Boston Globe Highlights 150 MIT Ideas, Innovators

The Boston Globe has highlighted 150 MIT ideas and innovators, including Zipcar, the spreadsheet, and E*Trade.

To celebrate MIT’s 150th anniversary, the Boston Globe published a special section on Sunday highlighting, as the headline puts it, “150 fascinating, fun, important, interesting, lifesaving, life-altering, bizarre and bold ways that MIT has made a difference.”

Here are some of the things on the list that have a specifically MIT Sloan connection, along with the Globe's commentary:

  • Number 25: Executive branch. Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the chief executive of General Motors Co., had a problem. He saw many promising would-be executives in his company but didn’t know how to train them. So in the early 1930s, he came to MIT, his alma mater, and asked for help. MIT accepted the challenge and devised an experiment in executive education, inviting a small group of fellows from various companies to spend an intensive year of business and leadership training on campus. Now called the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership, it has been copied elsewhere and many of its most famous graduates are on this list for their achievements in business.
  • Number 37: Zipcar. Robin Chase, an entrepreneur trained at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, made not owning a car the club people wanted to join. Chase has moved on, but Zipcar, created in 2000, has grown to a fleet of 8,000 with 550,000 members in 60 cities.
  • Number 39: Future of cars. If we ever see cars that get 100 miles per gallon, it will most likely be thanks to researchers at MIT’s Sloan Automotive Lab, an incubator for improvements in car engines for half a century. Under recent director John Heywood – called “the Yoda of cars” by some – researchers have developed a low-cost method for injecting small amounts of ethanol at crucial times into the engine to dramatically improve fuel performance – by 20 to 30 percent.
  • Number 45: E*Trade. William A. Porter, who helped revolutionize digital stock trading with the founding of E*Trade, graduated from MIT’s Sloan Fellows Program.
  • Number 128: Work in progress. In 1960, Douglas McGregor, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, split corporate thought into two camps. Theory X held that employees were inherently disinclined to work and needed to be strictly controlled. Theory Y held that employees should be trusted and empowered. McGregor showed, at a time when labor-management relations were becoming more adversarial, that there was another way to see workers.

Two other management-centric things cited by the Globe:

  • Number 13: The spreadsheet. Dan Bricklin was sitting in a classroom at Harvard Business School when he had this idea to create an “electronic spreadsheet” or “Calcu-ledger” – a way for managers to do complex accounting using a computer or project how their revenues might grow under different scenarios. Bricklin, a 1973 MIT graduate, and fellow MIT alum Bob Frankston rented time late at night on an MIT mainframe computer (it cost $1 an hour to use) to write the program that would become VisiCalc. It led to programs like Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel.
  • Number 59: Win $100,000! The $100K Entrepreneurship Competition starts with $5,000 to the team that best summarizes its business idea in 60 seconds or less. It finishes when the team with the best business plan takes home $100,000. . . It has led to the founding of more than 150 companies, including Akamai Technologies Inc., which today has 2,200 employees, and insulin developer SmartCells Inc., which Merck & Co. Inc. acquired last year for $500 million.

The full list and other Globe feature stories about MIT are online at boston.com/mit.