An Innovative Mindset
New Strategic Focus on 'Leading Through Innovation' Fosters a Distinctive Identity for the Haas School and Its Graduates
"We can't teach people to paint like Picasso, but we can give them the skills that will allow them to build organizations where innovation flourishes." - Richard Lyons, Architect of Leading through Innovation
One of the first priorities for Steven Tadelis, the Haas School's new chief strategy officer, is to define succinctly the school's recently adopted strategic focus, "Leading Through Innovation." Tadelis, a new professor at Haas, in the economics group, knows he needs an elevator pitch – a short explanation of the slogan that clarifies its meaning and invites its support.
"Leading Through Innovation at Haas is a mindset together with an array of capabilities that enables our graduates to promote and foster an environment where innovation flourishes," he begins.
"We want to produce great leaders of innovation," he adds. "This means that we educate our students to ask the right questions – to always question how things could be made better. And we give them the analytical, organizational, and leadership tools to find the right answers."
Beyond defining Leading Through Innovation, Tadelis is also charged with giving shape and substance to the school's theme, which is the core of its new strategy. He is currently overseeing the development and introduction of new academic offerings to make the strategy come alive for Haas students.
Dean Tom Campbell appointed Tadelis to his new role in December to step in for Prof. Richard Lyons, who was acting dean while Campbell was California Finance Director and who was the architect of the strategy. Lyons took a leave last year from Haas to serve as the chief learning officer at Goldman Sachs in New York.
Lyons began developing the strategic plan in 2005. Lyons achieved a critical consensus among the faculty, staff, students, and alumni on the way forward and started implementing new initiatives to teach executive skills and develop a unique mindset among students. Campbell strongly endorses the new strategy, which he said "will increase the school's momentum by providing clear goals and a distinctive brand identity in a competitive marketplace."
Of the strategy development process, Lyons recalled: "We asked ourselves, what business is the Haas School in? And the answer is that we are in the business of developing leaders. While all top business schools have this mission, including Haas, it is important that we differentiate ourselves and break free from the clutter."
Lyons and the team of faculty members and others who worked on the strategy looked to "the deep distinguishing assets that are UC Berkeley, that are Haas." He added: "We are located in an innovation ecosystem that is unequaled anywhere in the world -- the San Francisco Bay Area with all the venture capital, Silicon Valley, biotech, and digital media that's growing around us. Innovation is a part of the ethos in our area, and you feel it everyday at Haas. So we came up with three words that captured this spirit and reflect our essence, our brand: Leading Through Innovation."
Both Tadelis and Lyons emphasize that the theme is not about technology, although they acknowledge that this is an important aspect of innovation and that Haas has long been recognized for its strengths in this area. "Leading Through Innovation is about thinking about innovation from a strategic and organizational perspective," said Lyons. "While we can't imbue our students with creativity or teach them to paint like Picasso, we can give them the skills that will allow them to build organizations where innovation flourishes. Getting an organization to behave differently is a profoundly innovative act."
The new strategy, which was approved unanimously by the Haas School faculty last April, also re-commits Haas to providing world-class management education, with an emphasis on a rigorous curriculum and business fundamentals, and increased exposure to a variety of experiential learning opportunities to instill students with unique skills. It also calls for expanding academic links to other schools and departments at UC Berkeley – a traditional Haas School strength and differentiator.
Implementation has been moving along rapidly since then. Tadelis is overseeing the effort to launch new learning opportunities that broaden a student's executive skill set and develop a Leading Through Innovation mindset. He and Adam Berman, BS 85, who is executive director of curriculum innovation, have created a series of innovative initiatives – some non-credit and experiential – aimed first at Berkeley MBA students.
Haas@Work is a successful new program that sent nearly 50 Berkeley MBA students to work with top executives at a local firm (this first engagement was with a large online travel agency in the Bay Area). Students researched a competitive challenge posed by the firm and developed potential innovative solutions during a one-day, on-site workshop. The best ideas were selected by the executives, and a core student team was then chosen to implement the strongest solution at the firm this spring. "Innovation is about fresh ideas being put to work, and Haas@Work is about applied innovation," says Berman.
Meanwhile Tadelis has begun a major effort for a new required core course on innovation, ensuring that all MBA students are exposed to the concept while at Haas. The course would be taught as part of the core next spring. "We envision the course to be multi-disciplinary," said Tadelis. "It will bring together all the tools students have learned in the core courses and apply these to the creation and fostering of innovation."
The new "Leadership" core course launched last fall has been received as an enormous success. It provides an in-depth assessment of every first-year MBA student's leadership skills, based on comprehensive evaluations from past managers and coworkers. When the Leadership course concludes, students have the option of joining a structured, peer coaching program that enables students to implement the "Leadership Action Plans" they created during the course. A ground-breaking, year-long program, Peers@Haas will enable MBA candidates to elevate their leadership capabilities by providing each of them the opportunity to achieve positive, measurable change to one key leadership behavior. In the coming year, participants will learn a set of tools and methods that have been successfully used by senior executives across the world to change their behavior. The result will be an overall improvement in the students' leadership capacities, as judged by their supervisors, peers, subordinates, and other external stakeholders.
Marshall Goldsmith, an acclaimed author on the subject of effective leadership, was the keynote speaker at a six-hour workshop to launch the Peers@Haas program in January. The program attracted over 140 students from the school's three MBA programs. "Peers@Haas is attempting to allow every student to reach his or her potential by doing something groundbreaking: changing behaviors that are obstacles to becoming effective leaders," says Berman.
Other new non-credit programs include a series of executive seminars. The first seminar, "Harnessing Your Full Potential," taught by Srikumar Rao, helps students manage ambiguity and uncertainty and gets them to focus on challenging the status quo in the pursuit of their dreams. Another seminar teaching the innovation process was introduced to MBA students in November of last year.
To Tadelis, the roll-out also includes identifying Haas courses and research that already fit the theme, but have not necessarily been recognized as such. He believes that one of the reasons the Leading Through Innovation strategy fits Haas so well is because the school has long been a leader in the area, and its culture of independent thinking and fresh ideas actively supports it.
Haas was one of the first business schools to pioneer cross-disciplinary study of product design via the elective Managing the New Product Development Process. This elective, which has been taught by Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman for more than a decade, was among similar offerings that prompted Businessweek to name Haas as one of the top design schools in the world in October 2006.
The school is also planning on producing a new series of innovation case studies to be used by other business schools, and may produce a scholarly book on the subject. The school's management journal, California Management Review, will publish a special "innovation" issue this fall, featuring articles by Haas faculty members. Tadelis is also chairing a faculty implementation task force that is studying how the Leading Through Innovation mindset could further infuse faculty activities, and perhaps play a role in some hiring decisions.
Meanwhile, alumni will get the opportunity to hear firsthand about the Haas School strategy and plans at Alumni Reunion Weekend on April 28. Rich Lyons will speak on the subject, among others. Haas student groups have taken up the innovation theme at recent student-organized conferences, including the inaugural Health Care conference in February and the Women In Leadership conference in March.
"We can do things now we couldn't do before," said Dean Tom Campbell about the new direction. "It's a whole new world at the Haas School of Business."
One might even say it's a whole new mindset.