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Innovation: The Buzzword at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

According to Haas Associate Dean Steve Tadelis, the top-tier business school at the University of California at Berkeley differentiates itself by attracting and developing students who lead through innovation. This from an open letter Tadelis sent out to the greater Haas community earlier this month, which defined the school’s strategy – dubbed “Leading Through Innovation” – and provided updates on several new programs and initiatives currently underway.

“Our definition of Leading Through Innovation is a combination of two complementary elements: a mindset and a set of capabilities that together enable our graduates to create and foster business environments where innovation flourishes,” Tadelis writes. By innovation, Tadelis does not mean simply introducing the latest and greatest new consumer gizmo (read iPhone). “Innovation can, does and should happen in every part of an organization that strives to move forward: in business processes, in marketing, in finance and in procurement relationships to name just a few,” he writes.

Achieving the mindset that sets Haas apart calls for implementing cool new ways to teach and learn, drawing innovative leaders and thinkers to campus to share their ideas, and attracting diverse, brilliant students who in turn “innovate themselves” by interacting with peers whose different backgrounds, experiences and outlooks help broaden their own.

The set of capabilities Tadelis refers to is no different that those any top business school should provide, he says, but even here the Haas mindset shines through in a number of electives focused on teaching students how to help organizations succeed and grow through innovation.

Setting the Strategy in Motion
Leading Through Innovation sounds great, but does Haas really walk the walk? To exactly this end, Haas is developing a new Institute for Business Innovation designed to ensure the success of the school’s strategic plan. Led by Adam Berman, Haas’ former director of curriculum innovation, the institute will provide the necessary infrastructure to maintain and expand on the experiential learning opportunities and other events that keep Haas students at the forefront of innovation.

Tadelis highlights two programs – Haas@Work and Peers@Haas – that in the past year have taken experiential learning to a whole new level. The Haas@Work program sends teams of Berkeley students to work for local businesses, where they help design and implement innovative solutions to meet pressing business needs. Clients in the first year of the program included Hotwire, Cisco Systems and Sunpower Corporation, and Lam Research Corporation and Disney have signed on as partners for the coming year.  

Peers@Haas, meanwhile, is a semester-long peer coaching program designed to complement the core leadership course that all Haas students complete. As part of the course, students each develop their own Leadership Action Plan. Through the Peers@Haas program, students identify one specific behavior they want to change as part of implementing their leadership plan and call on fellow students to help coach them in the process.

The Institute for Business Innovation will shepherd the growth of these and other programs while also looking at ways to expand and enhance the school’s course offerings.

In the meantime, attracting speakers and conferences celebrating innovation remains a top priority. This Saturday, March 1st, Haas will host its sold-out Women in Leadership Conference featuring keynote speakers from Chez Panisse, Williams-Sonoma and Nintendo.

Alice Waters, chef, author and proprietor of Berkeley’s acclaimed Chez Panisse restaurant, pioneered the culinary philosophy, now widely embraced, of using only locally-grown, seasonal organic products. Laurie Alber, president of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., leads the global supply chain, distribution and worldwide logistics for both the Pottery Barn brands and Williams-Sonoma. And Cammiie Dunaway, executive vice president for sales and marketing for Nintendo of America, oversees the gaming giant’s sales and marketing for the U.S., Canada and Latin America.

Following on the heels of the women’s conference, Haas next week will welcome Tom Kelley, MBA ’83, who is general manager of the cutting-edge Palo Alto–based design firm IDEO, as well as the first-ever Haas Executive Fellow.

IDEO is credited with numerous landscape-changing design innovations, including the original Apple mouse and a portable defibrillator now kept on all major airlines that allows a layperson to administer a heart-resuscitating shock to victims in cardiac arrest. Kelley is the author of two books, The Ten Faces of Innovation and The Art of Innovation. Kelley will speak at Haas on Monday evening, March 3rd. 
 

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Posted in: MBA News