Marshall Van Alstyne Discusses Platform Strategies

At the recent Platform Strategy Summit, Van Alstyne talked about 'extraordinary changes' taking place.

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      Digital Business Transformation

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      Paula KleinCreated by Paula Klein on Sep 21, 2015 in Public Site: MIT IDE

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      At the MIT IDE, we are technology optimists. We believe we can shape the future of work to be better than the present by developing inclusive innovations that meaningfully engage all workers. However, “the robots will take our jobs” is a common trope in today’s global conversation. This frequently-expressed viewpoint -- that technology will reduce workers to monotonous drudgery at best and obsolescence at worst -- is damaging and disempowering; this message suggests that our fate is sealed.


      We wholeheartedly disagree with this perspective. As Erik Brynolfsson said in his TED talk, “we shape our destiny,” and this is why we launched the Inclusive Innovation Competition. We believe that the future of work can be better for all. With thoughtful inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit, we can shape and raise the prospects for workers in this Second Machine Age.


      But in order to achieve this goal, we need to engage a wide variety of stakeholders who also believe that building a better future is possible. We must tap the research labs, university classrooms, government offices, entrepreneurial ecosystems, and corporate boardrooms where technology is embraced. We also need to engage workers who fear that a computer, robot, or machine could take their jobs. We need to shift the conversation away from fear and toward empowerment, so that together we can design the future of work for all.


      The purpose of the Inclusive Innovation Competition, therefore, is two-fold: to improve the future of work for all workers and to shift the conversation toward optimism about the future.


      This is a task that requires inclusive effort, so we need you. Help us change the conversation and shape the future. How? Join us!

      1. Sign up on our website for updates about the Inclusive Innovation Competition. You’ll be among the first to know the details of the competition, which we will reveal in January.
      2. Share your experiences with us.  What workplace innovations have you seen reshape the experience and economic prospects of workers? Tell us your examples in the comments below or reach out to us directly.
      3. Contact me directly on this site or at the address below to discuss how you and your organization can join the conversation.


      Devin Cook

      Executive Producer

      Inclusive Innovation Competition

      Two leading economists and professors—NYU’s Paul Romer and Chad Jones of Stanford—shared macroeconomic insights about growth and inequality at separate MIT IDE seminars recently.


      Jones, Professor of Economics at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, was a PhD student when he took a class of Romer’s at the University of Rochester in 1984. Six years later, Romer—a graduate of the University of Chicago business school -- published a seminal paper on Endogenous Technological Change about economic growth and “non-rival goods” that multiply and yield rapid innovation and growth. “The paper changed the way economists understand growth,” Jones wrote recently on the 25th anniversary of the publication.


      Romer (pictured at right) went on to become an urban-planning policy adviser, entrepreneur, NYU professor, and director of the Marron Institute of Urban Management. He and Jones have collaborated over the years on growth-theory research.romer.jpg


      At an October IDE seminar, Romer described himself as an economic optimist because he takes a long-term view when it comes to analysis and the potential of new ideas. Using historical data as the context for examining current conditions, Romer sees “a much more developed system of learning now [than in the past]...

      There’s a world out there of incredible possibilities," and ideas are the greatest non-rival goods of all.


      “When we perceive a threat, we don’t see other things around it,” he said. “We have to get out of that state...that distorts our collective learning” and use science to analyze financial markets. "Two decades ago, economists were preoccupied with threats posed by inflation that would spiral ever higher. They were resigned to a permanent slowdown in productivity growth. Looking back, everyone was too pessimistic about the rate of progress,” he said. “Their fears did not even get the signs right...economists are now struggling with the threat of inflation that is too low.”


      The Case for Theory

      During his talk, as well as in his blog, Romer questioned the current trend away from economic theory. Without theory, you can’t “explain what’s going on in context and why things occasionally fall apart.” Big data offers unlimited observations, for example, but the challenge is to aggregate the data and find a theory that you can use to manage, test and narrow down data points for specific outcomes, he said.


      Also in October, Jones (pictured below, left) spoke at the IDE about his "Schumpeterian Model of Top Income and Inequality." He pointed out that while top income inequality rose sharply in the United States over the last 35 years, it increased only slightly in economies like France and Japan.


      jones-charles-irving.jpgJones, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, also considers himself an optimist. At his talk, he noted that the development of the Internet and “a reduction in top tax rates are examples of changes that raise the growth rate of entrepreneurial incomes and therefore increase Pareto inequality.” However, he said,

      policies that stimulate “creative destruction” reduce top inequality.

      Examples cited include “research subsidies, or a decline in the extent to which incumbent firms can block new innovation. Differences in these considerations across countries and over time, perhaps associated with globalization, may explain the varied patterns of top income inequality that we see in the data.”


      I'm still left wondering what economists can tell those struggling with global poverty today. How long will they have to wait to see shifts? For that ray of hope, I find the work of folks like Ann Mei Chan --who is exploring ways to use digital technology to end poverty-- something to be really optimistic about.


      What are your thoughts?


      The Second Machine Age: Challenges for CXOs

      Erik Brynjolfsson, co-author of the book The Second Machine Age, discussed with I-CIO the profound impact of automation on every industry and how CXOs must play a key role--now.

      Andrew McAfee on Technology and the American Workforce

      On the PBS NewsHour last April, Andy McAfee spoke about how increased use of technology does play a role in the current disappointing job growth statistics.