New executive education programs focus on promoting tech innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of today’s most successful businesses, keeping them at the forefront of increasingly competitive markets. But how can technology-dependent companies create a work culture that encourages continued innovation?

Two new executive education programs coming this year from Berkeley Engineering address this question. Taught by Berkeley faculty and technology company leaders, the programs provide practical knowledge and skills that engineers, human resources professionals and senior executives from a wide range of industries can use to enhance innovation in their organizations.

Lee FlemingLee Fleming, Fung Institute faculty director and a lead instructor for Berkeley Engineering’s executive education programs. (Photo by Matt Beardsley)The three-day Innovation and Leadership through Positive Psychology program—the only one of its kind focused on work and organizations—helps leaders understand the framework of character strengths central to the field of positive psychology, grow in their own areas of strength and apply what they learn. Another offering, the three-day Igniting Intrapreneurship and Innovation program, examines how established companies can change their cultures to innovate as readily as small and nimble start-ups.

For those trained as engineers, the programs provide preparation for a changing technology workplace. As Lee Fleming, faculty director of Berkeley’s Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership, says, “It used to be that you could just be a technical professional, but there’s more competitive pressure today to move engineering results into the corporation, economy and society. Smart engineers want to be effective leaders to get technology out into the market.”

The Innovation and Leadership through Positive Psychology program incorporates case studies, lectures, experiential learning, group breakout sessions and networking opportunities. Keith Gatto, a Fung Institute fellow and the program’s curriculum architect, studies how positive psychology can lead to increased breakthroughs. “When you lead from your innate character strengths,” says Gatto, “you become more authentic as a leader, and employees will respond by being positive, engaged and creative.”

Noting that innovation is an iterative process requiring the involvement of different people at different stages, Fleming says, “That’s where positive psychology comes into play. It helps create more effective teams. Innovation is largely a collaborative process, and positive psychology has emerged as a new and powerful idea that leverages thinking about collaboration and teamwork.”

Stuart Crabb, director of global learning at Facebook, has experienced the impact of positive psychology firsthand. Also an instructor in the Berkeley program, he will share how his company has invested in and benefited from positive psychology for several years.

“It’s important for people to understand the academic and scientific basis of positive psychology, but also to see and hear from people who have applied it,” Crabb says. “When people are engaged in their areas of strength and it’s done in a positive, empowering way, there are great leaps in engagement and performance.”

The second new program, Igniting Intrapreneurship and Innovation, looks more broadly at corporate culture and how to implement change to promote consistent innovation. Taught by entrepreneurs, leadership consultants, innovation experts and academics, the program is designed to help companies to stay agile and leaders to understand how to encourage entrepreneurial behavior.

“More and more companies are wondering why Silicon Valley is so innovative. It has to do with culture and how they communicate with and reward people,” says serial entrepreneur Naeed Zafar, a faculty member at Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology and the lead instructor in the program. “Participants in this program will come away with actionable ‘to do’ lists that will enable their companies to become more competitive and attract and retain talent, which leads to higher profitability and market position.”

Participants will examine the Silicon Valley start-up process, how technology entrepreneurs create breakthroughs and how to lead today’s young, diverse and international workforce. Case studies from Google, Netflix, Pixar, 3M, IBM and other companies will highlight the innovation and change processes in both successful start-ups and established organizations.

The Innovation and Leadership through Positive Psychology program runs February 3–5, 2016. The Igniting Intrapreneurship and Innovation program runs April 6–8, 2016. Both programs are held on the Berkeley campus. For more information and to register, visit the Fung Institute's Executive Education website.