IOT’S people problem – Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Associate Dean of Executive Education Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Associate Dean of Executive Education Peter Hirst

From Insight

This spring, I participated in three major IoT-focused events and came away with mixed feelings about the state of the industry. The first was the Internet of Things World in Santa Clara, California. The conference tends to focus on more technological aspects of IoT and draws thousands of attendees. A few days later, I flew to London to take part in the Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF), an invitation-only event that caters to the C-suite audience. The third was a board meeting and strategy workshop for the Internet of Things Talent Consortium, a spinoff from the IoTWF, of which MIT Sloan Executive Education is a founding member. The three events were highly educational, thought provoking and inspirational in their own right, but all shared a common theme—we, the people, are the main barrier to faster and wider IoT adoption. Moreover, it’s the very nature of humanity, our habits and idiosyncrasies that seem to be stalling the robots’ march toward making our lives wonderfully better—or toward total world domination, depending on how you look at it. More seriously, here are some themes that emerged in my mind once the conference excitement wore off.

Stop Resisting Change
People are creatures of habit. We are comfortable with what we know. It’s not laziness—it’s an evolutionary trick we’ve developed to survive as a species. New is scary and we tend to resist it, willfully or subconsciously, but this resistance can hinder progress. For example, as we heard from the main stage at IoT World Forum in London, GE— who is one of the earliest and relatively successful entrants into IoT—sees organizational inertia as one of the biggest problems in digital transformation. Culture clashes between different kinds of businesses within an organization are dragging down the entire enterprise. Traditional engineers and digital engineers are not speaking the same language. Business leaders are not yet adept in the ways of leading required to drive a digitally-enabled transformation. At IoT World, I was on a panel discussing the future leadership needs around IoT. The panel featured professionals in different industries from education to talent recruitment to defense. And what everybody was saying is that when you look at executives, the need to have agility and resilience is just as great as the need for people who can understand both the technology and the business. In the IoT era, leaders need to have awareness of all sorts of business-environment issues, as well as other important concerns, such as privacy and cyber security, regulation and public policy. Whether it’s strictly IoT or not, you could see that in examples like Uber or Airbnb, as they’ve run into public policy, regulatory and other kinds of situations. I think it’s fairly self-evident that it would be hard for those businesses to succeed without having leaders who are able to take on those kinds of aspects as well.

I’ve touched upon this subject previously, and hearing from companies like GE only reinforced my impression that there is an immediate need to not only train the workers who will work on the IoT implementation, but also to educate leaders on how to lead the transformation. In light of this, the IoT Talent Consortium is redoubling its efforts to help organizations understand and analyze that question. The group sees itself as a community where digital-transformation pioneers and people who believe that they need to or want to go through this kind of journey can share experiences and identify successful practices.

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Flipping the office telepresence model – Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst

From TechCrunch

What if I told you that you could visit three continents in one day without leaving your office and truly feel like you were there in person? That you could move down a hallway or across a stage, make eye contact and feel, well, more like a human being than just a face on a screen?

Earlier this year, Paul McDonagh-Smith — my coworker at MIT Sloan Executive Education who is based in London — did just that with the help of “telepresence robotics.” First thing in the morning, he co-presented at a conference in Singapore alongside our colleague Cyndi Chan, then had a business meeting in Cape Town, South Africa and later that afternoon met with me and other team members on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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How a flex-time program at MIT improved productivity, resilience, and trust – Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Associate Dean of Executive Education Peter Hirst

From Harvard Business Review

In today’s increasingly competitive hiring market, organizations need to think differently about how to attract new employees and retain existing ones. Unfortunately, many of the obvious solutions require a financial investment: increasing salaries, bonuses, medical benefits, or vacation days. And if your “competitive advantage” in hiring simply boils down to throwing money at the problem, your hires are quite possibly going to jump ship when a higher offer or benefits package is put in front of them.

So how can an organization increase its benefits without increasing its budget? Many startups will look to add “fun” into the mix — pool tables, nerf guns, pizza Fridays, and happy hours. But that won’t necessarily appeal to all types of employees, and it may not be a sustainable option. Here at the Executive Education program at MIT Sloan School of Management, we took a different approach: introducing flex time.

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Is London becoming the world’s greatest city for innovation? — Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst

From Wired

Earlier this November, the British-American Business Council’s  New England chapter (BABCNE) hosted an inspiring event in Boston that brought together nine high-ranking foreign diplomats, members of international business associations and business leaders to discuss how innovation can increase productivity and income opportunities through cross-border participation. The fact that the event was organized by Susie Kitchens, HM Consul General of the United Kingdom is no surprise.

National Mind Shift

The UK is mobilizing a strong and quite deliberate push for innovation-driven business development—domestically and globally. And nowhere is this more evident than in London. As a British “subject” (yes, that’s still the term!) who now calls the USA home, I am struck by a truly seismic cultural shift taking place in Britain—the nation’s stereotypical attitudes toward risk-taking and shunning conspicuous success are at long last changing, and quite visibly. Having lived and worked in London for several years, I may be partial to its continuing progress as a major center of cultural, academic and economic influence, but the changes I see during every visit are undeniable. Especially so in the last couple of years.

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Why are executives logging in for leadership education? — Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst

MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst

From Innovation Insights

Back in 2012, a storm poised to wreak havoc on the east coast posed a challenge of another kind to both me and my colleagues at MIT Sloan Executive Education. Though there were of course the more grave concerns of human health and safety related to Hurricane Sandy, directly in the path of the oncoming storm was our brand new and hotly-anticipated course on big data, one of the first of its kind for executives.

Over 100 top executives had enrolled in the course, conducted by leading faculty members Erik Brynjolfsson and Sandy Pentland, and we were faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The challenge was clear – find a way for attendees to experience the course in spite of the storm, or postpone and potentially cancel it altogether. Innovation is woven into our DNA at MIT, and we developed a solution that not only suited the needs of the situation, but led Executive Education at MIT Sloan down a new and exciting path to learning.

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