4) See something differently. The classroom thrust was empowering students to individually and collectively “see” innovation in a different way. Students wanted novel perspectives and points of view that let them observe or appreciate something in a potentially valuable new way. Just as a microscope or MRI scanner offers new eyes, a different framework similarly invites a new vision. But seeing different is not enough; that vision has to be communicated. This is where social media can play an important role. How will you share not just a vision but a visualization?
5) Do something different. Effective leaders and managers can’t simply be visionaries and voyeurs. Actions speak louder than words. The cultivation of capability means that “seeing differently” has to be translated into tangible actions. In our class, that meant collaboratively designing simple models, prototypes and experiments. Turning a novel “point of view” into a testable innovation hypothesis represented a different way of exploring value creation. But that “do something different” has to be made accessible and understandable. Simple exercise: Is there an “app” or “calc” that could have an impact?
6) Measure the difference. Seeing and doing something different is the essence of new capability creation. But those differences need to be credibly measured. How do those differences make us more efficient or effective? How might our customers or clients experience that difference? It’s one thing to claim a new capability; it’s quite another to rigorously measure it. Serious executive education students are always looking for new ways to measure impact, influence and improvement. Similarly, whether you’ve learned in a classroom or on the job, what is the metrics conversation you want to facilitate? What gets measured gets managed. Incentives don’t follow too far behind.
7) Build an arc. What’s next for high impact professional development? How often are you asking yourself, or your boss, that question?
The lesson I take away from listening to, working with and learning from these students is that professional development requires a commitment to interpersonal development. That is, the capabilities we cultivate aren’t just about getting better at getting better—they’re about getting our colleagues and collaborators better at getting better, as well.
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Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, is the author of Serious Play, Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?, and The Innovator’s Hypothesis (forthcoming). This article initially appeared on HBR.org.
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