Taking EMBA Innovation Tools Back to the Gates Foundation

     

Berkeley EMBA Student Karin Lion of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Berkeley MBA for Executives student Karin Lion is Associate Program Officer for Agricultural Development with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Here, she writes about Applied Innovation Week, one of five immersive learning opportunities in the Berkeley EMBA.

At the Bill & Melinda Gates we attempt to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems with innovative solutions, from improving healthcare to reducing extreme poverty to increasing access to technology.

I am proud to be part of an organization that pushes the envelope in how we think about helping the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. But even the most well-established organizations can become complacent in their approach to innovation, and I realize I have a part to play in continuing to push my team to think outside the box.

 I am now armed with the tools and confidence to drive our thinking in an entirely new direction. 

 

With some of the skills that I began to develop during our Applied Innovation Week with Sara Beckman, I am now armed with the tools and confidence to drive our thinking in an entirely new direction. 

I learned that it’s not about questioning the status quo, but, rather, about questioning my status quo. I realized that I bring my biases into every one of my experiences, and if I don’t reflect on how my assumptions shape my thinking, then I am limiting myself and the things I can achieve.

We conducted several self-reflection exercises during the week, and I have to say, they could be painful at times. For one, I examined the business model of one of my grantee organizations and used design thinking techniques to tweak the model in order to improve its social impact.

At times, I was ready to give up because I thought there was nothing more I could do! Luckily, my patient and supportive classmate, Roshini Das, kept pushing me to think differently using our new tools. It became clear to me that increasing social impact for this organization could result in a trade-off between quality and scale. I ended the week inspired and itching for a phone call with the organization’s CEO to talk strategy.

I couldn’t expect to change overnight, as the concepts we were discussing were complete paradigm shifts in how I typically approach a problem and develop solutions.

 

It also became evident that the week in San Francisco was just the first step in a journey to being able to develop the mindset, skillset, and toolset associated with being a truly innovative leader. I couldn’t expect to change overnight, as the concepts we were discussing were complete paradigm shifts in how I typically approach a problem and develop solutions.

We left inspired by Executive Coach and Co-Instructor Barbara Waugh to commit ourselves to whatever we deemed our purpose in life. One of my classmates even committed himself to supporting the reunification of his country, Korea. We all left so empowered that I know he will do it!

Applied Innovation Week is one of five immersive learning experiences in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program. Check out four other ways to get immersed.

EMBA Immersive Learning: Dive Right In

 

You might also enjoy Iterate, Rinse, Repeat, an EMBA Immersion in the Innovation Cycle.

 

About The Author

Susan is Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program. She has nearly twenty years of experience in marketing and advertising, having worked in several different industries including technology, travel, healthcare -- and many others from her media planning days at J. Walter Thompson where her clients included Chevron, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle, and Ford. She enjoys advising prospective students and guiding them through their personal MBA experience.