MIT pushes creativity as a key to innovation

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MIT pushes creativity as a key to innovation

The rigid discipline expected of the engineering students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also found in the university’s MBA program. Graduates have vivid memories of reaching for the Ibuprofen to help them cope with the stress of exams.
Kim Hyung-soon, who earned an MBA at the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management, had dreamed of sailing on Boston’s Charles River when he enrolled. But he says he never even took a stroll along the river until he graduated.
Completing such an intensive course changes a person. Lee Hyung-don, a vice president of a local high-tech start-up, remarks, “I was able to acquire the skills to stay alive amid endless competition and inhumane schedules.”
The Sloan School’s Web site compares life in its master of business administration program to drinking from a fire hose ― forget about sipping.
This kind of atmosphere forces graduates to make good use of their time, a requisite for any business leader.
Graduates say simply knowing that they survived (and usually prospered) gives them the self-confidence to succeed.
The Sloan School takes its name from the former chairman of General Motors, Alfred Sloan, who saw the need for a link between industry and science. In 1950, Mr. Sloan’s charitable foundation donated $5 million to found a School of Industrial Management at MIT.
The school’s faculty is top-notch. Fisher Black and Myron Scholes are renowned for their theory to calculate stock option values. Franco Modigliani, who helped create the Modigliani-Miller Theorem in 1985, received the Nobel Prize in economics for his work.
Sloan graduates are making their marks at this moment. They include Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations; Carly Fiorina, chairman and chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Company and William Clay Ford Jr., Ford Motor’s president and CEO.
More than 600 companies have been established by Sloan alumni, and 20 percent of Sloan alumni hold the top management position at the company they work for.
Why are Sloan alumni so competitive? Richard Schmalensee, one of the school’s deans, says, “One of our top priorities is to create an organization that can effectively innovate.”
“Innovation,” in this sense doesn’t necessarily mean developing new technology. It’s a way to see that creative ideas are fashioned and effectively introduced into every organizational activity. Sloan can put new methods into practical use or in courses faster than any other MBA program.
Sloan’s dedication to creative innovation is apparent in its use of computers for the past 62 years and its processing of entrance applications solely via the Internet since 1998.
The Sloan School is fiercely competitive in the fields of information-technology application and econometrics. The magazine U.S. News and World Report ranked the Sloan School as No. 4 among MBA schools in its 2004 business school rankings. It ranked Sloan’s IT and econometrics specialties as No. 1 among MBA schools in the United States.
Professors at Sloan believe in being creative to be innovative, and being competitive to achieve results. This is why they are so careful in their selection of students. They evaluate each applicant’s potential for creativity.
“Sloan demands that applicants submit a coherent, logical essay that must demonstrate their creativity,” says Chung Byung-chan, president of JCMBA, a portal site linking MBA schools.
Sloan looks for potential leaders rather than born leaders. It transforms creative, would-be leaders into a to full-fledged leaders who can let their creativity become a part of their logical reasoning.
These days, the emphasis on creativity is being coupled with the demand for socialization skills. Sloan understands that problems are solved in work environments involving thinking, breathing people.
Sloan emphasizes cooperation and a cozy, familial atmosphere. To increase intimacy among classmates, Sloan groups seven freshmen into one team and places six of these teams into one class. Each semester the students are graded on an equal weighting of team projects and individual evaluations. This naturally builds a network based on teamwork.
There are about 80 Korean alumni of Sloan. They range in age from 30 to 60.
Noteworthy among this group are Yoon Jong-yong, vice president of Samsung Electronics and Kang Shin-won, vice manager of Hanmi Bank.
The Korean alumni have a club, MIT Management, and have meetings every two months where they host guest speakers and discuss current trends in business. They get together for golf outings and also maintain a Web site at http://www.mitclub.co.kr.
Two years ago, they put together a venture-capital fund, called the “MIT Sloan Angel Fund” to invest in new companies. The Sloan School’s “entrepreneur mindset” was the driving force behind this investment effort.
The Sloan School, which stresses constant creative output and an entrepreneur’s mindset, puts up $50,000 prize money each year for students to compete in the formulation of venture projects. The goal of the “50K” contest is to strengthen intimacy and creativity among students.


by Lim Young-ju
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