Dean Lyons Shares Haas Plan for Building Innovative Leaders

Dean Rich Lyons outlined the Haas School’s vision for MBA education in a spring 2011 article for MBA Roundtable, an organization of global business school faculty and administrators.

The article, titled “Haas School of Business: Building Innovative Leaders,” appeared in the roundtable’s white paper series called The Exchange. The roundtable is focused on knowledge-sharing and innovation of MBA curriculum.

Lyons observes that society is on many commercial paths–in areas such as health care, energy, and public education–“where a straight-line continuation is not going to work.” “These linear paths and others need bending and the real bending will be the work of business,” Lyons wrote in the article. “In essence, we need path-bending leaders; we need innovative leaders.”

Berkeley-Haas is fulfilling that need, Lyons wrote, by moving from an implicit culture to an explicit culture, from a coordinated curriculum to a capabilities-integrated curriculum, and from independent experiential learning programs to an integrated learning curriculum.

He explained why the school articulated defining principles as opposed to core values during its process of codifying the school’s culture. “We used the phrase ‘defining principles’ instead of core values because we wanted to identify principles that really set us apart,” Lyons wrote. These principles, he added, “are now embedded in Haas processes, including admissions, hiring, orientation, teaching, and events.”

Lyons also discussed Berkeley Innovative Leader Development (BILD), a curriculum and set of organizing themes aimed at building ten capabilities essential to the innovative leader. These capabilities involve defining opportunities, making choices, and building organizational capacity. They include problem framing and experimentation, risk selection, influencing people, and managing conflict.

“We worked with recruiters to get feedback on what kind of toolkits and capabilities they most value,” wrote Lyons.

Lyons explained the rationale behind curriculum changes such as the new core course Problem Finding, Problem Solving, which teaches students several modes of thinking in order to address complex, sometimes ambiguous problems. “Many businesses told us that they need business students and people who can think more effectively further upstream—identifying and framing opportunities in sharper ways than the status quo," Lyons worte.

“Our experiential learning courses now put greater emphasis on these upstream skills,” he added.Students take the new experiential learning requirement in conjunction with a problem-solving and teamwork module, creating a more “structured process for actually delivering innovation into organizations.” The nine experiential learning opportunities include such courses as Haas@Work, Cleantech to Market, and International Business Development (IBD).

The result of these changes, Lyons concluded, is students developing into "leaders who redefine how we do business … armed with a particular culture, mindset, and skillset for determining what’s next, for our markets and for our societies.”