Creative Boost-By Design

Gary Wang MBA’02J helps advance INSEAD innovation platform to combine the best of business and creative thinking

For more than 50 years, INSEAD has distinguished itself by pursuing an innovative approach to business education. That legacy continues today. Now, thanks to alumni generosity, the school is building on its success to enhance its curriculum further and prepare students to thrive in the global knowledge economy.

The new INSEAD Creativity-Business Platform, directed by Professor Manuel Sosa, will promote greater collaboration between managers and their counterparts in creative industries, such as industrial designers.

The initiative was launched in January 2014 and enlists the talents of a core team of academic and practitioner collaborators such as the Art Center College of Design and Eight, Inc. The project, which advances similar earlier efforts by INSEAD, is expected to develop over a three-year period. The initiative includes developing  a course series in the MBA curriculum.. The offering will help students gain greater skill in managing the creative process that drives today’s innovative organizations. In addition, the project will provide fresh opportunities for research and case development in innovation management.

“We want our MBAs to understand the role of design in business and specifically in the management of innovation,” says Prof. Sosa, a mechanical engineer by training whose expertise includes managing new product and service development organisations. “Digital technologies are changing the behaviour of our students—just as these technologies are changing consumer behaviour and the innovation process. We see a tremendous demand for meaningful hands-on learning, and innovation is an ideal topic around which to create such experiential learning.”

Sosa says that the new elective course offering that is part of the Creativity-Business Platform will focus on helping students “think differently.” The offering, which will be based on INSEAD’s Asia Campus in Singapore, where Sosa is located, will bring MBA participants together with top industrial design students and practitioners, including product designers, graphic designers, and environmental designers.

Creative Boost by Design

“In establishing this Platform, we are taking a close look at a fundamental guiding question, which is: ‘How shall we best teach innovation in this new digital era?’” says Sosa.

The Creativity-Business Platform initial rollout is being funded by a S$1 million gift from alumnus Gary Wang MBA’02J, Founder and CEO of, the pioneering Shanghai-based video-sharing website launched in 2005. The successful venture was sold to video hosting service Youku in 2012.  Gary has since founded Light Chaser Animation Studios, a movie studio that produces animated features targeted at the Chinese movie market.  He says he was inspired to give back to INSEAD in this way because “creativity is a critical power in making sustainable business success.” It is also one of the most challenging subjects to teach, he adds, but it is vital for today’s business landscape.

“In the past decade, we’ve seen innovation evolving in an accelerated manner and with a broader horizon,” says Gary. “Convergence is happening everywhere, particularly around art and technology. INSEAD has been strong in innovation and I hope to further strengthen it in this area by supporting this practical creativity platform. We hope this initiative will foster creative business ideas and, eventually, a mindset that is always open to new possibilities.”

New vision, deep roots

Though the Creativity-Business Platform is a major advance for innovation at INSEAD, Prof. Sosa says the underlying effort is not entirely new. “We have been working on this area for the last 10 years,” he says. “What is new now is the magnitude of the push to make a big step forward.  We have a 10-year history of collaboration with our primary academic partner, the renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. We are putting together a core network of firms—many of them in the design consultancy space—that will help us give an industry touch to our learning activities.”

The Platform has its roots in several gifts made by another alumnus, Heinrich Baumann MBA’72, and his spouse Esther Baumann-Steiner. Those gifts created the INSEAD Fund for Creativity and Business and inspired the fruitful partnership between INSEAD and the Art Center College of Design, where Heinrich served as an honorary trustee. This initial collaboration resulted in a successful teaching programme and student exchanges between the two institutions.

Since then, Sosa says that the digital revolution has continued to change everything, including teaching practises and innovation frameworks. Then, too, audiences are more sophisticated than ever before on innovation-related topics and are seeking cutting-edge learning that combines strong business knowledge with a robust creative process.

The new elective course offering is an important piece of the overall Platform, but only one aspect of a more ambitious effort that intends to develop cutting-edge knowledge on innovation management as well as an exemplary teaching environment to disseminate this knowledge.

“We see a great opportunity for INSEAD to become one of the global leaders in teaching innovation,” says Sosa, who taught the “Strategic Process and Service Design (Art Center)” elective during the inaugural collaboration with the Art Center College of Design and has continued to teach the course each year since.

To dramatically build on this success, he says, will require creating the right team and an extended network of partners—something well underway. Equally important, Sosa says, will be developing the right physical infrastructure to deliver the knowledge.

“This will include the physical space, the virtual space, and related tools,” he notes. “When we achieve our goal, we will have created an innovation ecosystem that is likely to be very different from what one typically finds in a business school.”

INSEAD alumni wishing to learn more about the Creativity-Business Platform, or to invest in its long-term development, can do so by contacting Esther Chang.

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