Off Topic: Happy 100th To MIT Sloan School

Over the weekend, I went to Cambridge for my MIT Sloan School reunion and to celebrate 100 years of management education at MIT (which is called Course XV “15” at MIT). After 100 years of educating students, Sloan’s mission remains as compelling as ever:

To develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world

I’d like to believe that I fit that description 🙂

It was great seeing the magnificent upgrades to the campus. When I went to Sloan, our class of about 200 students spent most of our time hanging out in a couple of old buildings. Now the Sloan School has great new facilities and more than twice as many students. I hope the school continues to create the same sense of intimacy with students that we experienced.

It was also wonderful to see my SM ’89 classmates and to catch up on what’s changed over the previous five years. Overall, most people are doing quite well and seem pretty happy. Some are company leaders, others are entrepreneurs, many have kids around college age, and a few have even retired (thanks to the tech sector). Lots of different life stories.

As part of the 100th anniversary celebration, a few professors gave lectures. While Saturday morning classes aren’t really my thing, I went to see Erik Brynjolfsson discuss his book The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. Despite the early hour, I really enjoyed Erik’s speech. His main thesis is that the industrial age was built on physical power while the Second Machine Age (that we’re in right now) is built on mental power, which will use a lot of technology.

Erik showed how technology is quickly evolving to do things that only humans could do a few years ago. He had some interesting anecdotes about a number of cool new technologies such as Google’s driverless carBaxter robots, Lionbridge Translation, and IBM Watson. This was an interesting chart that shows how Watson learned how to play Jeopardy better than the best humans in only a few years (the dots represent performance of Jeopardy winners (humans) and the lines represent Watson’s performance at different points in time).

140607_WatsonJeopardyThis type of technology improvement represents a key driver in the Second Machine Age, where Erik expects to see capital continuing to replace labor.

He also made an interesting point about GDP. A lot of technologies such as Google and Wikipedia have added enormous value to our society, but are not counted in the GDP (because they are free). He estimated that we receive about $300 billion of annual value that is not shown in our GDP. So the U.S. standard of living and productivity is growing even faster than what the legacy measurement (GDP) is tracking.

The growth of GDP and GDP per capita sounds good, but it’s not helping everyone. For decades, GDP, employment, labor productivity, and median household income have grown in lockstep. But in the late 1980’s, these measures stopped growing together, as median income and employment started to lag.

photo 3As technology contributes more to overall economic growth, there’s a widening gap in prosperity based on skill levels. As you can see in the chart below, wages for people with college degrees and advanced degrees have grown while real wages for people with less education are lower than they were in the 1970s.

photo 2If you want more on the topic, then buy Erik’s book.

Another Sloan School reunion has come to an end and I feel prouder than ever to be a Sloanie. I look forward to seeing our crew all together in five years (although there’s some rumblings about a mid-term get-together in Argentina). Between now and then, maybe I can find some ways to infuse more customer experience content into the Sloan curriculum. That seems like a good way for me to give back to my alma mater.

The bottom line: Happy 100th anniversary MIT Sloan School!


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I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

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