2018

Stories related to "Inquiry Required."

conversations

Why Is Productivity Stuck in Neutral?

When we talk about the global economy, we tend to turn to automotive metaphors. A recession brings things to a “screeching halt.” Boom times are said to be “in overdrive,” to have “found a higher gear.” And since the recession, one of the major components of the economy has been stuck in neutral. According to the Conference Board, productivity has barely budged since 2007, was flat in 2014 and 2015, and fell last year. We asked professor Chad Syverson, alumnus Matt Tracey, and Executive MBA student Crystal Lam to tell us why it’s stuck and what might kick it into gear. Chad Syverson, J. Baum Harris Professor of Economics, is the author of “Challenges to Mismeasurement Explanations for the US Productivity Slowdown,” published in the spring 2017 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives: Is productivity stuck in neutral? The short answer is yes. It’s been slow for the last decade—truly slow, not mismeasuredly slow or illusorily slow. The mismeasurement hypothesis says that although productivity has been slow since the mid-2000s, that isn’t real. The hypothesis argues that what’s actually going on is that our ability to measure economic growth has gotten worse. New things that people like and use a lot—Google, Facebook, Snapchat—are all free. We calculate GDP by adding up what people spend money on. Those things don’t show up because they’re free, so it looks like output per worker hour isn’t going up much. In my recent paper I asked, if that’s true, what else would it be true of? The patterns I found were consistent with an actual productivity slowdown rather than with mismeasurement.

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How Do You Manage Millennials?

For the rising ranks of millennials in business, 2015 was a watershed year: they surpassed Gen Xers to become the largest generation present in the US labor force. Yet another milestone is on the horizon—Pew Research predicts the 73 million–strong cohort, born between 1981 and 1996, will overtake baby boomers as the country’s largest living adult generation sometime next year. Though millennials are no more or less a monolith than the generations that came before them, many managers have observed that members of this generation are bringing a markedly different set of values to the office than their predecessors. Millennials may be derided as tech-obsessed, approval-seeking job-hoppers, or praised as creative, adaptable idealists, hungry for personal growth. But one thing’s clear: they’re prompting executives across industries to reevaluate the traditional approach to management. We asked three Booth experts what the future holds. William Osborne, ’01 (XP-70), is senior vice president for global manufacturing and quality at Navistar Inc., a Fortune 500 company based in the Chicago area: Millennial employees take a fundamentally different approach to their professional lives, but they’re not the caricatures people make them out to be. They have a different value system regarding the role of work in their lives—work is one component, and not the centerpiece. They value experiences more than what I would call traditional rewards. For example, I just had an employee, an engineer, recently quit the company and move into a completely different position, in purchasing, with another company. It was a fundamental change, and the main reason he gave was that he lived downtown and the new company was downtown. For him, work was a means to support his lifestyle. <br/>This is not necessarily a bad thing. They’re more creative and more innovative—they look at things differently, and that’s what’s driving change. But they’re less willing to compromise personal growth and development for the sake of the corporation. <br/>

conversations

How Can Humans Work With Artificial Intelligence?

Humans’ fear of robots taking over jobs (or, perhaps, the world) dates back many decades. But there are lots of ways in which AI is already being integrated into the workplace, and the trend will only continue. Yes, AI may take the place of some jobs, but it will also create new jobs—and free up humans to engage in more creative and, well, human tasks. Justin Adams, ’10, is CEO of Digitize.AI in Charlotte, North Carolina: "Most people are familiar with the fact that AI is being used in manufacturing—think robots on an assembly line. But much of AI’s role is service based these days—in health care, for example, which is what my company does. Right now, AI is being used for more of the rote functions, the repeatable and predictable. Humans don’t innately want to do repetitive, rote work, and I think AI will help free people up to do more creative work. My view of AI in the workplace is very positive: I wouldn’t have started an AI company if I didn’t believe that! For instance, my company developed an AI system that can do 50–70 percent of the work hospitals have to do to get preapproval from insurance companies for medical procedures. Currently people are still sending faxes, if you can believe that, or manually entering data online. Because humans are prone to error, and treatment can be delayed because of lack of prior approval, there’s a real patient impact here. Our software can handle approval in the majority of cases, leaving only the more complicated cases that require creativity or negotiations with the insurance company. Humans still have to handle these.