Should Business Innovation be part of the MBA curriculum? |

Should Business Innovation be part of the MBA curriculum?

By Pavel Kantorek

Updated May 1, 2016 Updated May 1, 2016

This article is sponsored by IE Business School.

Learn more about the IE MBA curricum here.

The answer to this question is a simple yes; innovation should be part of the MBA curriculum. Innovator and professor C. Todd Lombardo from IE Business School explains why.

Understanding business innovation

Business innovation or the lack of it is what often causes companies to go out of business. Blockbuster Video, Blackberry, Circuit City, HMV, Polaroid – so many companies have failed to keep up with the changing pace of today’s world.  

Successful businesses must innovate so it’s crucial that MBA programs equip candidates with the right tools to do so. This is relevant in today’s world, and even more so in tomorrow’s.

In order to teach business innovation in the MBA curriculum, we must define the term ‘innovation’, even if only loosely. If you were to ask 10 people what innovation means, you might get 12 different definitions. The Business Dictionary defines innovation as ‘the process of translating an idea or invention into goods or services that create value or for which customers will pay.’

Another definition comes from Thomas Coss, CEO at HeartCloud Inc, a remote clinical data service. “Innovation by definition is the delivery of products or services not currently available.”

Joseph Pistrui, Professor of Entrepreneurship at IE Business School states that “innovation cuts across disciplines and themes, and therefore it is a general management point of view that integrates other perspectives, such as design, strategy, critical thinking, creativity and leadership.”

For Dr. Pistrui, business innovation must permeate the whole organization, not just one single department. Even if you’re an aspiring accounting professional, you need a good understanding of business innovation.

Why offer an innovation MBA?

Industry leaders offer a range of views on why an innovation MBA could be a savvy move.

Andy Miller, director of innovation at Constant Contact, which provides online marketing tools to small businesses, is no stranger to the importance of teaching skills to the next generation of business leaders through an innovation MBA. “We just don’t live in a static world anymore and being comfortable with the change that most fast-growing companies like Constant Contact rely on is critical. The more our colleges and universities can do to support the growth of this skill set, the better.”

Massimo Andriolo, Principal at IXL Center, an Innovation Management Consultancy, believes that “Innovation is ok, but making innovation real is the trick. It's an art like directing an orchestra. It can and must be learned!”

Coss adds that, “If MBA programs are to continue teaching tools like IRR (Internal Rate of Return) or RONE (Return on Net Assets) and other similar tools, they also need to teach when these tools don't apply, this is a requirement for innovation to exist. Traditional MBA stuff doesn't work well with comparing against current non-consumption, it requires creativity and risk both of which are wonderful.”

Not only is there demand for an innovation MBA from the industry, but from students too. Innovation is required in response to failure in today’s fast-paced business world, says recent IE/Brown Executive MBA student Carlos Moliner:  “In my professional experience, I keep seeing principles and paradigms change and fail one after the other. The result is a growing uncertainty. Innovation is needed to face and manage such uncertainty, so it becomes a must in an MBA curriculum.”

Innovation in the MBA curriculum

“By teaching Innovation in an MBA curriculum we will remove the perception that it is something that could be done only by a bunch of crazy guys in a basement. It will also be possible to show (the accountants and the finance guys) that there is a method in the perceived madness, it’s not just an art that you either posses or not,” says current IE International MBA student Luca Ornati.

In the MBA curriculum at IE Business School, innovation in embedded into two core courses: entrepreneurial management and technology and innovation. In addition, the first interim module features a design-thinking intensive course that gives the students tools to examine problems from a user-centered point of view. Recent outcomes from this module have included innovative programs to support the LettuceBeeKids orphanage in Pakistan and solutions for Guatemalan renewable energy company Quetsol to better reach its rural target market.

Incorporating these concepts into the MBA curriculum and immersing students in real-life situations means that they walk away with the tools to navigate the rapidly changing world in which we live.

This article is sponsored by IE Business School.

Learn more about the IE MBA curricum here.


This article was originally published in May 2016 .

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Written by

Mansoor is a contributor to and former editor of He is a higher and business education specialist, who has been published in media outlets around the world. He studied English literature at BA and MA level and has a background in consumer journalism.


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