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Leading through innovation September 27, 2009

Posted by Tony Mignot in Design Thinking.
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Most companies or business schools these days, claim to differentiate from competition through innovation. Leading through innovation is at the heart of the Haas School of Business. But what does it mean exactly? Sara Beckman and Michael Barry have figured that out.

The innovation process is broken down into four steps: observation, framework, Imperatives, and solutions. The observation phase aims at identifying the true needs of users, while the framework phase’s goal is to come up with a new way of solving the problem that users face. In the imperative phase, the innovation team converges to decide on the most important goals that the solution needs to accomplish. Finally, the solution appears and is evaluated through prototyping.

Each of these four steps requires different mindsets. Four learning styles have been identified as the most suited for each step: diverging, assimilating, converging, and accommodating respectively.

Therefore, leading through innovation requires first assembling the right mix of people, and then leveraging the diversity of the team to execute the above-mentioned process.

But the Haas School of Business doesn’t stop there. It offers opportunities to students to put that theory into practice through what it calls “experiential learning”.

During my first year at Haas as an MBA student, I was lucky enough to be involved in Haas@Work with the Clorox company. We put the innovation process to work to come up with a set of recommendations to solve a problem that Clorox was facing. I was impressed by the results we came up with in a very short amount of time. Worth mentioning is the role of the facilitator who helped us transition from one phase to the other. Over the summer, I was one of the few students who actually implemented a subset of those recommendations, by working even closer with Clorox.

At Haas, we don’t just talk about innovation. We are actually offered various opportunities to put innovation to work. Haas@Work being only one option.

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