On March 6, our Master’s of Science in Innovation (MSI) cohort heads to Seattle, Wash., for an intensive weeklong residency.
Seattle is a hotbed of corporation innovation, particularly in information technology. It is the headquarters of Amazon and Microsoft, and the center for Boeing’s large commercial aircraft design and assembly. The growth there is spectacular, with Google, Facebook, Apple, and Alibaba setting-up major presences. So what better place, besides Boston of course, to become immersed in corporate innovation?
The MSI program is centered on teaching corporate professionals how to be more innovative and effect change within their organizations. The program is growing quickly; with a large cohort this year comprised of 33 students from a variety of backgrounds. We have doctors, executive directors, MBAs, and high potential individuals with several years of experience. This diverse and varied group is exactly the dynamic we want, and leads to a vibrant classroom environment.
Our approach to teaching innovation is a holistic one, and one that starts with a firm grasp of technology, strategy, and how business model innovation can lead to corporate growth. We cover all facets of innovation, from deeply engaging with users to how to develop a solid financial plan for your business concept. The program is experiential, with students working on individual innovation projects throughout the year-long program.
For the Seattle trip, we explore how to make the innovation process, from concept through commercialization, more efficient and effective. We center the class on three main concepts:
Traditional lean methods that improve process by reducing waste and bureaucracy within the new product development process.
To illustrate these concepts, we take the students on a detailed tour of the final assembly area of the Boeing 777 and 787. This is truly an awe inspiring tour, giving students a hands-on feel for the complexity of design the making complex systems. Many thanks to Boeing! Later that evening, students are tasked to reinvent their own company’s innovation process, with an eye toward agility and reduced complexity.
Design thinking (developed from the world of industrial design firms like IDEO).
We highlight these tools and methods to translate user observation into insight and better opportunities and solutions. To learn the process and methods, we have the students go through an excellent simulation developed by IDEO+ExperiencePoint. This multi-hour hands-on exercise is a highlight for the students. To further the importance of design thinking methods and the importance of design as an integral part of the innovation process, we have the CEO of Tactile, a leading Seattle design firm, give a guest lecture for the students. Tactile’s clients include Microsoft and Amazon. In the evening, the students get to apply their design thinking skills to develop opportunity spaces on a project for the week. If the students desire, they can continue the projects after Seattle.
Because innovation approaches can be different for different industries, on Wednesday we explore the challenges of commercializing science such as biomedical and healthcare. We take a detailed tour of the research facilities at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. We then hear the latest of research from several doctors, and how these innovation are tested and prepared for trials.
In the afternoon, we move to investigate frontiers of information technology. Leading information technology executives come to Northeastern’s Seattle campus and discuss their views on how technology is progressing, and what are the next areas of innovation in areas ranging from the cloud to Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
How successful start-ups approach innovation.
We teach the students how to learn faster and apply lean start-up methods to their projects and companies’ innovation processes. We dive into rapid prototyping, better ways to develop minimally viable prototypes and products, how to approach sourcing, etc. In the morning we start off at the Seattle SoDo Makerspace. Students get to see 3D printers in action, and get their hands dirty exploring all the tools now available to individuals and small teams. Next, we head up to the SURF new venture incubator, where teams of industrial designers work with the project teams to rapidly develop concepts and prototypes. Over the next day, teams can use the SoDo Makerspace, SURF incubator, or whatever other resources they can obtain to prepare for final project presentations. They need to bootstrap, get aggressive, and make progress. Northeastern’s experiential approach in action.
On Friday afternoon, students show the results of their efforts (going from opportunity investigation to prototype) to guests from the SURF incubator. The progress in several days is amazing! But work is not done! Over the next five months students will continue to refine their projects to include input from all the other MSI classes, culminating in an innovation capstone presentation in August.
This is just one of the exciting things going on with the MSI program. We are actively recruiting our next Boston-based cohort and will be launching an online version in the fall of 2016. We encourage you to learn more!
Follow our journey in Seattle: #damoremckiminno