New UVA Darden School Executive Education Programs Shows Participants How to Win the Innovation Game

By Carlos Santos

In his new book Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization (Columbia Business School Publishing), Darden Professor and Batten Executive-in-Residence Edward D. Hess says the best way to survive a technological onslaught that could eliminate up to two-thirds of America’s jobs within the next decade or two is to change how you learn. “Learn or die,” he says. The book has been a bestseller on Amazon and Publisher’s Weekly.

According to Hess, robots and smart machines are going to replace humans in more types of jobs. In fact, Hess warns that technology’s threat to jobs “is going to continue at an ever-increasing pace as we get the next round of technology in what I call the technology tsunami, which includes artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is a game changer. It may be the biggest discovery since fire. That’s a long way back. It’s going to move technology up the thinking chain, up the white collar chain into the professions.”

His book, which has been featured on Wall Street Journal‘s WSJ LiveCNBC and Fox Business News, as well as in ForbesInc. and Wired, combines recent advances in neuroscience, psychology, behavioral economics and education with new research on high-performance businesses to create a blueprint for building a workplace environment that enables critical thinking, innovation and collaboration.

Hess will bring this blueprint to the classroom 17-22 May in the new Darden Executive Education open-enrollment course Learn or Die: How to Win the Innovation Game, co-instructed with Darden Professors Yael Grushka-Cockayne and Lili Powell. The course is workshop-based and will be aimed at for-profit and nonprofit leaders who want to develop more organizational and personal innovation skills.

Hess stated that the faculty has designed this course so that participants will:

  • Create an “Innovator’s Personal Development Plan” based on an “Innovation Behaviors Assessment” tool.
  • Understand the enablers of an innovation learning environment and how to create a team, business unit or organizational innovation improvement plan that mitigates the natural innovation inhibitors — closed mindedness, fear and ego.
  • Use critical thinking and experimentation tools and collaboration processes to improve their innovative skills.
  • Learn how to better manage their thinking and emotions through mindfulness.

“The science of learning is clear,” said Hess, an expert in learning cultures and innovation strategies. “Most learning takes place from making mistakes. In order to learn from mistakes, employees have to overcome their fear of making them and quiet their ego defenses. And that takes an environment where you have permission to speak freely, to be candid and that looks at mistakes as opportunities to learn.”

Learn or Die: How to Win the Innovation Game will focus on how one creates the right environment — an internal innovation system — within the organization that empowers innovation mindsets and behaviors and empowers the use of iterative experimental learning tools. Through a “learn-by-doing” approach, participants will learn from both research and case studies from successful innovative companies that include Bridgewater Associates, LP., Intuit Inc. and Pixar.

People can learn to think differently, to be innovative, though it is not easy. “Innovative thinking, like critical thinking, does not come naturally to most people,” said Hess. “That’s one reason innovation is so hard. Cutting-edge companies like Bridgewater Associates, Intuit, W.L. Gore & Associates, Google and Pixar have taken these tough steps and successfully built cultures that enable innovative thinking.”

“To innovate, people have to take their normal thinking to a much higher level. Most of us have to be taught how to do that,” said Hess. Hess believes that technology is going to make operational excellence “table stakes” for most businesses — it will become a commodity not as much a differentiator. That leaves innovation as the key value creation differentiator. Improving an organization’s innovative capacity requires its employees to become better innovators.

Darden Executive Education programs are delivered by the Darden School Foundation.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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