a number of ways.

Scott and Stern’s research focuses on a “test two, choose one” approach that not only enables founders to achieve product/market fit, but also to align the direction of their startup with the impact they would like their venture to have on the world.

“Rather than being limited to a single path forward, the signature of a good idea is that the entrepreneur will be able to identify multiple potential ways to make it work,” the authors write.


3. The 2021 shortlist for the Thinkers50 awards includes several researchers and alumni from MIT Sloan. The honor is given biannually in 10 different categories to global business leaders.

Among faculty members cited is Sinan Aral, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, who was nominated for a Digital Thinking Award, which honors researchers who shed valuable insight on the “new digital reality of business.”

Aral’s research areas include business analytics and social media, and his recent book, “The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health — and How We Must Adapt,” looks at the promise and peril of social media.

And Jackson Lu, an assistant professor of work and organization studies at MIT Sloan, was nominated for the Thinkers50 Radar Award, which honors a new thinker who has the potential to “change the world of theory and practice.”

Lu’s research focuses on culture and globalization, including recent papers about how multicultural experiences can make people more effective leaders and how cultural psychology influences attitudes toward mask-wearing.

Nominated MIT Sloan alumni include Elizabeth Altman, SM ’92; Matt Beane, SM ’14 and PhD ’17; and Erica Dhawan, MBA ’12.

Content from the: MIT Sloan Office of Communications Building E90, 9th Floor 1 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142

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By MIT Sloan CDO