Multiple Authors
By: Anjana Susarla, Casey Fiesler, Kentaro Toyama

The year 2023 was one of AI hype. Regardless of whether the narrative was that AI was going to save the world or destroy it, it often felt as if visions of what AI might be someday overwhelmed the current reality. And though anticipating future harms is a critical component of overcoming ethical debt in tech, getting too swept up in the hype risks creating a vision of AI that seems more like magic than a technology that can still be shaped by explicit choices. But taking control requires a better understanding of that technology.

One of the major AI debates of 2023 was around the role of ChatGPT and similar chatbots in education. This time last year, most relevant headlines focused on how students might use it to cheat and how educators were scrambling to keep them from doing so—in ways that often did more harm than good.

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By: Mike Figliuolo

If you have a new business idea, I’m excited for you. If you ever want to get it off the ground, however, be sure you have a problem. A real problem. I know that sounds cryptic. Allow me to explain.

When I hear a new pitch, the first question I ask is, “What’s the problem?”

You would be surprised how many times the response to that question is a look like a dog noticing a ceiling fan (dazed and confused). If you want to be successful as a new startup, you must have a problem. If you can’t articulate what problem you solve for the world, there’s a low likelihood you will sell anything. “Pull” selling is exponentially more powerful than “push” selling. When the world has a problem, they will pull your solution. Don’t have a problem? Then you’re pushing your solution on the world.

Allow me to offer some examples, then some guidance on how to think about this issue.

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By: Zach Grey

There is something wonderfully simple about a wind turbine gently turning in the breeze. 

As the wind flows by the blades of the turbine, a rotating force is created that spins the giant assembly. The rotation is then converted into electricity, just like conventional power generation. 

A wind turbine consists of a set of three blades defined by twisting and bending teardrop shapes. The turbine blades are cylindrical on one edge and sharper at the other. 

This blade graphic shows how the wind turbine shapes change as they move from the hub of the turbine blade (left) to the tip on the right. Credit: NIST

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By: Te Wu

Business skills are constantly changing to keep up with current technological and societal trends. But 2023 wasn’t an ordinary year, and there were three major developments that accelerated the evolutionary process of project management. 

First, thanks to the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, artificial intelligence reached the fore of our public consciousness, and many types of tools are now AI-enabled. Next, the world experienced the hottest year in our planet’s recorded history—a sobering wakeup call for everyone, but particularly for our new generation of young adults, who have reached a point in their maturity where they’re more able to take action. Lastly was the shock and trauma resulting from the war in Gaza. Along with directly affecting millions of people, the terrifying events leading to the war and the war itself have generated a tremendous amount of public discourse in the West. Practically everyone has a strong opinion, and the brutality of events has shaken our sense of collective balance. Right and wrong, which are rarely binary, are more nuanced and complicated than ever. 

Silke von Gemmingen’s picture

By: Silke von Gemmingen

Smart waste management is one of the core tasks within smart cities, i.e., those urban areas in which innovative technologies and data-driven solutions are used. They aim to improve residents’ quality of life, minimize environmental impact, and use resources more efficiently. Conserving resources isn’t just about recycling, but also about innovative approaches to collecting waste and then disposing of or processing it in the best possible way. One of the most important components of smart cities is therefore the introduction of efficient waste collection systems. In addition, by May 1, 2025, at the latest, waste from organic waste bins delivered for composting or fermentation in Germany may only contain a maximum of 3% (by weight) of foreign matter when delivered.

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By: Gleb Tsipursky

Many companies have struggled with figuring out their flexible work policies. What they may not realize is that many investors are watching—and judging. Indeed, a number of investors have explicitly and publicly integrated work-from-home (WFH) policies into their evaluations of prospective investment targets. I’ve heard from dozens of investors who approached me for advice on assessing the effectiveness of such policies; in alignment with forward-thinking investors, I see employee buy-in and clarity around policies as crucial. If companies don’t get this right, they are undermining their long-term valuations.

Katia Savchuk’s picture

By: Katia Savchuk

Since generative AI went mainstream in 2023, it has inspired an equal measure of hype and fear. Boosters of tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E predict that they will transform our economy, while skeptics worry about their potential to produce inaccurate or harmful results and ultimately replace workers. But until recently, no one had tested what really happens when companies unleash generative AI at scale in real workplaces.

The first such study, released as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper in 2023, found the best-case scenario: Providing workers with a generative AI tool similar to ChatGPT can lead to more productive workers, happier customers, and higher employee retention.

Researchers studied nearly 5,200 customer support agents at a Fortune 500 software firm that gained access to a generative AI-based assistant in a phased rollout between November 2020 and February 2021. During support chats, the generative AI tool shared real-time recommendations with operators, suggesting how to respond to customers and supplying links to internal documents about technical issues.

Multiple Authors
By: Scott A. Hindle, Douglas C. Fair

So far in this series our focus has remained on statistical process control (SPC) in manufacturing. We’ve alternated between more traditional uses of SPC that remain relevant in this digital era and discussing uses of SPC and its related techniques that are enabled by the marvels of modern technology.

Here in Part 7 we move away from manufacturing and discuss SPC’s continued relevance, and potential, in areas such as planning and healthcare. In the examples that follow, we also aim to reinforce the importance of three key elements inherent in SPC:
1. Aim: What do you want to achieve? (Which questions should the data be helping you to answer?)
2. Context: You need to know what your data represent (i.e., when collected, how collected, conditions when collected, what might have influenced the results you got).
3. Thought: How to organize, use, and analyze the data to extract the needed insight and maximum information from them.

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By: James Chan

The term lean maintenance describes a methodology that focuses on eliminating waste and continually identifying opportunities for improvement. Over time, a lean approach to maintenance extends the useful life of assets, maximizes profitability, improves resource allocation, and enables more efficient maintenance planning and maintenance scheduling.  

Lean principles originated with the Toyota Motor Corp. Instilling the value of ideas like kaizen (continuous improvement) helped Toyota outpace its competitors and set a global standard for efficient production processes. Today, lean manufacturers follow Toyota’s lead to reduce unplanned downtime, overproduction, idle time, extra surplus, and other types of waste.  

Multiple Authors
By: Alonso Diaz, Maria DiBari

Quality consistently ranks among organizations’ foremost competitive priorities; it’s a prerequisite for success in the global marketplace. Firms that want a competitive edge do it by delivering products that meet customer needs and function as intended.

Despite the long-standing emphasis on the importance of quality in business, its actual contribution to business performance has been relatively unrealized. Quality is often the first department that gets deprioritized in the midst of company financial stress. Often, it’s viewed as an overhead expense that can be decentralized into other departments in an attempt to save money. Poor short-term decisions around quality lead to big financial, customer relationship, and workforce morale issues down the road, leaving companies and their customer base in a state of risk.

In fact, quality is the foundation for a competitive advantage, even when a firm’s immediate focus may shift toward concerns like speed to market, cost reduction, and other operational considerations.

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