October 31, 2011 – IBM is bringing its quiz show winning supercomputer Watson into the classrooms of two of the top business schools in the country in an effort to stoke the importance and possibilities of business analytics learning in higher education.

In a symposium Monday with the MIT Sloan School of Management and Harvard Business School, Watson was the centerpiece of an academic discussion on ways academics can and will transform business analytics. Students also took on the computer in an exhibition of its game show question answer aptitude.

Bernard Meyerson, VP of innovation and academic programs at IBM, pointed to the insight deep analytics could provide in real-life fields, like spotting market trends in finance. To make that type of analytics come to fruition, more education and training is needed at colleges and universities.

“Our goal in demonstrating Watson's capabilities and sharing our insights from its development is to challenge the leaders of tomorrow to leverage this new capability in ways we've yet to imagine," Meyerson said in a statement released on the symposium.

Officials from both schools touted the variety of possible applications with high-powered business analytics learning at the college level. Willy Shih, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, said the event Monday is meant to expose students to “cutting-edge technology in deep analytics, an area of increasing importance in business applications, healthcare and the life sciences, enterprise knowledge management, finance, and anywhere there are vast amounts of unstructured data.”

Shih has written a case study on Watson that will be used for his first-year MBA students, and MIT computer science researchers were involved with coding for the supercomputer’s word comprehension capabilities.

Erik Brynjolfson, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said that economic stagnation is partly rooted in the inability of enterprises and institutions to teach in step with available technological advances such as Watson.

“Societies, institutions and structures haven’t advanced rapidly enough to keep up with the advances. We’re creating a lot of wealth through technology, but the benefits aren’t going to regular people in the middle of the income distribution,” Brynjolfson said, according to a live blog account of the event.

IBM introduced Watson earlier this year in a successful, three-day competition on answer-and-question TV show, “Jeopardy!” Since then, there have been a handful of actual implementations of Watson’s data prowess, most notably as a commercial analytics and data quality solution at health care benefits provider WellPoint.

For more on the symposium, click here to read an event blog from IBM.

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