We’ve taken a look at a program at UC Berkeley where students across disciplines come together to work on solving problems in the marketplace. A lot of this work takes place around solving urban problems in India, but the projects span the gamut from third-world issues to first-world enterprise business strategies.
Solomon Darwin, who directs these programs, pulls students from computer science, engineering and business programs at UC Berkeley. But there’s one program he does not draw students from: the MBA program. Why? As he puts it, MBAs come with baggage.
Your typical MBA has already spent a lot of time in the workforce, running a business unit or group of people. They’ve already learned what they’re going to learn about the world and how to manage people, and most importantly, how everything flows to a business’ bottom line.
Darwin felt that including MBAs in such a green-field class would harm the innovation his students could conceive, by bringing to the table preconceptions about return on investment, labor costs and more. Instead, he focused on undergraduate business students when they were available.
You can mimic this behavior inside your organization too. Do you have some really bright interns working on something new and unique? To give them a better chance to see their ideas to fruition, keep them away from your high-level managers and your old-world staff. If your R&D team is slowing down, maybe it needs a little management alleviation. Xerox figured this out in the 1970s: put smart people in a room with a goal and leave them alone. The worst thing you can do to innovation is tell it that the idea won’t make money or can’t be manufactured cheaply. While those all may be true, innovative software hates to be told it can’t be written.