How would you describe your work with companies? How and where do you help them?
In my work I focus on helping individuals, teams and organizations build their creative confidence and reach innovation potential. I have been working with organizations across Europe, Asia and USA including Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation, JetBlue, Uber, GM, Genentech, Leo Pharma, Symbio, Coca Cola, Telenor, Kellog’s, Highlands, Microsoft and Visa. Work with each of the companies is very different, because we tailor our programs to meet the specific needs of the organization. Most of the time I facilitate design thinking workshops, teach ethnographic research techniques and lead senior leadership sessions on user-centered innovation.
How do you train MBA participants to develop design-thinking process and what is your ideal outcome after your class is finished?
For the last 10 years I have been developing pedagogy for teaching innovation process and nurturing creative mindsets to management and senior leadership and many people ask me how one can teach creativity. It is still a widely held belief that you are either born creative or not. However science and our experience prove that creativity is like a muscle, the more you train it the stronger it gets. So what we do is we design learning experiences that help people tap into their creativity, use their creative muscles and slowly build their creative confidence.
Our teaching approach is based on the most recent findings from leading neuro scientists, psychologists and anthropologists with the goal to inspire participants to change their behaviors and mindsets and create work environments that are more conducive to innovation. Some of the behavior changes include taking more risks, embracing and learning from failure in the innovation process, engaging radically diverse project teams and helping employees tolerate ambiguity that is part of creative problem solving.
What makes be most happy and proud is when MBA students reach back to me weeks or months after our class and share examples of they have changed their leadership or working styles to encourage more creative thinking in their organizations. They often send examples of projects they completed with their teams incorporating design thinking principles from empathy interviews with customers to early prototypes made out of paper. When this happens I know we have achieved our learning objectives.
What are the qualities do you think an MBA professor must have?
MBA professor need to have incredible charisma, because we are entering a room full of experienced and accomplished professionals that are not easy to inspire. Our goal is to take them out of their daily operational routines and have them reflect on their leadership skills and practices, identify opportunities to improve themselves as leaders as well as their organizations and then expose them to relevant tools that can help them achieve the desired change. Because they are practitioners, we need to teach them useful skills that they can apply right away in their organizations. This means that as MBA professors need to have good understanding of managerial practices, we need to understand the biggest challenges executives are facing today and be able to offer our MBA students ways to solve them. We need to embody a mix of research skills and applied practice in organizations combined with good teaching abilities.
Where do you turn to learn new things and where do you find inspiration?
I am lucky to teach at Stanford University where I get to work with incredibly inspiring individuals that have all influenced my teaching style. We collaboratively develop new programs and teaching tools and constantly push each other to become better educators.
My most creative time is on long flights with no connectivity and no distractions. I strongly believe that we need to be bored to get our creative juices flowing.
Outside of work I seek inspiration in beautifully designed objects and spaces, meeting interesting people from different fields and spending “hygge time” with my family. With my husband and two boys we make regular trips to Japan, Nordic countries and Italy where I look at how people live and interact and apply some analogy to my work and our life in general.