Is bitcoin a viable currency? It’s probably too volatile — Jonathan Parker

MIT Sloan Professor Jonathan Parker

MIT Sloan Professor Jonathan Parker

From The San Francisco Chronicle

While bitcoin remains a hot-button issue, most of the talk has centered on the technology of this virtual currency. There are lots of questions: Is bitcoin really secure? Is it truly anonymous? Can it be counterfeited? Are transaction costs actually lower?

I have a more fundamental question: Is bitcoin a viable currency?

My answer is no, and not just because of the wild fluctuations in the value but because these fluctuations are destined to continue. A good currency serves three purposes. It is:

A unit of account, used to measure and write contracts for income, wealth and goods.

A means of payment, used to avoid barter.

A store of value, held to be able to make future transactions.

Of these, the third historically has been the most important. People will be wary of accepting something that might lose lots of value, and something with a volatile price makes a bad unit of account.

Basically, bitcoin lacks a mechanism for setting the supply equal to the demand. That is needed in order for bitcoin to maintain its value.

History is replete with examples of what happens to currencies with fixed supplies. When governments tie their hands in the supply of their currencies, much like bitcoin has done, the value fluctuates.

Read the full post at SFGate

Jonathan A. Parker is the International Programs Professor in Management and a Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

A bold new way to fund drug research — Roger Stein

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Roger Stein

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Roger Stein

From TED

Believe it or not, about 20 years’ worth of potentially life-saving drugs are sitting in labs right now, untested. Why? Because they can’t get the funding to go to trials; the financial risk is too high. Roger Stein is a finance guy, and he thinks deeply about mitigating risk. He and some colleagues at MIT came up with a promising new financial model that could move hundreds of drugs into the testing pipeline. (Filmed at TED@StateStreet.)

Roger Stein wants to bring financial engineering to the world of drug funding.

Watch the video on the TED site.

Roger Stein is a Senior Lecturer of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management. 

How Amazon transforms investor tension into creative tension — Lou Shipley

MIT Sloan Lecturer Lou Shipley

MIT Sloan Lecturer Lou Shipley

From Forbes

One of the big financial stories of 2014 has been Amazon versus its investors. The company’s stock, after climbing nearly 40% in 2013, started to slip early this year, then plunged 11% on the last day of trading in January. Throughout February, the stock remained in the doldrums.

Investors, it seems, are weary of Jeff Bezos’ practice of plowing Amazon’s oversized revenue into secret projects designed to grow the massive company even more. The stock’s big drop in January coincided with the company’s announcement that it planned to raise the price of Amazon Prime, a sign that investors don’t trust management to use whatever money the price hike might generate to benefit shareholders.

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Executive education opens its doors to the non-English speaking world — Peter Hirst and Laura Ziukaite-Hansen

The vast majority of executive education and business leadership programs in the U.S., Europe, and even parts of Asia are conducted solely in English. But for a large portion of global employees—about 40%*—this can be a significant barrier to learning and professional development.

While English may be considered the dominant language of global business**, it is certainly not the only language in which business is conducted. New poles of economic growth are emerging around the world, and a growing number of non-English speaking entrepreneurs and managers are creating new and exciting businesses in developing markets. They want to learn how to manage global teams, scale their existing businesses, expand their product lines, and develop their workforces. If they do not speak English with enough fluency to participate in executive education, everyone misses out—executives in all corners of the world have a lot to gain from and contribute to global management programs.

This past winter, MIT Sloan Executive Education piloted the Global Executive Academy. Held on the business school campus, the two-week multi-lingual program brought together 38 executives from 15 countries to share a learning experience based on four of MIT Sloan’s most popular open-enrollment programs.

The Academy provided faculty-led programs focused on innovation, management, marketing, and organizational performance, all conducted in English and simultaneously translated—“United Nations style”—into Arabic, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Participants listened to translations using wireless headsets. All classroom discussions, presentation materials, and in-class videos were translated into the individual languages.

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How to get employees to be more entrepreneurial — Deborah Ancona

MIT Sloan Professor Deborah Ancona

MIT Sloan Professor Deborah Ancona

From Fortune

Organizational change has never been easy, but in the past it was a little more straightforward. Fifty years ago, companies followed a basic blueprint. They had heroic leaders — a CEO and an elite top layer of management — who had tremendous authority and made all the important decisions. When they wanted to make a change, they set a direction and it cascaded down through the firm.

Today things are different. As companies compete more on speed, agility, and innovation, decision-making needs to get pushed down. Sure, there remain some old-school companies that rely solely on top-down leadership. But in an increasing number of firms, leadership is shared across the organization, often in teams. Command and control is out; collaboration and teamwork are in.

These are positive developments, but they don’t make organizational change any easier to pull off. The key for managers is to create an environment where teams and individuals — even those lower in the organization — have the latitude and autonomy to recommend and try out new ideas, be it a new environmental initiative, a new technology, or a way to seize some new opportunity in a different market. The goal is an entrepreneurial workforce at all levels of the company. Here are some ways to achieve that:

Think beyond the official job title.

Managers tend to put employees into neat little boxes according to their place on the corporate organizational chart. But these boxes make it hard for someone lower down in the organization, without an official title, to vet and test a new idea. There’s a prevailing attitude of: “We need a formal manager to do that.” To combat that tendency when assigning people to projects, consider who has the passion, knowledge, and networks to succeed — independent of that person’s title. If this is not politically possible, then think about creating two-person teams or small groups that include people with the necessary expertise.

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