MIT Sloan to launch lab courses examining future global business challenges and Boston’s innovation ecosystem


New NEXT and IDEA Labs expand action-learning options for Executive MBA students

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 2017––A big challenge for large companies looking to innovate is learning how to navigate innovation ecosystems. Another major challenge is designing near-term actions that will enable companies to address emerging societal challenges. To address these issues, the MIT Sloan School of Management is launching two new Executive MBA (EMBA) labs on Jan. 27 in which students will harness the entire EMBA curriculum as well as their own professional experience to provide organizations with road maps and practical recommendations. The new courses, Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurial Advantage Lab (IDEA Lab) and New Executive Thinking for Global Challenges (NEXT Lab), are built on MIT Sloan’s deep experience with collaborative projects.“Building innovation-driven entrepreneurial advantage is deeply embedded in the culture of MIT Sloan and is an intellectual and practical cornerstone of the EMBA program,” says MIT Sloan Prof. Fiona Murray, associate dean for innovation.

IDEA Lab co-teacher Phil Budden, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan, adds “This is an exciting opportunity for EMBAs to work with interested organizations, or on their own startups, to explore and leverage innovation ecosystems to build greater strength and more innovation-driven advantage.”

Student teams in IDEA Lab will explore the best paths for engagement in the Boston innovation ecosystem by large organizations. Other IDEA Lab projects will allow EMBAs to work on their own startup, or help ventures expand into Boston from other global innovation ecosystems.

Anjali Sastry, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan who will teach NEXT Lab, notes, “The big challenges we face put our collective problem-solving to the test, calling for new modes of thinking and collaborating. Foresight and action are essential. To ensure that both are effective, we need to refine our understanding of emerging problems and opportunities, scout for new ideas, then formulate, test, and improve upon potential solutions. NEXT Lab aims to rise to the challenges ahead by combining imagination with discipline.”

In NEXT Lab, students will look at the global challenges the world may face in 2025 to explore emerging imperatives in the domains of health, climate and the environment. Partner companies may be interested in questions like how they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, how they can support prevention and treatment of a disease at the necessary scale, or how they can harness new technologies to bring services to those who most need them. Drawing on MIT resources, student teams will build a map of the future focused on a partner company to generate relevant and feasible ideas for the future along with action steps to deploy now. 

The two new labs expand MIT Sloan’s tradition of concluding the EMBA program with a capstone action-learning project that addresses a complex business issue for a real company. This year’s EMBA students can choose to pursue their final project from three labs: NEXT Lab, IDEA Lab, or Global Organizations Lab (GO-Lab), which helps international companies solve cross-border management challenges. All projects wrap up in May. 

IDEA Lab will begin with 14 projects focused on the Boston innovation ecosystem. Examples include developing a roadmap for a large government organization to interface with the Boston ecosystem, and mapping a large industrial-internet company’s engagement with MIT’s ecosystem and assessing Boston-based diversity programs. Other projects include exploring design options for an EMBA-led angel investment vehicle for startups, assessing go-to-market strategies for a student startup that provides mesh-based surgical products to the developing world, and assessing the viability of a student startup developing a wearable device to help care for children with special needs.

NEXT Lab will launch with six projects, each focusing on a partner organization’s “NEXT Question.” For example, students working with Dell EMC India will look at how to introduce and disseminate a new universal health record in India that ensures data integration from ecosystem players with secure and easy flow of information in the context of the rural primary health system. Students working with Takeda’s Vaccines will look at how to design a broadly acceptable value-based and risk-sharing approach to pricing vaccines in the future. And students partnering with the International Committee of the Red Cross will study the future of information and communication technology to reshape how to help people in refugee and conflict situations find missing relatives.

“These labs provide an invaluable opportunity to build and apply students’ knowledge of innovation, systems thinking, sustainability, organizational behavior, and global strategy. They offer opportunities to learn about the MIT and broader Boston innovation ecosystem. The projects not only add great value to the partner organizations, they also enrich students’ learning and enhance their abilities to make a greater impact in their own organizations and in the world,” says Sastry.

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