Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 29 of 76

27 BizEd November/ December 2014 A n innovation creates value by providing a match between a need and a solu- tion. This definition might appear somewhat complicated, but I find it useful because it breaks innovation into three parts. First, it reminds us that innova- tion, unlike invention, goes beyond novelty. It must create value, either in a financial or altruistic form. Second, it points out that innova- tion must be customer-focused; a solution is useless unless it addresses somebody's specific need. Third, it uses the word "match" to underscore innovation's power- ful ability to recombine elements. Innovation can take an existing solution from one industry and deploy it to meet, or match, an existing need in another. Innovation plays a critical role in the field of business education. One reason is that we teach it as a subject to students who want to become entrepreneurs, help orga- nizations drive organic growth, or launch careers in tech companies. A second and more recent reason is that our industry is rapidly chang- ing, and we must innovate our own delivery systems if we're going to serve our undergraduate, MBA, and executive students. The key driver for this change in education delivery is the emer- gence of massively open online courses. We have actively supported MOOCs at the Wharton School, and as of August, our four Whar- ton Business Foundation courses have attracted more than 1 million students. Anyone who doubts that MOOCs can be transformational in students' lives should know the story of Ankit Khandelwal, a young man from India who dedicated two years of his life to taking MOOCs from Wharton, MIT, Yale, and other institutions. His goal was to use MOOCs to create a personal- ized program he calls "Envisioning the 21st-Century Global Manager," as he was determined to provide himself with the skill set of such a leader. He found the online discus- sion forums particularly useful, he told me, because "studying with so many bright-minded individuals around the globe was very excit- ing." He also said that MOOCs "helped me exceed my own expec- tations and reinvent myself by pro- viding quality education even when I was sitting more than 10,000 miles away." He discusses his edu- cational journey on his website at Despite the benefits of MOOCs, administrators at some schools worry that free online courses will cannibalize their highly successful academic offerings. To allay that concern, I find that it's helpful to return to the original definition of innovation as something that creates value by providing a match between a need and a solution. Our students have a need: They want to acquire business knowl- edge. While a business degree is one solution, a MOOC offers an alternative. Since a MOOC is free and does not require students to take time off from work, it also creates obvious value for par- ticipants. So if "feeding students knowledge in a lecture hall" were the only value that traditional schools provided, we would indeed be threatened. However, MBA students come to traditional business schools to fulfill an array of other needs. They want to establish credentials, join extracurricular activities, develop social networks, learn to manage their careers, and enjoy great learning experiences. When business schools focus on knowl- edge delivery alone, they risk dismissing those other critical stu- dent needs—and those needs offer many additional opportunities for innovation. Remember that recombination is one approach to innovation. The best way for business schools to go forward might be to care- fully explore how other industries have fulfilled individuals' needs for credentialing, creating social networks, and developing their careers. It might be time to look outside the academic setting for true innovation. Go "Beyond Novelty" CHRISTIAN TERWIESCH Professor of Operations and Information Management Co-Director, Mack Institute of Innovation Management The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of BizEd - NovDec2014