The blind spot: Uncovering the grammar of the social field — Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

From The Huffington Post

This post is a bit longer than usual. But if you are interested in the invisible dimension of leading profound social change — and in a blend of action science and consciousness to illuminate that blind spot — it may be worth the read.

My father is a farmer. As one of the pioneers of bio-dynamic farming in Germany, he devotes all his attention to cultivating the quality of the soil in his fields. That’s exactly what I find myself doing today, though in a very different type of field. My colleagues and I, along with countless change makers, leaders, action researchers and facilitators, are cultivating the quality of the social field. By social field I mean the structure of the relationship among individuals, groups, organizations and systems that gives rise to collective behaviors and outcomes.

When people experience a transformational social shift, they notice a profound change in the atmosphere, in the texture of the social field. But in trying to explain it, they tend to fall back on vague language; and even though people can agree on a surface description of what happened, they don’t usually know why it happened or what words to use to describe it.

Today, in most social systems, we collectively produce results that no one wants. These results show up in the form of environmental, social, and cultural destruction. The ecological divide (which disconnects self from nature), the social divide (which disconnects self from other), and the spiritual divide (which disconnects self from self) shape the larger context in every large system change today.

The intention of this paper is to uncover the grammar of the social field — the key variables that make it possible for the operating logics and modes (states and stages) of a social field to shift.

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How Obamacare inadvertently threatens the financial health of small businesses, and what states should do about it — Robert Pozen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Robert Pozen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Robert Pozen

From Forbes

Starting in 2016, push comes to shove for small businesses under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. As of January 1, small businesses, broadly defined as firms with 50 to 100 full-time employees, must comply with the ACA’s employer mandate and provide qualified health insurance to their workers or face stiff penalties. But this requirement poses a big threat to the financial stability of small employers—and not for the reasons you might think.

Obamacare includes a myriad of regulatory incentives and exemptions that define the parameters of the employer mandate. However, these have inadvertent consequences. Most important, exemptions in the ACA encourage small firms to self-finance their health care plans—that is, pay their workers’ health care bills directly, rather than covering them through a traditional insurance policy. Most large companies in America (above 3,000 employees) engage in self-funding, but that is done now by only about 16% of small companies of between 50 and 100 employees. According to my research, that number is set to rise.

It’s understandable that small companies see self-funding as the superior option. By financing their own health care plans, they stay exempt from the community rating requirements that restrict how much insurers may vary premiums based on factors like age and smoking status; they also stay exempt from the federal and state taxes on most health care premiums that are paid to traditional insurers.

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Helmut Schmidt and the narrative of the Eurozone crisis — Athanasios Orphanides

MIT Sloan Professor Athanasios Orphanides

MIT Sloan Professor Athanasios Orphanides

From The Journal of Turkish Weekly

Helmut Schmidt’s European vision as Germany’s chancellor during the Cold War, and his subsequent contributions, helped shape the continent and promote European integration.  With his passing in 2015, Europe lost a great leader. Germany’s Schmidt and France’s Valéry Giscard d’Estaing were the grandfathers of the euro, a project finalised by their successors in Germany and France, Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand.  Franco-German cooperation and leadership for Europe has been crucial to the advancement of the European project.  Similarly, leadership voids have been at the crux of Europe’s failings.

Schmidt’s insights are especially missed at a time when the future of Europe is in question, not least due to the mismanagement of the Eurozone Crisis, where his advice went unheeded. Six years after the Crisis began, it remains unresolved. And worse yet, Europe’s elite disputes its true causes.

Understanding the EZ Crisis

Understanding why the Crisis occurred is critical for a consensus on remedies, which is a prerequisite for salvaging the European project.  Recent analysis has identified key economic factors that contributed to the Crisis (Baldwin et al. 2015). Establishment of the euro fuelled current account imbalances and made a number of Eurozone member states vulnerable to a sudden stop.  Greece became the first victim in early 2010. Economic analysis also explains the risks of fiscal profligacy, which was an important aspect of the problem in Greece but—contrary to a narrative prevalent among the European elite—was not the main cause of the Crisis overall.  Although these points are important, economic analysis alone cannot explain the gross mismanagement of the Crisis in the six years since early 2010. It also cannot explain the actions taken by European governments and institutions that caused a small initial shock to turn into an existential crisis for the Eurozone.  This requires understanding the political dimension.

Read the full post at The Journal of Turkish Weekly.

Athanasios Orphanides is a Professor of the Practice of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. 

Friction matters – how diversity makes us work harder — Evan Apfelbaum

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Evan Apfelbaum

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Evan Apfelbaum

MIT Sloan Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies Evan Apfelbaum discusses how diversity changes the way we behave.

Apfelbaum says the key to social friction is understanding how to use it.

He and his fellow researchers examined how questions of race impacted adults and children, using a game similar to Guess Who? to gauge why people are more hesitant to talk about race as they get older.

Watch the video here.

Evan Apfelbaum is the W. Maurice Young (1961) Career Development Professorand an Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

How IoT changes decision making, security and public policy – Erik Brynjolfsson

Professor of Information Technology, Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy


Professor of Information Technology,
Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy

We’re in the early stages of a management revolution. The upheaval is based on our unprecedented ability to collect, measure and digitally record information about human and systems activities, particularly with the finely tuned data sets available through IoT. One of the hallmarks of this new era is the acceleration of data-driven decision making within businesses, which has tripled in just five years, according to a recent study I conducted with Kristina McElheren, a professor at University of Toronto.

Accompanying the progress anticipated in this increasingly digital age, however, will be thorny challenges and broader issues for society at large. This is particularly true as organizations begin to feed the large data sets available from IoT into systems that use machine-learning algorithms—at which point they will begin making predictions and decisions in an increasingly automated way, and at large scale.

Machine-learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have advanced greatly in recent years; the implications range much further than the attention they get for winning competitions with “Go” champions and chess masters. The real significance of these technologies will be found in their ability to automate and augment complex decision making.

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