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Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

On May 18th, 2010 my BUSN 72 students met an executive leadership panel. The panel consisted of  Tom Adamski (CEO & President at LEVEL Studios), Margaret Schmidt (VP User Experience at TiVo), and Chris Benioff (Assistant VP at Comerica Bank). One often expects to hear leaders talk about the passion they have for their work. After all, they work harder than the average employee and frequently have to make personal sacrifices to do what is best for the company.

But what is the essence of a leader? Would s/he lead regardless of what career path s/he chose?

What surprised some students was to learn that rarely does a leader stick with his or her chosen profession after college. By trade, none of the leaders that visited my class are in the same field as when s/he graduated. In fact, taking twists and turns through their careers seems to be the norm.

So what sets them apart? Leadership is more about mindset and a framework for approaching problems than it is about always knowing the right answer.

Tom mentioned that he loves design work, and his background is in design; however, he isn’t doing design work as CEO. Interestingly, he also mentioned that he finds ways to translate his love of design into creative approaches for how he runs his successful business. Margaret tried many different jobs before becoming the VP of User Expeirece at TiVo and she she never stuck with something that wasn’t professionally satisfying. As her career progressed, she learned that  user experience design work was what she really loved. It was at this point that her career progressed into what it is today. Chris knew he wasn’t satisfied with a career in engineering after college, even though he knew he was good at it. Chris knew he needed to make a change into banking, so he went back to school to obtain the skills necessary for a career change. By being introspective about what he truly enjoyed doing and not fearing change, Chris has found the right career.

What is the common formula among these executives?

They have an uncompromising attitude when it comes to pursuing the right career. The bottom line is that they are passionate about it. When they found the work they loved, they threw themselves into it. Leadership has a lot to do with working in a field you’re passionate about and being decisive, which is exactly what BUSN 72 proposes to teach.

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On February 10thElectronic Arts Logo, my class had the distinct privilege of meeting Peter Moore, President of EA Sports. Peter was fresh back from watching Super Bowl XLIV; his Madden NFL Super Bowl simulation had accurately predicted the outcome of the game (proudly, for the sixth time in the last seven years). It is amazing to hear how much data regarding player stats across all the major sports are being stored by EA immediately following each game to ensure gamers have the most realistic experience possible, which also enables such powerful simulators.

This was the only class session I’ve ever held when the students really didn’t care when class was over. Peter is incredibly engaging and cordial, in addition to being a brilliant leader in his industry – marked by his award as one of Sports Business Journal’s Most Influential People in 2007 and 2008.

I could write a short book on the experience; however, I will limit myself to listing some of the interesting moves EA has taken in recent years to remain relevant and adapt in the rapidly evolving gaming industry, which underpinned my students’ learning from the Innovator’s Dilemma.

Capturing the core. There’s no question Electronic Arts is the leading video game producer in the world with approximately 20% market share and a near cult-like following by core sports video game players. These players demand continuous innovation with respect to realism. Although realism is critical, keeping EA’s audience engaged means moving to a more interactive, user centered approach. Players can now build their own teams online with EA Sports Team Builder. Peter gave the example that fans of this feature have been building their old high school teams with realism down to building the precise jersey.  EA now has 2.2 million players completing at least one online game each day.

Globalize. Global growth means localizing products such as FIFA Online 2. In order to learn what users want, they give it away free, while constantly monitoring game play to continually improve the gaming experience. It has now reached 7 million users in Asia & China.

Captivate the masses. The growth of the casual gaming segment started with online gaming, but took off with the introduction of the Nintendo Wii back in 2006. This audience, for whom innovation related to realism does not have a great attraction, is a whole new segment for EA Sports.  Although adaption of franchise games hasn’t always been easy, innovation means inventing new types of games such as EA Sports Active which target women in their 30’s and 40’s – a whole new audience for EA Sports.

I could carry on, but I can summarize the main takeaway I had which is that Peter and his division are not afraid of change. From digitization to globalization and new consumer segments, they are willing to usher in new business models and extend their brand into places not anticipated only a few years ago.

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