Meet Professor Shlomo Maital - a world-renowned expert in Innovation Management and has been a visiting professor at The NANYANG MBA program for over 10 years now. Based in Israel, he is the Academic Director at the Technion Institute of Management, Israel’s leading executive leadership development institute and a pioneer in action-learning methods. Prof Maital was a summer visiting professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management for 20 years, teaching over 1,000 R&D engineers from 40 countries. Other than being an author, co-author or editor of numerous books, journals, articles and editorials, Prof Maital also served as a leader / director of various government economic agencies in Israel. Although he has such an impressive list of achievements, Prof Maital, a devoted family man, is also an avid jogger and has completed marathons in New York and Boston. Aside from these marathons, he is also a mountain climber- he reached the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kazbek with his sons. His present research focuses on building creativity muscles — how to exercise your brain daily, to develop new skill and competency in applied innovation. [Source: Prof Maital’s blog - timnovate.wordpress.com/about/]
Prof Maital receives an applause in his Nanyang MBA class last November 2010
Prof Maital (third from left) poses with some of his Nanyang MBA students last July 2010
1. Innovation and creativity is the center of your research, and amongst the many topics that you have discussed and taught in your years of teaching, why did you choose to advocate these?
Actually – 44 years of teaching, since 1967. The path to innovation and creativity was long and winding. My wife Sharona is a school psychologist. We began to work together on what is now known as “behavioral economics” (applying psychology to understanding economic behavior). We published one of the earliest books on the subject, in 1982 (Minds Markets & Money: BASIC BOOKS). This in turn led me to one of the key topics in economics that has true behavioral roots: creativity. When I was academic director of Technion Institute of Management for a decade, I worked with some 200 companies (including many startups) and 1,000 managers, and discovered first-hand how vital innovation is, for sustained growth and profit, and how creativity is in fact a ‘muscle’, which if regularly exercised becomes very powerful.
2. How do you keep your audience 'hooked' to your lectures, - how do you keep them at the edge of their seats and interested? Can you cite some of the 'innovative things' you have done recently to keep them passionate and enthusiastic about these?
It is really simple. As a teacher, you never ever teach; you always facilitate learning. There is a huge difference. The key is to create intimate contact with your students, interact with them (even if there are 80 in the class, which is often the case), learn their names, learn about their passions, and above all, give them action-learning exercises in which they apply what they learn. To keep the students passionate, first, you find out WHAT they are passionate about – what they deeply care about? And help them focus on that passion, to change the world. I find a huge number of students never ever ask themselves that basic question: What is my deepest passion? Once you harness that passion, the atmosphere in the classroom becomes charged with 100,000 volts of pure energy.
3. You are an early adaptor of social media. What and why is this important for you and for others to take on? What can you say of how the world has evolved when it comes to social media? Please cite some benefits or ills it may have in the future of the society - You may choose to cite both benefits and ills or either one.
To be an effective educator, you need to be plugged in to the mindset and culture of the generation you are teaching, which in my case is two generations younger than myself. Today’s young generation uses social media widely – to connect with them, I also must use them. But social media must never ever replace face-to-face contact and interaction. The main drawback of social media is that students who overuse them lose key social skills. For managers and innovators, learning to meet others, interact with them, like them, work with them, these are crucial skills. Some students come to prefer the impersonality of social media, the lack of threat. This is quite harmful.
4. You have been teaching at The NANYANG MBA program for the past 10 (?) or 15 (?) years, how would you describe the MBA participants in the past (say, in your first 5 years) as compared to the current MBA students (in the last 3 years) ? In terms of learning capability, potential after studies, or just in general - how do they behave in class? E.g. Are they very interactive? Are they loud? Or do they dispute your views etc?
It has been over 10 years. It was made possible by Prof. Choo Teck Min. As MBA Head, he visited Israel with a group of students, and later, asked me to come teach for him. As a full-time Faculty member at Technion at the time, I told him I could do it only if I could teach an entire 38-hour course in one intensive week, during the semester break! He agreed. I doubted any student would be foolish enough to give up a hard-earned week of rest to take my course. But 25 did! And now, some 80 students would sign up, with a waiting list. It emerges that this intensive ‘immersion’ model is very effective, and I now ONLY teach in this manner, only at MBA programs flexible enough to accept it.
The NANYANG MBA students are getting better and better. Today’s students are more articulate, more experienced, and more sincere about wanting to become entrepreneurs and innovators. They are eager to interact (after I manage to break the ice, which takes a day or so), and bring enormous energy. Chinese culture is very respectful to elders. So I have to struggle to get the students to disagree and to debate. I teach them that innovation is breaking the rules (intelligently), and challenge them to find ways to do that.
5. Every year, there are hundreds of MBA students graduating and competition for jobs and opportunities is becoming to be more challenging. What would make a Nanyang MBA stand-out - what do you think are the traits that he or she should possess in order to be one step ahead of the rest and be relevant to the times?
This is precisely my message! MBA programs all over the world teach basically the same tools, the same concepts in finance, marketing, strategy, accounting. I estimate that each year, some 225,000 people graduate with MBA degrees, and join the millions who already have MBA’s. At Nanyang, we teach our MBA students how vital it is to differentiate their products, make them unique. Yet we turn out sliced-white-break MBA’s. So I challenge my students to differentiate their own management skills. How are you unique, as a manager and innovator? How will you do strategy, marketing, finance, differently? Can you become an “Apple” manager – think differently? How? This is the one key trait that NANYANG MBA students need -- to be able to innovate, not just products, but entire business designs.