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 November 7 – November 13, 2021

1. As the former CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty oversaw both growth and decline at the 110-year-old technology company, along with acquisitions, divestments, and a new direction for diverse workforce hiring.

Speaking at the MIT Tough Tech Summit, Rometty shared three insights on building relationshipsthat power a lasting business.

  • Build better teams by removing artificial barriers to hiring. Look at someone’s skills and not just their education, Rometty said, noting that IBM has removed bachelor’s degree requirements from half of its U.S. jobs.
  • Build company partnerships based on beliefs and related purpose. IBM’s 2019 acquisition of open source software firm Red Hat was the result of years of what Rometty called “building belief” — crafting partnerships and testing the waters to see how customers and the market would react.
  • Build a board relationship by taking stock in strengths and weaknesses. Rometty advocates writing down a matrix of things you think the company needs, then looking at your board members and what they bring to the table. “That simple matrix forces you to be honest,” Rometty said. “It also gives you a really good basis to have a discussion to say why you don’t want someone on the board.”


2. As the life sciences industry continues its explosive growth, how can it become more inclusive? A recent MIT Sloan discussion tackled the topic.

Moderated by Malia Lazu, a former Berkshire Bank executive and current MIT Sloan lecturer who focuses on inclusion in the innovation economy, panelists offered up four ideas for diversifying life sciences.

  • Meet untapped talent where they live and work.
  • Scrutinize hiring requirements with an eye toward rooting out “degree inflation.”
  • Expose kids to life science careers at a young age.
  • Within the organization, build cultural competence — that is, the ability to understand and interact with people from different backgrounds.


3. Kate Liburdi, EMBA ’15, likes to think of ideas as fruit. “If you pluck them when they’re green, they’re tart and unappealing. If you pluck them too late, they’re overripe and overworked,” said Liburdi, COO and co-founder at Conversifi, a company that matches foreign language learners with native speakers.

In a recent Q&A, Liburdi talked about how she works with ideas.

How are new ideas discovered and developed in your organization?

I’m a big fan of the brainstorm, but it only works if you’ve got a really diverse group of people who will spark ideas in each other — diverse in terms of demographics, but also in terms of the way they think and their professional and personal backgrounds. I always get a thrill when someone throws out a really crazy impractical idea, but then others build on it and adapt it and turn it into something brilliant.

How do you test ideas?

Some people are painstaking planners who create complex designs in a vacuum then implement them slowly behind closed doors. I’m the opposite. I moved my software team to agile two decades ago when that was still a radical move. I just instantly loved the idea that you would design the test before writing a word of code.

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

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