How to Succeed in Business by Really Trying (and Imagining)

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Image by bhlogiston*

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a New York Times article that discusses the ways in which several graduate business schools are attempting to integrate creativity and critical thinking into their curricula. We can now happily add the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business to the list! An article by Terry Kosdrosky for the Ross School’s Web site spotlights “Leading Creativity and Innovation,” a popular course taught by Professor Jeff DeGraff. Kosdrosky explains,

“With corporate budgets tight and customers ever more demanding, C-level executives are looking for self-starting leaders with imagination—the kind of imagination that transcends expectations.”

Indeed! So how does DeGraff’s course respond to this pressing need in the business world?

The “Leading Creativity and Innovation” class is built on the principle—one which Eric Liu and I emphasize in Imagination First—that imagination must be developed through regular practice rather than learned in a merely theoretical sense. That’s why DeGraff has his students collaborate with a real-life client (last year it was The Henry Ford, a Michigan museum) on finding an innovative solution to an actual problem. Instead of just teaching them the theory and leaving it at that, DeGraff immediately places students in a situation where they can apply their knowledge. During the semester, he brings his students and their clients to the Innovatrium, a space near the Ross School that serves as “a hub for creative brainstorming,” with an “interior…covered in writable surfaces, from the tabletops to the walls.” This sounds a lot like the Stanford Institute of Design’s innovation labs, as described by Professor David Kelley. What a terrific idea: a physical environment that both embodies imagination and inspires visitors to think imaginatively!

As some of my recent entries illustrate, there really does seem to be a trend in the business academic community toward getting students to use their minds in unexpected and exciting ways. More and more administrators and professors see that the 21st-century global marketplace demands a new skill set above and beyond traditional business basics. Bravo to the Ross School, yet another carrier of the imagination virus!

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*There is a Creative Commons  license attached to this image.

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