Innovation Lab Provides New Space for Collaborative Learning

While the Cal football team practices on the field outside, MBA students are hard at work in a new Innovation Lab inside Memorial Stadium, building towers out of dried spaghetti as part of their own lesson on teamwork.

The so-called "Spaghetti Challenge" requires students to build the tallest tower possible to hold up a marshmallow within18 minutes. It's designed to demonstrate how group dynamics and iteration work under a time constraint. After talking about the experience (only 3 of 6 groups successfully built a tower), Haas Lecturer Clark Kellogg segues into how iteration can similarly help make a business model canvas better and better.

From there, Kellogg asks students to break up into pairs to explain their own business model canvases to each other—and that's when students really begin to take advantage of the new Innovation Lab as they head toward smaller breakout areas with movable walls to avoid disturbing others.

"This Innovation Lab is a dream that Sara and I have been nurturing since 2010," says Lecturer Clark Kellogg, who teaches the Haas School's Problem Finding Problem Solving course along with Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman. "It's amazing to see students working together in this new, robust space."

The lab, a 2,700-sq.-ft. open and easily reconfigurable classroom in Memorial Stadium, was made possible by a gift from alumnus Michael Gallagher, BS 67, MBA 68, former Haas Board chairman and retired CEO of Playtex Products.

The Innovation Lab was designed to provide additional space for more team-based and experiential learning, cornerstones of the Haas School's innovative leader curriculum. Kellogg's course in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program was the first to be held there on Aug. 19.

The primary users of the lab will be students taking classes in the school’s Berkeley innovative leader curriculum, who also will be able to study and collaborate in the space on a drop-in basis when classes are not in session.

"Teaching in the new i-Lab shows what education can be: active; collaborative; flexible; exciting," says Adjunct Professor Nora Silver, director of the school's Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership. "As I taught Social Sector Solutions for Social Enterprises in the I-Lab last week, I was able to vary working with the whole class, consulting with the five teams working separately, and encouraging teams to move around and learn from one another. It was a wholly satisfying and exciting experience."

The lab's movable tables and chairs and white-board partition walls enable students to break into small groups, which is much more difficult to do in the school's traditional tiered classrooms. The new lab also is significantly larger than the previous space used by Kellogg and Beckman in Wurster Hall.

Located at the plaza level of the newly renovated stadium, the Innovation Lab is just across the street from the Haas campus and next door to a new outpost of the Recreation Sports Facility, which will open this fall.