We have begun two new classes this Mod that start with “IP.” The first, Innovation and Product Design (which I first covered in March), is taught by American professor David Robertson. David comes from the software world so I’m naturally very interested in his class. His most compelling feature, though, is his utter lack of tolerance for superficial comments in class. When someone raises his hand to speak and then says something which David doesn’t think goes deep enough, his comment is usually met with a condescending “AND . . . ” or a probing “OK, sounds good, but HOW?” It was a bit shocking at first but I think it has had the intended effect of fostering real analysis instead of consultant speak.
The most interesting takeaway from IPD so far is its focus on all the other types of innovation in a company besides just innovation in the product itself. Innovation at the supply chain or business model levels, for example, tends to provide much more value than product innovation. As someone who is not necessarily all that creative himself, I also really like our study of how to foster innovation with corporate structure, process, and culture. The study groups are now pitted against each other in a competition to create the most innovative bag for IMD students. It sounds pretty simple but it seems that 90 students from 44 countries and diverse educational/professional backgrounds are capable of coming up with some wildly different ideas. I can’t wait to see the final results.
International Political Economy, taught by French professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann, is all about the world’s ever-changing geo-politics and their social and commercial effects. To quote a paper written by our professor (whose initials are JPL–awesome),
“As business goes global and learns the tremendous advantages of diversity, secularism and tolerance, business leaders must establish their credentials as “global citizens” and work hard to diffuse the racial, ethnic, religious and other tensions that arise. To that end, business schools must also draw on philosophy, history, anthropology, and literature to ensure that the education of the business leader has the kind of mental, moral, intellectual, cultural and emotional tools and compass necessary for being able to constructively address the great challenges humanity will face in the 21st century. ”
For someone who came to IMD hoping to learn to be a more global leader, this sounds very relevant! Moreover, learning and discussing in such an international environment will add significantly to the class’s value. In our one class so far the US was held out in several cases as having selfish, unproductive (at a global level) policies. It was an interesting experience psychoanalytically. I found my sense of nationalism compelling me to jump up and defend the US–even when discussing policies I didn’t personally support. Much of our leadership training has involved self analysis and recognition of our subconscious, emotional responses. It was helpful in this case in my quelling my urge to argue. After all, I’m not here to incite brash debates; I am here to learn how actions may invoke responses from different countries, companies, or cultures and today I learned a lot about that.
It seems that a large organization (like a company, country, or even continent) sometimes exhibits a sort of collective conscious. This conscious has a personality and behaves in many ways like an individual human. Sending it a message may evoke an unanticipated response in the same way that miscommunication occurs between two humans. Conversely, I think there are macroscopic lessons that can be applied to the individual. The US has been a leader in the global economy and, just as it had to sit there and accept/evaluate criticism in class today, so must a CEO accept/evaluate criticism from his organization’s employees, shareholders, clients, the media, etc. It is important to be able to keep a cool head and receive potentially very valuable feedback–again, our leadership stream has been very beneficial in developing this quality.
And speaking of which, today I received some very diplomatic criticism about my LinkedIn profile tagline from someone whose opinion I respect. We’ve been encouraged to market, market, market ourselves by career services, but how much is too much? Might a more understated approach be more effective? As with most things at this school–and in the “real” world–there is no right answer. I must make the best decision given my knowledge of the context, goals, resources, instinct, and–especially in this case–who I really am.
We have a full day of IPE tomorrow so I look forward to more humility and new insights.