‘Superheroes’ Joining Forces in Digital Experience Initiative

They don’t fly. They don’t wear capes. And, they don’t confront villains.

But, Adam Sulkowski, associate professor of accounting and law, likens the members of Babson’s Digital Experience Initiative (dXi) to the Avengers or the Justice League.

“You’ve got these superheroes with super powers,” he says, “and they finally join forces and start working together.”

The initiative may not be fighting evil in comic book fashion, but dXi is seeking and promoting responsibility and justice, albeit in a digital framework. The dXi’s work and research has taken on greater importance as organizations and businesses have transformed themselves to an even greater reliance on digital technologies.

Responsible Digital Approach

Through dXi, more than a dozen Babson faculty members are collaborating to research the launching and scaling of digital platforms, as well as how to deploy and utilize emerging technologies in responsible and ethical ways.

“You can’t help but avoid certain existential questions for business and society,” Sulkowski said. “The two that come to mind are the environment and technology, and the future of work and business. We pretty much realized there’s a whole bunch of us writing about the same issues.”

Rubén Mancha, assistant professor of information systems at Babson, founded dXi two years ago, bringing together like-minded colleagues who already were researching digital experiences and digital transformations.

“The objective is to get a group of faculty interested in a topic to launch different initiatives and assign different research, and to be able to attract funding and sponsorship from industry,” Mancha said. “Companies need help to make things differently and how to deploy technology in a more responsible way.”

Different Disciplines, Same Objectives

The power of dXi is magnified by its all-hands-on-deck approach.

Assistant Professor Rubén Mancha
Assistant Professor Rubén Mancha is the faculty director of the Digital Experience Initiative, which he founded two years ago. (Paige Brown)

Mancha says dXi can achieve its objectives—including educating business leaders about the role and responsibility of digital experiences—by enlisting faculty from different disciplines to learn from each other, engage in transdisciplinary research and try to solve problems together. Mancha says dXi is a “place where faculty present different ways of looking at a problem from their perspective and find collaborators to engage in that research.”

Today, Mancha remains the faculty director of the program that now consists of 14 faculty members. Although many are in the Technology, Operations, and Information Management (TOIM) Division, dXi also now includes faculty members from the Accounting & Law, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Math & Science divisions.

“We are engaged across multiple disciplines, and we want to bring every perspective,” Mancha said. “Our objective is to bring as many people as we can to have a very unique perspective at Babson and to create ways of thinking about this that can help businesses. For that, we need to be as inclusive as we can. We have liberal arts (faculty), and we have that diversity, which makes us unique.”

Developing Digital Leaders

And, dXi already is becoming a research powerhouse.

Professors (from left) Adam Sulkowski, David Nersessian and Dessislava Pachamanova discuss the Digital Experience Initiative (dXi) at Faculty Research Day. (Paige Brown)

Six of the members convened a roundtable discussion, “Responsible Digital Transformation,” at Babson’s recent Faculty Research Day. The dXi panelists came to the roundtable armed with a list of 14 published papers on subjects such as intellectual property and digital technologies, responsible implementation and impact of digital technologies, responsibility in healthcare, digital transformation of nonprofit organizations, and educating responsible digital transformation leaders.

Earlier this year, three members—Mancha, Steven Gordon, and David Nersessian—co-authored a featured article in BizEd magazine, “Committing to Responsible Digital Transformation.” The three professors outlined how dXi is using its research to teach students about the human side of digital transformation and how to develop digital leaders, with an emphasis on ethical frameworks and personal responsibility.

“My objective is to focus for now on the research,” Mancha said, “and get it to the level where Babson is recognized as the leader of digital transformation research—not just for old-fashioned brick-and-mortar entrepreneurship, but we also want to empower digital entrepreneurship at Babson.”

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