resilience in action a y e a r i n r e v i e w | 2020 –2021
action learning by the numbers
action learning labs
Analytics Lab Blockchain Lab China Lab Digital Product Management Lab EMBA Global Labs • Global
TOTAL STUDENT ENROLLMENT
42 + 34 FACULTY
Enterprise Management Lab Entrepreneurship Lab Finance Lab Global Entrepreneurship Lab Healthcare Lab India Lab Israel Lab Laboratory for Sustainable Business
ACTION LEARNING LAB PROJECTS
ALUMNI ENGAGED AS PROJECT HOSTS OR GUEST SPEAKERS
Operations Lab Organizations Lab Proseminar in Capital Markets/ Investment Management Proseminar in Corporate Finance/Investment Banking USA Lab
COUNTRIES REPRESENTED BY PROJECT HOSTS
ACTION LEARNING COURSES OFFERED
ACTION LEARNING YEAR IN REVIEW
this past academic year taught us many things.
The second thing we learned affirmed something we
First, and not surprisingly, we learned that our
and experience new cultures has historically been
Action Learning community—our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and hosts—is both resilient and innovative. Once again, we saw that when we work together, we can adapt and even thrive during challenging times. Over the last year, enrollment in the program remained strong. A record number of alumni (88) returned to the classroom as
speakers, and organizations from around the world were eager to host our student teams. We were continually amazed as people connected locally and globally to solve real problems that impact all of our lives. From their home offices, kitchen tables, and spare bedrooms, they took on projects related to healthcare, the climate crisis, sustainability, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
already knew—Action Learning is not about place. Even though traveling to meet new people an attractive feature of some of our labs, without it Action Learning is still an invaluable experience. This past year confirmed for us that the core of our program is teaching students to collaborate in teams, tackle hard questions, and learn firsthand what it takes to be a leader in the real world— and they experienced it without buying a single plane ticket. This last year was not easy, but it was rewarding. It gave us the time and motivation to reflect on our mission, our goals, and our future. Inspired by our community, we are continuing to adapt and move forward, and are excited to build on what we’ve learned. Isn’t that what Action Learning is all about?
U R M I S A M A DA R D I R E CTO R , M I T S LOA N ACT I O N L E A R NI NG O F F ICE
BUILDING RESILIENT LEADERS Now more than ever, our world needs adaptable leaders— creative thinkers and doers who can be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Our hands-on labs challenge students to work in teams to solve real problems, in real time. Sometimes this happens during difficult situations like the last year. Not only did our students and faculty help leaders locally and around the globe respond to the pandemic, they also helped them move forward—with resilience and determination to grow and innovate despite a crippling global crisis.
ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT LAB
PROSEMINAR IN CAPITAL MARKETS/ INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT
T. ROWE PRICE
How do we return to the office? a sea of cubicles or a small business with a
In the heat of the pandemic, was the U.S. stock market disconnected from the real economy?
half-dozen desks, the question many companies
Nine months after the pandemic began, COVID-19
Whether it’s a multinational corporation with
are asking is the same: How do we go back to the office? Managers who oversee the 1,300 Massachusetts employees working for Gillette posed that very question to a trio of Enterprise Management Lab (EM-Lab) students, who came up with an answer in the form of a four-step framework.
cases were still on the rise and unemployment was up; but after an initial dip in the spring, the stock market had rebounded, ending the shortest bear market in history. The mismatch between what was happening in the real economy versus the stock market bounce prompted T. Rowe Price to ask eight students in the Action Learning Proseminar in Capital Markets/Investment Management to weigh in. The students’ work resulted in the design of a new economic index and analysis that T. Rowe Price is incorporating into their investment strategy planning.
“The four-step framework gives managers a clear, easy-to-follow plan for how departments or teams can best engage when some employees are in the office and others are virtual.” DAVI D BI RNBAC H , SM ’8 9 MIT SLOAN LECT UR ER & E M-L AB FACULT Y M ENTOR
“What the students did was creative and innovative. The methodology and the way they applied it was new to the company. I believe that T. Rowe Price will carry on with those techniques in other applications.” M A RK P. K RI T Z M A N M I T S LOA N S E N I O R L E C T U R E R ; P R E S I D E N T & C E O O F WI N D H A M C A P I TA L M A N AG E M E N T; S E N I OR PA RT N E R , S TAT E S T R E E T A S S OC I AT ES 5
DIGITAL PRODUCT MANAGEMENT LAB
BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
How can we best launch our new product?
Should payers cover the cost of postmortem genetic testing in the case of sudden cardiac death?
Ceres Imaging is a venture-backed agriculture technology company based in California that
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) claims the lives of up to
uses multispectral aerial imaging and analytics
400,000 people annually in the United States—and
to help farmers both reduce their environmental
about 20 percent of cases strike victims under the
footprint and increase profitability. Ceres asked
age of 40. Testing can help determine if surviving
MIT Sloan’s Digital Product Management Lab
family members have a genetic cardiovascular
(PM-Lab) to conduct research that could help
disorder, potentially lowering future screening and
inform the company’s decision to launch a new
monitoring costs. However, such postmortem genetic
product that would integrate ground sensors
testing is not currently covered by insurance.
with Ceres’ signature aerial imaging.
Boston Children’s Hospital asked a team of Healthcare Lab (H-Lab) students to assess the economic value of postmortem genetic testing after SCD. Put more simply, the financial implications of screening and managing the families of an SCD victim—with and without such testing. Their findings could change national policy, and save lives.
“Seeing how product managers interact with all different parts of a company, from engineering to sales to marketing, got me excited for all the ways that I can drive impact.” LYDI A KAPRELIA N , M BA ’2 2 PM-L AB T EAM M EM BER
“Ultimately, we hope to demonstrate this is costeffective to payers (private insurers or governments) and change national policies around the use of genetic testing following sudden cardiac death.” D O M I N I C J .R. A B RA M S , M D , M RC P, E M BA ’18 D I R E C TO R , BO S TO N C H I L D R E N ’ S H O S P I TA L I N H E R I T E D C A R D I AC A R R H Y T H M I A P ROG R AM
BOSTON MEDICAL CENTER Which patients should be seen in person and which are best served via telehealth? Out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Internal Medicine Department of Boston Medical Center (BMC) began offering telehealth visits. This new practice increased the likelihood of patients showing up for their appointments so much that the department hoped to continue it indefinitely. But, they needed more information. To best determine which patients should visit in person and which could be seen virtually, BMC asked Operations Lab (Ops-Lab) for help. The student team developed a scheduling tool and provided guidelines for how best to allocate appointments.
“Seeing this positive application of statistics to help increase a patient’s likelihood of going to the doctor was very rewarding.” LAUREN SAKERKA, LGO ’22 OP S -L A B T E A M M E M B E R
“Patient appointment scheduling is more complicated than it sounds, and anything that can be done to increase the likelihood that a patient will maintain a scheduled appointment is a good thing. The solution the students delivered will help BMC create a schedule that will facilitate equitable access to quality primary care.” C ATHERI NE I AC OBO, SM ’ 8 9 MIT SLOAN LECTURER & IND US T RY CO- D IREC TO R OF MIT LE ADE RS F O R G LOBA L OP ER AT IONS
DOING GREAT AND DOING GOOD Action Learning labs give students hands-on experience working with real organizations in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Our students also help leaders of those organizations harness science, management, and technology to become more efficient, while also changing the world for the better. Last year’s Action Learning teams took on important projects that addressed clean energy; economic opportunity; sustainability; the digital divide; healthcare; diversity; equity, and inclusion; and more.
ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT LAB
PROSEMINAR IN CORPORATE FINANCE/ INVESTMENT BANKING
How do we introduce diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to the venture capital industry?
How do we create an optimal dividend payout model for clean energy investment?
Global design company IDEO CoLab was ready
CleanCapital was raising $300 million of
to roll out a new digital resource to support
equity to launch a new commercial and
diversity, equity, and inclusion in the startup and
industrial solar investment corporation. But the
venture capital world. But, the firm needed a
clean energy investment firm, with a portfolio
way to assess potential users and customer seg-
of more than 100 projects in 11 states, needed
ments for the new tool, designed in collabora-
a thoughtful dividend policy. They asked
tion with GE Ventures. IDEO turned to students in
Action Learning students in the Proseminar
Enterprise Management Lab (EM-Lab) for ideas.
in Corporate Finance/Investment Banking to
The MIT team identified four target markets for IDEO’s new digital resource, and created an evaluation framework to highlight the key challenges and opportunities in each potential segment.
“The EM-Lab team validated and surfaced new insights that expanded the understanding of what made implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives meaningful to a venture capital network.” S HU YA GON G IDEO VENT URE DES IG NER
create a proposal. While CleanCapital already had teams of professional investment bankers assigned to the project, they found themselves impressed with the MIT team’s work.
“Discussing case studies in class can be fun, but having the chance to be involved in an actual live deal of significant size was one of the most exciting experiences I had as an MFin.” M A RC U S I M B E R T, M F I N ’ 21 P ROS E M I N A R I N COR P OR AT E FI N A N C E / I N V E S T M E N T BA N K I N G T E A M M E M B E R 9
FINANCE LAB WAFRA
Can private equity help solve the U.S. housing crisis? Wafra is the U.S. investing arm of Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund. Dedicated to considering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in its investment decision-making, the firm wanted to further study a proposed private equity fund that would invest in affordable housing. Hoping the fund could provide both social impact and financial return, they chose a team of students in Finance Lab (Fin-Lab) to investigate. The team presented a variety of investment mechanisms, provided case studies of comparable funds, and suggested to Wafra the best way to preserve returns—and the affordability of housing.
“Fin-Lab was an amazing opportunity to dive deep into a highly impactful and relevant topic, while honing our finance toolkit beyond an academic setting.” P RI S C I LL A L I U , M BA ’ 21 ( M PA ’ 2 2 , H A RVA RD K E N N E DY S C H O O L ) FI N -L A B T E A M M E M B E R
STERLITE TECHNOLOGIES LTD.
Can data analytics help spur healthier eating habits?
Internet penetration in rural India is only about 29 percent,
The answer is yes, says the Analytics Lab (A-Lab) team of students who won an annual competition run by the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.
How can we expand internet access in rural India? which means that nearly 700 million citizens are without digital access and opportunity. Sterlite Technologies Ltd. (STL) wants to change that. An industry-leading integrator of digital networks, STL launched a rural development initiative called STL Garv, with the ambitious goal of expanding high-speed internet connectivity from 14 villages to 300,000 by 2024. The company needed a business model for the new for-profit initiative and reached out to an India Lab team for help.
“Our initial approach to the project—research about Indian rural consumers and their context, global trends, and different business models—proved to be useful as a framework to discuss and refine ideas.” VL ADYSL AV KONDRATIUK, MBA ’22 IND IA L A B T EAM M E M B E R
“We are thrilled to have India Lab work with us in developing a globally scalable business model for STL Garv. The students delivered some great results, and we are confident that this effort of connecting the best minds with the toughest problems will benefit millions of rural citizens.” S HWETA AGARWA L BUSIN ESS HEAD O F S T L GA RV
LABORATORY FOR SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
THE BOSTON INTERNATIONAL NEWCOMERS ACADEMY (BINCA)
How can we run a successful food pantry for English-language learners and their immigrant families?
How can we keep our products from eventually ending up in landfills? Allbirds is a footwear and apparel company with a strong brand commitment to
During the pandemic, families who recently
sustainability. The New Zealand-American
immigrated to the United States faced
company uses natural materials rather than
unprecedented levels of food insecurity. And
plastics and has pledged to cut its carbon
what’s worse, for many reasons, they found
footprint in half by 2025. But, one problem
it difficult to access food assistance. One
remains for this environmentally conscious
Boston high school, the Boston International
brand—most of its products ultimately end
Newcomers Academy (BINcA), sought
up in landfills. Allbirds asked MIT Sloan’s
to solve this problem for its community of
Laboratory for Sustainable Business (S-Lab)
English-language learners and their families
for help developing an end-of-life strategy for
by creating a food pantry.
They called on a team of Organizations Lab (Orgs-Lab) students to make sure the food distribution program would succeed.
“This was a great hands-on opportunity to learn what it takes to actually implement sustainable solutions in the real world.” “Though it took us awhile to frame the problem statement, once we did so, we were able to take concrete steps.” L AKSHMI SI TA SAVA R A M , M BA ’ 2 2 ORGS-L AB T E AM M EM BER
JA N A PA RS O N S , M BA ’ 2 2 S -L A B T E A M M E M B E R
USA LAB THE TALLAHASSEE-LEON COUNTY OFFICE OF ECONOMIC VITALITY
Are there better ways to engage women and minorities who own businesses in Florida? The Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality (OEV) is a government agency striving to create an inclusive, business-friendly environment in the City of Tallahassee and in broader Leon County, Florida. One of OEV’s goals is to build a stronger connection with women and minorities who own businesses in the region. The agency turned to a team of USA Lab students to help them progress their thinking and plan. The team’s extensive research and analysis led it to recommend five ways OEV could improve these relationships.
“Throughout the process, we were open and transparent with one another, and—from what we observed—our community suggestions and overall recommendations were taken quite well.”
“With the help from my teammates and faculty mentor, I was able to significantly improve my analytics skills and couldn’t feel more proud of the end result.” JORGE CASTILLO LEZAMA, MBA ’21 A -L A B T E A M M E M B E R
N AG E L A NUK U N A , M BA ’ 2 2 USA L A B T EA M M E M B E R
SLOANIES HELPING SLOANIES The Action Learning program would not be so strong and resilient without the enthusiasm and expertise of MIT Sloan alumni. This past year showed us once again how dedicated the MIT network truly is. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, a record 88 alumni were inspired to get involved, as project hosts, guest speakers, and panelists. We are so grateful! Here are a few of the alumni who shared their time and knowledge with our students last year.
JORGE ARBÉSU-CARDONA, SFMBA ’18 SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF CYBER & INTELLIGENCE, MASTERCARD While discussing digitization trends in the payments industry with India Lab students, course alumnus and guest speaker Jorge Arbesú-Cardona, SFMBA ’18, compared his Action Learning experience to learning how to cook during the pandemic. read more about
jorge arbésu - cardona and the “magic of action learning . ”
“I would read the recipe first to learn the theory, then I would apply it through cooking. I’ve since become a pretty decent cook because I took the time to learn the theory and apply it. If I had simply done things mechanically, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate why dill seed goes great on avocado toast.”
GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP LAB
BARBARA GRANEK, MBA ’12 CEO, FISHTAG Taking part in Action Learning isn’t just about gaining relevant hands-on business experience; it’s also about making valuable career connections. That’s the message Barbara Granek, MBA ’12, delivered to students during a panel discussion featuring Global Entrepreneurship Lab (G-Lab) alumni. Almost a decade after hear more from barbara granek and other g - lab alumni panelists .
she graduated, Granek’s G-Lab connections are still helping her transform the seafood supply chain. “I first worked with them almost 10 years ago,” she says, “but they were willing and able to help me now.”
JULIE LOCKNER, EMBA ’17 D IRE CTO R O F P RO D UCT MAN AG E ME N T, C H IE F P ROD UCT O FFI CE , I B M & F OUN D E R OF 17 MI N D S Julie Lockner’s IDEA Lab experience was pivotal in helping her launch her startup, 17 Minds, and land her job at IBM. So, it’s no surprise that she’s been a frequent guest speaker in learn more about 17
minds , and how julie lockner still relies on
her idea lab network .
the class, and last year hosted a team of IDEA Lab students at IBM. Hosting gave Lockner a chance to reconnect with MIT faculty, and network with today’s IDEA Lab EMBAs. “I love staying in touch with Action Learning,” she says. “It keeps me relevant and allows fresh thinking to influence our ideas at IBM.”
CHI-WON YOON, SB ’82, SM ’86 C H AI RMAN , E Q ON E X G ROUP & MIT S LOAN ASI AN E X E CUTI V E BOARD After 22 years at UBS—where he served as executive vice chairman of UBS Wealth Management, and president and CEO of UBS Asia Pacific—Chi-Won Yoon retired and returned to MIT Sloan for ideas on what to do next. China find out how
chi - won yoon is
using his “retirement ” to transform the fintech industry .
Lab students couldn’t believe their luck when they found out he’d agreed to share his expertise and experience with their class in a guest lecture.
I GAVE MYSELF AN ASSIGNMENT WHEN I CAME BACK TO MIT SLOAN: IDENTIFY DIFFERENT TECHNOLOGIES CAPABLE OF DRIVING TRANSFORMATION AND DISRUPTION IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY. AFTER A FEW MONTHS, I WALKED AWAY CONVINCED THAT BLOCKCHAIN, MACHINE LEARNING, AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WERE GOING TO TRANSFORM FINANCE IN THE FUTURE.” CHI-WON YOON, SB ’82, SM ’86 C H A I RM A N , EQ ONE X GRO U P & M I T SLOA N A SI AN E XE C U T I V E BOAR D
SEIZING OPPORTUNITY TO REIMAGINE THE FUTURE Going remote last year was challenging, but it also had its upsides. Virtual platforms made it easier for our Action Learning community to stay connected and made it possible for a greater number of people to engage with us.
GLOBAL ORGANIZATIONS LAB
In GO-Lab, many students gained access to
past, showed up virtually to hear what GO-Lab
a wider range of professionals within their
teams had to say. “While we’re not sure this will
host organizations. Given that everyone was
be possible in the future or if it was just an artifact
remote, they could reach multiple locations (and
of lockdown, we will certainly be encouraging
countries) easily, and in certain cases were able
students to reach out early and often (virtually) to
to discuss issues with professionals higher up in
their hosts before their field visits, and try to include
the organization or even beyond, such as capital
a broader set of stakeholders in their presentations
suppliers or outsourcing partners. Even board
through hybrid structures,” says Hiram Samel, SF ’06,
members, who might not have taken the time to
PhD ’13, senior lecturer in Global Economics and
attend students’ executive presentations in the
Management and GO-Lab instructor.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP LAB “The beauty of E-Lab and Action Learning is that even through the pandemic we’ve been able to work with growing startups, supporting everything from banking for the underprivileged to new replacement lenses for human eye transplants,” says Dipul Patel, E-Lab faculty mentor. “Going forward, we’re going to continue to stay focused on giving students real experience working with some of the best startups. And, we’ll also continue to enable the class to feel more organic and intimate in a virtual setting, given that a lot of companies are still virtual, and many will stay that way.”
“Learning how to adapt to the new way of doing things is what entrepreneurship is all about. It’s going to be a lot of fun working with students and processing their feedback to optimize the experience.” DIPUL PATEL, MBA ’14
MIT SLOAN L ECTU RER & E- L AB FACU LT Y MENTOR; CTO AT SOLU N A
AS WE LOOK AHEAD,
we will continue to explore new opportunities to build on our virtual and in-person networks, and expand our programs with new offerings like our EMBA Israel Lab. Over the past seven years, Israel Lab student teams have successfully partnered with more than 40 Israeli early-stage and late-stage ventures, helping them address critical issues relating to growth. Given that success, MIT Sloan launched an Executive MBA (EMBA) version of the course in spring 2021. EMBAs who participated, such as Sandra Joyce, EMBA ’21, executive vice president and head of Global Intelligence at Mandiant, found the experience invaluable.
“Israel Lab gave us the opportunity to tackle impactful business problems against the backdrop of Israel’s exciting innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Our project with Illusive Networks puts us right at the center of a startup dealing with real-world issues in the cybersecurity industry.” SANDRA JOYCE, EMBA ’21
E XE CU TIVE VICE PRESIDENT & H EAD OF G LOBAL I NT EL L IG EN CE AT MANDIANT
HERE’S ONE THING WE KNOW FOR SURE— ACTION LEARNING MATTERS. It’s why so many organizations stepped forward to host projects last year, without knowing if they would ever meet their student teams in person. It explains why so many students enrolled in our courses, knowing they’d likely not have the opportunity to travel to their hosts’ locations. And, perhaps it’s the reason why a record number of alumni volunteered to engage with our program. Whether or not travel and in-person site visits return, we will continue to offer the best experience for our students and hosts. We hope that you will join us!
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ACTION LEARNING PROJECTS COMPLETED SINCE 1999
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