Innovation in MBA Education (sponsord contribution)

16th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

What is the true face of business innovation? Generally, innovation is seen as a “big ticket” item of substantial change in any field of endeavor, with small changes not really worth consideration.

Innovation has at its heart an action or a process that is changed to embody something new, and an improvement on what went before.  Generally, it is seen as a “big ticket” item of substantial change in any field of endeavour, with small changes not really worth consideration.

However, the reality is that most managers innovate in small ways, and the cumulative effect of their efforts over time brings substantial positive change to business and society.  While this is often overlooked, or ignored in some organisations, this is not the case at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM); we know how important every manager is in the effort to innovate.

Yet many people would say that the ability to innovate cannot really be taught, it comes from money, inspiration and luck.  Not so.  Innovation comes from knowing the context and specifics within which a task is being performed, and building in experience of managing or controlling what is going on. 


 The theory or framework provided during RSM MBA studies gives the context, a way of looking at what is being done and identifying gaps that need to be closed to improve results.  This is the heart of how an MBA education can build the ability to innovate into every manager, and every part of business and society; ie. identifying the gaps and then finding a way to close them.  Even if these gaps are small, they must not be overlooked as their impact is cumulative to a process or operation.  Each one that is eliminated gives somebody else the ability to look for other gaps.

These small cumulative improvements then build on each other to bring noticeable innovation and benefits.

In the RSM MBA, the core of every aspect of management is taught so as to demonstrate the underlying principles and frameworks by which each discipline functions.  The professor then adds some practical guidance, based on his or her own business experience.  With this in place, the participants are then facilitated in their discussion of how their individual experiences are relevant to the topic, and the lessons that can be learned from them.

Knowing what to do is important; knowing why and how to change things is even more so.

The what and how are important; and so is the individual mindset by which a manager internalises the desire and potential for change, and then seeks beneficial outcomes.  This process of internalisation is an integral part of RSM’s Personal Leadership Development in which each participant carries out a personal audit, from which an individual development process is implemented.  This produces a balanced individual who is both skilled in business, and aware of wider needs.

Internal development, assisted by mentors, workshop presenters, other participants and individual work provides the platform by which the education that each participant receives becomes a complete appreciation and practice of potential for innovation in everyday activities.  Thus each manager is able to contribute a necessary part to the overall process of innovation that does not need the expensive “big bang” project to succeed.

Understanding and personal commitment are the essential bases for this quieter process of innovation to occur.  It is easy to overlook that the commitment brought to their MBA studies by participants can be combined with a carefully-built understanding of business and society to produce the benefits that improve both.  This has also contributed to almost continual improvements in living standards for most people around the world.
It is important to realise, as do RSM’s MBA participants, that each person has a responsibility to make a difference in the world: a positive difference.  By combining commitment, education, personal development and the sense of responsibility, RSM and its MBA graduates are contributing to achieve that difference.


About the author: Ken Robertson is the Director of MBA marketing and Admissions at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University – a top-ranked international business school renowned for its ground-breaking research in sustainable business practices and for the development of leaders in global business.  RSM is constantly ranked among the top ten business schools in Europe.

He is an Economist by training, and an international businessperson by experience.  He recently moved to Holland after a number of years’ teaching in MBA programmes in Australia; and business development activities in Asia.

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