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Integrated Thinking Op Ed

Business has always been about doing more, faster and better. In today's workplace, it's also about getting the work done with fewer people whose work is highly interdependent. This lean, face-paced business environment requires true collaboration the likes of which many employers have never seen before – collaboration that goes beyond weekly update meetings. It's more than just putting people together and hoping for the best; rather, organizations that foster common purpose, instill respect for varying perspectives, and facilitate group dynamics greatly improve the odds of success.

At the Tepper School, we practice what we preach. The MBA program's interdisciplinary Track option, Management of Innovation and Product Development (MIPD), is built around principles of effective collaboration. Bringing together the community of students and faculty from different academic disciplines, MIPD helps students explore and discover untapped opportunities for innovation.

Collaboration – The Lifeblood of Innovation

Fundamentally, the MIPD program is built around principles of integrated product development and team collaboration. Faculty from mechanical engineering, industrial design, marketing, and organizational behavior guide students through the product development process with support from a Tepper School corporate partner. It features access that corporations seek because the team experience mirrors the real world, and it features exposure that graduate students value due to the program's real-life experience of new product design and market entry plans.

A community of students from diverse educational backgrounds – business, engineering, design – form closely knit teams throughout the semester. Faculty are hands-on – there are no ivory towers – meeting weekly with each team, providing advice, feedback, and direction. Visit these classes on any given day and you might find us crawling through the cab of an International Truck with students, helping to reconfigure the layout, in the design studio reviewing potential forms of a product, or looking through marketing analysis results to determine optimal business strategies.

Our approach is to work together to achieve creative, viable ideas that add value via extensive user research with a focus on useful, usable, and desirable solutions. With Ford, student teams developed products that could be integrated into the interior of the Escape and aftermarket products that could be integrated into the truck bed of an F-150. Working in a totally different consumer market, we've collaborated with New Balance athletic shoe company to explore new products for varied consumer segments – the overweight market, baby-boomer women, and cleat-based sports. And most recently, we worked with International Truck and Engine to develop lifestyle products for several different vehicles in their product line.

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