MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Industry leaders share wisdom on leading, innovating, and disrupting

Ray Wang speaking at MIT

What defines the path to success in today's business world? From lessons about embracing failure and passion to the importance of mentorship, top executives share their views on success and more as part of the Innovative Leadership (iLead) Series, presented by the MIT Leadership Center and MIT Sloan. The iLead Series was developed to give a platform to a diverse set of thought leaders in problem-focused leadership. The series celebrates innovators who make a difference by finding solutions to tough, edgy problems in a complex, fast-moving world.

The following talks from the 2016 and 2017 iLead Series can be viewed on the iLead website and on the MIT Leadership Center's YouTube channel.

Embracing digitization and mentors: When John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco Systems Inc., was recovering from tumultuous times at his company in 2011, he looked for a mentor and found former General Electric Company chief Jack Welch, who told him that those tough times could be the best years of leadership. Today, he is an enthusiastic supporter of digitization, cautioning that the U.S. is the only major country without a strong digitization plan and is at risk of losing its economic power. "Either you disrupt or you get left behind. There’s no entitlement just because we led before." Watch the video.

Learning from failure: Andy Plump, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. Inc., says whether you lead or follow it helps to embrace failure, and that partnerships with outside companies will make it easier to fail fruitfully. He calls it "honorable failure" and adds, "When we have a failure now, we bring it to a public setting and we learn from it." Watch the video.

Digital disruption means forgetting the middleman: Ray "R" Wang, Principal Analyst and founder at Constellation Research, Inc., says that in today's marketplace, digital disruption allows more companies to sell directly to consumers. "Nobody wants a middleman, unless that middleman is adding value," says Wang, who references "matchmakers"--those reducing friction and distance between customers and service providers--a term coined by MIT Sloan Professor Emeritus Richard Schmalensee. Watch the video.

Maximizing human potential: Co-founder of Socos, a company that applies cognitive modeling to align education with life outcomes, Vivienne Ming's goal is to "maximize human potential in tangible, measurable ways." For Ming, it's not about titles or even about what exactly you do. "It's about why you do it." In her fascinating talk, Ming speaks about her father’s charge to "live a life of substance" and of the need for creative and career rebirth. Watch the video.

The right context equals the right solution: Creating the right context for people to do their best work is what’s important according to Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, a leading provider of open source solutions. Whitehurst defines context as 90% culture along with general strategic direction and competitive understanding. "I create the context where people are passionate about what we're doing … If we have the right organization and dialogue … we will get to the right solution." Watch the video.

Want to apply the latest research to your own leadership approach? MIT Sloan Executive Education offers hands-on, cutting-edge programs in management and leadership, including Leadership by Design: Innovation Process and Culture, Neuroscience for Leadership, Transforming Your Leadership Strategy, and Leadership and the Lens: Learning at the Intersection of Innovation and Image-Making.

Featured above: Ray "R" Wang, Principal Analyst and founder at Constellation Research, Inc., speaking at MIT

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