Giving thanks for the essence of entrepreneurship – Trish Cotter

Trish Cotter, Senior Lecturer and Executive Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

Recently, I spent time in Zurich, Munich and Milan meeting with MIT alumni, in the hopes of gaining philanthropic support for the programs run by the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. As I talked with our alumni in these cities, it made me think of the Entrepreneurial Philanthropy practice put forward by lifelong entrepreneur and philanthropist, Naveen Jain. His promise is that philanthropy is at its best when it is founded on entrepreneurial zest and agility.

Naveen Jain states in a Huffington Post article, “True philanthropy requires a disruptive mindset, innovative thinking, and philosophy driven by entrepreneurial insights and creative opportunities. To disrupt the status quo, drive philanthropy at tremendous scale, and develop long-term economic vitality through giving, we must apply the same models for success in our philanthropic endeavors as we do in business.” I could not agree more.

MIT students are fortunate because they are encouraged to work on problems, projects, and ventures that will positively impact the world. During their journey, they are provided support through tailored classes, mentorship, access to Makerspaces, extracurricular programming, and competitions that offer opportunities for the application of learning and assessments. MIT alumni play a significant role in student support whether it is through mentoring, episodic coaching, programmatic support, introductions, or financial support.

The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship continuously finds new ways to encourage, advise, and champion aspiring entrepreneurs as they take new ventures from idea to reality. The Center’s goals are high, as are its needs; it provides the most innovative opportunities for learning and expands MIT’s global entrepreneurship ecosystem, but it depends on the support of philanthropic partners

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How to keep conversation alive in a polarized world – Jason Jay

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Jason Jay

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Jason Jay

From TedxBocaRaton 

In our polarized world, it is easy for conversations to get stuck. How can we find new pathways forward on the big issues of our time, whether at the holiday dinner table, in our organizations, or on the wider political stage? Facilitator and author Jason Jay from MIT Sloan explores what happens inside ourselves when conversations go off the rails. He offers a tool called transformative contrasting to help people get unstuck and even harness the creative energy of polarization. His research focuses on how people navigate the tensions between personal, business, and social goals in sustainability efforts. His first book is Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized World and he has published articles in the Academy of Management Journal and California Management Review. He teaches courses on strategy, innovation, and leadership for sustainable business at MIT, and engages students and alumni in hands-on projects with leading companies and organizations.

Watch the full talk above or at TEDxBocaRaton.

Jason Jay is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan.

Jack Ma is retiring. Is China’s economy losing steam? – Yasheng Huang

MIT Sloan Professor Yasheng Huang

MIT Sloan Professor Yasheng Huang

From New York Times 

GUANGZHOU, China — Earlier this month, Jack Ma announced that he was stepping down as executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the world’s largest e-commerce company. His decision caught many by surprise. At an economic forum in Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin reportedly asked him, “You are still so young. Why are you retiring?”

Maybe Mr. Ma, 54, knows something that Mr. Putin does not. Two of the three forces, globalization and marketization, that have propelled Alibaba to its current $500 billion valuation are dissipating. The third force, technology, is mired in the trade war between China and the United States, and its prospects in China are now uncertain.

Alibaba didn’t just transform e-commerce in China; it transformed the entire economy by helping build up the private sector. Mr. Ma’s departure from the company now — though he claims to have been planning it for a while — adds to a gathering sense that China’s private sector, the engine of the economy, is losing steam — and faith.

Alibaba is China’s globalization story par excellenceFounded in 1999, the company created a website that allowed people outside China to buy directly from Chinese exporters. At that time, China was opening up but foreign buyers were hampered by their lack of knowledge of Chinese suppliers. Alibaba set up a program called TrustPass, allowing third parties to verify the quality and trustworthiness of Chinese suppliers. This system enabled foreign buyers to bypass the slow and often bureaucratic state-owned intermediaries that typically performed verification, and it eased Chinese companies’ access to the global marketplace.

Alibaba also tapped international capital markets. The company’s founders hailed from modest backgrounds and had little capital, but they benefited from liberal policies that China had put in place as it was negotiating to join the World Trade Organization (which it did join, in 2001). During the company’s early years, its leaders turned to foreign suppliers of capital, such as Goldman Sachs, SoftBank and Fidelity Investments. Later on, Yahoo also provided funding.

In the early 2000s, Alibaba structured its investment arrangements via what are known as “variable interest entities.” V.I.E.s are intermediary structures in which foreign firms can invest to acquire contractual rights over revenues generated by Alibaba. They were an innovative solution to help foreigners navigate China’s murky legal system while bringing critical financing to Chinese high-tech entrepreneurs.

But today globalization is under assault. The Chinese government is enforcing more strictly regulations over V.I.E.s that it had long ignored, creating uncertainty for foreign investors. And the trade war between the United States and China is disrupting Chinese exports, threatening the supply chains of which Alibaba is an integral component.

Alibaba has elevated China’s private entrepreneurs in another way: by providing direct financing to them. China has a massive banking system, but it is almost entirely organized to support the less efficient state-owned enterprises, leaving China’s dynamic private sector chronically short of capital and credit. Alibaba, through its financing operations, has stepped in to provide much-needed capital, especially to China’s very small businesses.

Read the full post at New York Times.

Yasheng Huang is the International Program Professor in Chinese Economy and Business and a Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. 

Why companies should rethink their approach to freelancers – Kristine Dery

Kristine Dery, Research Scientist, Center for Information Systems Research

From Workforce

Companies today need a new approach to managing digital talent.

Gone are the days when they can easily recruit and retain full-time employees to staff every project. When you look at the employment landscape, a lot has changed from even five years ago — and it’s only going to change more over time.

For starters, there is a shortage of talent with the necessary digital and social skills required by a lot of companies, especially in the tech sector. Companies need flexibility to scale their workforce up and down, depending on project requirements. Having expensive talent sitting on the bench is not a sustainable option.

We’re also seeing more interest among workers in freelance work. According to Forbes, up to 35 percent of people are choosing freelance work in the U.S. However, constantly onboarding new freelance talent for every project isn’t efficient.

Companies facing these changes need to become “future ready.” This means focusing on creating an employee experience that will attract the sort of talent you need when you need it. The most successful companies will take a flexible approach to work and workers. Rather than only assigning full-time employees to projects, companies with a hybrid workforce can curate talent depending on their project needs. They can engage people — both employees and freelancers — to both broaden and reinvigorate their talent pools.

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What Great Leaders Can Learn from Great Photographers–Hal Gregersen

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center, Hal Gregersen

From Harvard Business Review 

Almost everyone on this planet is a worker in some way, but only a minority deserve to be called craftspeople. This is especially true of leaders. We don’t often think of leaders as artisans, but like good craftspeople, good leaders go about their work thoughtfully and purposefully.

These good leaders want every piece they produce to be the best it can be, and to bear their stamp. Some even go a step further. They reflect on their craft and articulate what they do that is special or distinctive. Doing this delivers the great benefit of making it, to at least some extent, teachable. They like to develop the skill in others.

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