Leading in an era of disruptive innovation
Digital technology has been disrupting the way we do business and
the way we communicate ever since we began to digitize information
as long as 50 years ago. That transformation is progressing at an
ever-advancing pace as computing technology increases and creative
thinkers and entrepreneurs continually introduce innovations
technology makes possible.
We live in an era of incessant disruptive innovation, when fresh ways of thinking about things and doing things is the new normal. This is the reality we prepare our students to lead and excel in. Judging by the accomplishments of our alumni and the informed and inspired business ventures they bring to fruition, our approach works.
Professor Donald P. Greenberg, an internationally recognized pioneer in computer graphics who teaches disruptive innovation and technology strategy at Johnson, remarks: “In today’s digital age, we’ve reached the stage where the convergence of different disciplines will provide even greater opportunities.” Many Johnson alumni are making cross-disciplinary connections and leading unprecedented change, including the fintech and ag tech innovators featured here. For example, Jason Thanh La, MBA ’14, is CEO of Merchant Service Group, which provides payment technologies to businesses in more than a dozen languages. Ag tech entrepreneurs Amol Deshpande, MBA ’05, co-founder and CEO of Farmers Business Network, and Pablo Borquez Schwarzbeck, MBA ’15, founder and CEO of ProducePay, are partnering with farmers to help increase yield and enhance sustainability.
Greg Galvin, MS ’82, PhD ’84, MBA ’93, an innovator in digital technology and a prolific serial entrepreneur, has developed inertial sensors with highly profitable applications, including the now-ubiquitous application that enables cell phones to switch from portrait to landscape mode. Melissa Kim ’09, MBA ’10, is using the power of data to disrupt oppression in her work with the Global Fund to End Slavery. Clearly, the possibilities for disruptive innovation are as broad as imagination and good leadership will allow.
Higher education is also ripe for disruptive innovation; we know we must vigorously anticipate what the next generation of business leaders needs to be successful and embrace continuous change in the way we deliver education. At Cornell, where so many great minds come together to teach, learn from one another, and share ideas, we excel at this. That is why we remain world leaders in education in so many areas.
In this vein, I am proud to introduce Johnson’s new Digital Technology Immersion, a semester-long program that brings together MBAs, engineers, practitioners, and faculty from Johnson and Computer and Information Science at Cornell, and designed to prepare our students to embrace and excel in this fluid environment. Modeled on the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA, the Digital Technology immersion sits at the intersection of business strategy, information science, and emerging technology. Courses will include guest lectures from practitioners, as well as a joint practicum project, in which MPS students in Information Science and MBA students will work in multi-disciplinary teams on a project mentored by an industry expert and Cornell faculty. Read more about this in Cornell Enterprise Online.
When President Beth Garrett addressed Johnson faculty and staff in late November, we were all proud to hear her refer to Johnson as “one of the most exciting business schools in the country” with “the ability to evolve and respond to a changing world.” She spoke about the importance of collaborations across the academy that drive the application of knowledge and ideas to solve complex global problems, citing connections between Johnson and other schools at Cornell that have resulted in the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA and this new Digital Technology Immersion, among other programs.
In this age of disruptive innovation, we need leaders who are open to new ideas, leaders who are willing to try different approaches to solving problems and who will boldly face challenges that will inevitably arise. Preparing such leaders is the challenge we are rising to at Johnson.
Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean