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IDEA Lab is an MIT Executive MBA Action Learning lab focused on innovation and entrepreneurship.

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IDEA Lab Impact Stories

15.704 IDEA Lab

IDEA Lab is an MIT Executive MBA Action Learning lab focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. Building an Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurial Advantage (IDEA) is deeply embedded in the culture of MIT, and is an intellectual and practical cornerstone of the MIT Executive MBA Program. In the first year of the program, Executive MBA students (EMBAs) complete the IDEA Week executive module, which introduces them to key concepts and MIT frameworks supporting innovation-driven entrepreneurship (e.g. iterative innovation loops of experimentation and evaluation), and the innovation ecosystem (e.g. the ecosystem’s key stakeholders, and the foundations of innovation and entrepreneurial capacities).

In the second year, IDEA Lab provides a follow-on opportunity for EMBAs to put their IDEA insights into practice with interested organizations/corporations, or with their own startup (perhaps resulting from IDEA Week).  IDEA Lab gives EMBAs time and space to explore and leverage innovation ecosystems to gain an innovation-driven entrepreneurial advantage, and to build a stronger culture of corporate innovation. 

IDEA Lab projects will be co-created by faculty and students along one of two tracks:

  1. Innovation: focuses on organizations wishing to become more innovative and/or to engage the ecosystem. EMBA alums often host these projects.
  2. Entrepreneurship: principally for EMBAs with start-up enterprises/ventures.

IDEA Lab will further explore the themes of:

  • Innovation ecosystems
  • Stakeholders 
  • The innovation loop of experimentation and evaluation

In keeping with the emphasis on global issues critical to the Global Labs experience, each Innovation Track project will be a team-based one that can be in Boston (as this is a globally important innovation ecosystem in its own right).  

Entrepreneurship Track projects should also be team ventures, but the other team members can come from outside the EMBA. 

Two types of projects are envisioned. Both include the consideration of the global elements of the innovation economy, the comparison/selection of innovation ecosystems, and/or global expansion. 

IDEA Lab’s two tracks

The IDEA Lab tracks will encompass two distinctive types of group projects, each with a theme of innovation-driven entrepreneurial advantage (IDEA) in a global context.


Accelerating corporate/organizational innovation through engagement with the wider innovation ecosystem

Innovation Track projects explore the potential for corporations and other large organizations to expand engagement with their local innovation economy in Boston or another innovation ecosystem. These may also emphasize internal ‘corporate innovation’ processes that complement ecosystem engagement (e.g. through internal accelerators etc.). Considerations include the nature of Boston-based engagement, choices of specific location, and program design/development. Host organizations may be global corporations, government agencies or non-profits.


Work on your own startup venture

These projects emphasize location and expansion opportunities, drawing on the globally distinctive elements of Boston’s ecosystem; or identifying the strategic rationale for global expansion into another innovation ecosystem, determining the operational nature of this expansion. These projects may be proposed by an individual founder-EMBA who is driving the startup venture, and can be delivered with a team of EMBA students for IDEA Lab (or by the founder working with non-EMBAs). They can also be delivered for an existing startup.

Interested in enrolling? 

IDEA Lab is the pilot amongst the Global Labs, so those interested should liaise directly with the faculty. IDEA Lab projects are co-created by faculty and students.


Info for hosts

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Hosting an IDEA Lab project

IDEA Lab is an annual opportunity to work with a seasoned team of MIT Executive MBA students (near the end of a rigorous 20-month program) on an intensive four-month engagement. Organizations partner with teams of 4-6 EMBAs – each team averaging 100 years of experience – to collaborate on a business innovation challenge or opportunity, and to provide focused, objective analysis. EMBA teams provide executive input from multiple viewpoints (including MIT’s). This short-term resource is not a consulting engagement, and expects no follow-on business. The EMBA student teams’ only objective is to create value for hosting organizations, while leveraging MIT and the surrounding Kendall Square innovation ecosystem and entrepreneurial resources.

Host timeline

  • Fall

    Introductions and team project-matching. 

  • December - May

    Project collaboration with field study work in mid-March. 

  • March 18-22, 2024

    Students conduct their field study work. 

  • April

    Presentations to hosts and project conclusion. 

 IDEA Lab projects are 5-months long, December through April, with one week set aside for field study – March 18-22, 2024. Travel is not a requirement for an IDEA Lab project, but some travel is possible.

The project host can expect to provide the strategic context for the project, access to data, and key staff. The host should plan to engage with the team on a weekly basis to review progress and provide feedback. There should be a key contact for the team at each location the team will visit to help coordinate resources. 

Project hosts working with IDEA Lab teams will benefit from having a dedicated resource of experienced MIT EMBAs. To make best use of the time available, please prepare the following in advance: 

  • Book time to work with your team during the IDEA Lab project 
  • Provide early strategic context and access to data and resources
  • Anticipate check-ins weekly or every two weeks with your IDEA Lab team
  • Identify resources if IDEA Lab team travel will be required, or benefits your team
  • Allocate time from staff or collaborators to enable the team’s work throughout the project, and especially during the March 18-22, 2024 field study period 

If travel beyond the MIT ecosystem is required, project hosts are responsible for the travel and lodging expenses for the IDEA Lab team. MIT Sloan Action Learning labs will adhere to state, federal and MIT guidelines regarding international and domestic travel.

Project deliverables will vary by project and generally include a report with an executive summary and/or comparable slide deck with a set of recommendations, including a plan for implementation.

Interested in hosting an IDEA Lab project?

To learn more about hosting an IDEA Lab project, please contact Dr. Phil Budden. The application process is a rolling one, so please reach out to him ahead of fall 2023. 

Read more about EMBA alumna Julie Lockner's recent experience

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