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Aurelie C. Thiele
Tenured university professor. Writer. MIT PhD.
Interests: Books, performing arts, mathematical models, operations research, painting, technology policy, innovation...
Recent Activity
Thanks so much, Elizabeth! Yes, you're absolutely right, we have to become better at using a mix of mediums. I think what is difficult is that everyone can type a text into a blog service such as Typepad, but taking good photos, recording a good-quality audio, or making a professional-looking video takes more training. It's a pity enhanced e-books, for instance, haven't captured more market share. I don't think it's because of general lack of interest from the public, though. (I think it's because most college students, toward whom many enhanced e-books are geared, really prefer the cheapest version that will allow them to pass the course. But there are so many more opportunities!) I'd love to read/hear the storytelling you come up with!
Hi Paul, thanks for your comment! I think a potential downside to innovation is that some people are so busy trying to create new things they don't try to take advantage of what other people have done and "simply" make it better. (Obviously things get complicated in case of patents, but patents only represent a fraction of innovation.) Transformational or breakthrough innovation has its place but incremental innovation is important too in some cases. I suspect people dislike incremental innovation because they feel like followers. It's tempting to want to be the head of the pack even if it's a pack of one.
Toggle Commented May 28, 2015 on Innovation at MIT at Engineered
Paul: In my case it's loss of functionality. Maybe the post makes it sound like a "nice thing to have", but when I drive I need to be able to zoom on parts of the map that the new Google Maps is not letting me do. This is particularly true for long-distance drives when at the end, driving into the city, Google Maps wants me to take exits and drive to my destination in ways I don't want to do. I want to correct the itinerary (I particularly want to know if Google agrees it's doable or if there's a one-way street I'm not aware of) But I can't zoom on that part of the itinerary because of the lack of navigation button. I also don't necessarily know monuments on the route. If I knew the route I wouldn't need Google Maps... Maybe the Google folks don't understand that some people actually use their car (gasp) to drive (gasp) long distances. It just boggles the mind how they had a perfectly fine product before and made it worse.
I read somewhere that Hachette CEO replied that about 80% of Hachette e-books are sold at $9.99 or less… I still don't see why it matters to Amazon that Hachette allegedly (according to Amazon's very high-level, one-price-for-all calculations) doesn't maximize its revenue, unless Amazon is so eager to increase its own revenue that marginal increase in customers' (publishers') sales will have a noticeable impact on its own bottom line. Plenty of e-books are currently on sale on for more than $9.99. Amazon tries to incentivize self-published authors to select a list price for e-books between $2.99 and $9.99 by adjusting the royalty structure accordingly. Why doesn't it do the same or similar for Hachette and others? Also, this would be a good opportunity for Kobo (another e-books provider that has built partnerships with many indie bookstores) to develop a strong partnership with Hachette.
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2014 on On the price of e-books at Engineered
Good point, Paul! I wonder whether putting lockers in supermarkets would be detrimental to Amazon Fresh. Or perhaps, Amazon should put the lockers in stores that participate in Amazon Fresh to begin with?
Toggle Commented Jan 12, 2014 on Amazon Locker at Engineered
Thanks for the comment, Ilya! You make great points.
Toggle Commented Dec 17, 2013 on Affordable Healthcare at Engineered
Great point! I hadn't thought about that. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out in the midterm elections. I still wish there had been a beta launch involving only a few small states, but I can see how, if many people involved in the decision process were career politicians rather than project managers, they could have given more weight to what they knew best - political strategy. Or perhaps they cared so much about implementing their strategy that no one around them dared voice an objection. Thanks for your comment!
Thanks a lot, Jamie! Much appreciated. I'll make sure to pass your info along to the student leaders.
Yes, I guess it does make transient advantage a competitive advantage, but positioning it that way wouldn't have quite the same impact on the sales of her new book, "The End Of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business." Random read: the first review on Amazon (the one on top that gives the book three stars and is entitled "Clayton Christensen redux") is very informative too.
Toggle Commented Aug 10, 2013 on Transient Advantage at Engineered
Aurelie C. Thiele has shared their blog Italics are mine
Dec 12, 2012
Aurelie C. Thiele has shared their blog Engineered
Dec 12, 2012
I didn't know you were a tae kwon do fan, Paul!
Toggle Commented Sep 19, 2012 on Pricing at the Olympic Games at Engineered
Well, we saw how effective that was for the music industry...
Toggle Commented May 3, 2012 on GoodSemester, Part 2 at Engineered
Ilya, as you might remember from a post of mine a few weeks ago, there are now legal structures that allow companies to include social responsibility in their foundations. The B-corp seems to be gaining momentum, in fact, even if it will most likely remain in the minority.
Toggle Commented Mar 26, 2012 on Corporate Social Responsibility at Engineered
Thanks for commenting! Indeed, it's interesting how some people promote a closed innovation model and like to tell others how to innovate but don't want to listen to other people's innovative ideas as well. It reminds me of the top-down model of leadership where leaders order followers around. Nowadays even "followers" want to be more engaged in the decision-making process. A bottom-up model of innovation needs to recognize innovative ideas can emerge in many different places.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2012 on Open Innovation at Engineered
Thanks for the comment! I just used the list I found in the TR article. Alterian Attensity "text analytics solutions for customer experience management". Brandwatch launched in 2007, "the cleanest data, slickest interface and most transparent pricing". Visible Technologies "the only enterprise-ready social media monitoring, analytics and engagement platform".
Toggle Commented Dec 20, 2011 on Business and Social Media at Engineered
Thanks for the comments! Maurice - thanks a lot for the presentation. I hope that papers are typically read by more than 1-2 readers, but I suspect the real number isn't much higher. I'd never heard that up to 25-30% of published articles, including leading journals, are not cited within 5 years, but it makes sense that people would gravitate toward a small subset of papers. There is a snowball effect, I think, where people keep citing the same papers again and again. It certainly shows that dissemination of research doesn't stop at the paper being published.
Toggle Commented Dec 14, 2011 on On Scientific Publishing at Engineered
Seriously Ilya, where did you get this idea that you had to say you were motivated by the quest for learning or wanted to become a professor to get into engineering PhD programs? Admissions committees know many (engineering PhD) students won't become profs. You want to convey the impression you have clear goals that you have thought carefully about. Explain your end goal of making high-performing algorithms requires a PhD. That's it.
Toggle Commented Nov 16, 2011 on On Arts Education at Engineered
Ilya! I'm really sorry that you can't understand the value of arts education for K-12 students, especially in elementary school. Developing creativity and teaching across the curriculum should be two important features of today's education so that students can approach problems in innovative ways and add value that rote learning cannot bring. I find that art is a great way to achieve that goal. Also, the statement that "it's time to move on from art and music on paper and instruments"? Outlandish. I've got to make you work on your communication skills! How are things with you otherwise? I'll venture the guess that you're not making art/playing music in your free time.
Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2011 on On Arts Education at Engineered
I liked his point about repeated interactions between analysts and companies. I think repeated interactions between agents is an important feature, which is often overlooked in operations research models.
Toggle Commented Nov 10, 2011 on HBR November issue at Engineered
Great points Paul! It's a pity that some people come to cherish their citation index when they get their paper count from correcting others. I tend to view students' placement record and job record as a more important metric of success, but it seems that the urge of gaming any quantitative measure is deeply ingrained in a significant part of the population. Students want As because that is a sign they are good, hence grade inflation; journals want a high impact factor because that is a sign they are good, hence... (Interestingly, some universities do put journals in tiers and refer to them as "A-journals", "B-journals", etc. We never stop grading everything.) An idea would be to classify the journals according to impact percentile. This way, they would have a clear incentive to fight "gaming" by others at their expense.
Toggle Commented Oct 18, 2011 on On Impact Factors at Engineered
"Improve the weaknesses that best multiply the impact of your strengths"... I like that! That's a great way to summarize the article. I thought the idea of cross-training was original, but you're right - so much has been written about leadership that it is hard to decide what to pay attention to. (I find Leadership Development and Compensation Committee to be a far better title, by the way. After all, compensation is supposed to be tied to employees' skills and development.) My favorite part of the article was to read the set of 16 skills and ask myself which ones I was showing and which ones I should improve on. It helped identify areas of improvement that I hadn't put in words in before. Of course, nothing beats "Leadership without easy answers" by Ronald Heifetz, which is my favorite leadership book.
As an example, the article uses the example of an executive named "Tom", who decides to focus on the strength of "inspiring and motivating others" after being passed over for a promotion. This strength has 10 competency companions (see p.89/90), among which Tom selected "communicating powerfully and broadly" as the skill he wanted to improve. He then solicited feedback from another company employee whose communication skills he admired, who made specific suggestions (detailed in the article) for Tom to improve that strength. (The authors also provide additional advice for executives who may not know someone able to provide feedback.) 15 months later, Tom learned he had moved to the 82nd percentile in his ability to inspire. This was a great read that got me thinking about the strengths I want to improve and provided clear guidelines on how to proceed.
Hi Ilya - Actually, IBM has a history of hiring our best grads. Maybe you should give them another try!
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2011 on Two Analytics Success Stories at Engineered
Erik, Thanks so much for commenting. Sorry I didn't get to approve your comment earlier. I was away from my email for a few days. You make very valid points. While universities have tried to make undergraduate education more closely connected to real life through the use of projects, especially capstone projects, professors don't always have the recent practical experience that would allow them to give their students applied (rather than theoretical) engineering skills. It's a pity because it's much more acceptable for students to fail rather than practicing engineers. If the students haven't learned this knowledge before they graduate, it is also much harder for them to acquire it on their own. I think the program that is closest to what you describe is the Leaders for Manufacturing program at MIT, but it's a joint MS/MBA program that requires significant prior work experience. A few years ago it was even renamed to Leaders for Global Operations. It is unfortunate that manufacturing has now such a negative connotation of "thing of the past". Industrial engineering departments have traditionally had good relations with local manufacturing companies, which tend to hire their graduates. Maybe a good starting point to implement your idea would be to create a pilot program at a top IE/manufacturing department, maybe with a co-op. Alternatively, a (well-constructed) rotation program for entry-level hires out of college could allow specific companies to give their new employees some of those skills. My advice would be to start small to build a track record before trying to extend it at the state or federal level. I love your point about needing more case studies in engineering education and allowing students to see flawed designs as well as successful ones. Overall I feel that engineering education in general and manufacturing education in particular would benefit from a more tightly-knit connection with engineering/manufacturing companies. You could ask ABET (, the board in charge of accrediting undergraduate degree programs in engineering departments, if they know of departments that implement such practices. ABET highly values the integration between industry and academia (making sure students learn skills that later make them productive members of the workforce) and should be receptive to your ideas. Thanks again for commenting!
Toggle Commented Aug 17, 2011 on On American Manufacturing at Engineered