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MSU’s President Simon Shares Secrets of Creative Leadership at “Extreme Green”

Pres. Simon speaks at Extreme GreenLou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University, shared on “Leading a Creative Organization” at the Extreme Green kickoff event October 29.

Extreme Green (formerly BroadWeek) is an co-curricular short course built into each semester of the Full-Time MBA program that is geared toward provoking innovative thinking through immersive experiential learning exercises. President Simon’s remarks provided a foundation for the first-year MBA students to build on in upcoming Extreme Green activities.

“A visit like this will likely have wide and long lasting impact on our students as they talk about their experiences in our MBA program and as they reminisce about their time here years in the future,” said Glenn Omura, associate dean for MBA and professional master’s programs.

Simon’s talk shared the power that comes when people “create and improvise”—the “extraordinary impact that comes from what we do together.” Rather than expecting a sudden flash of brilliance, she advised the crowd to focus on accumulating insights over time to create big ideas.

A few qualities can nudge that accumulation along, she asserted: Curiosity—being a student of your craft and a thoughtful explorer. Improvisation, as in jazz music—adapting and changing to suit the current situation, while continuing to improve and build on past work. Creative tension—pushing one another’s ideas to encourage the best possible final product. Inclusion—both in terms of team diversity and listening to members of the team from across the organization.

As one might expect from the leader who brought MSU “Bolder by Design,” Simon emphasized having the boldness to leap into a decisive action, in the hopes of hitting a “tipping point” that takes the organization to the next level.

The analogy of two objects gave students tools to consider as they lead creatively.

She encouraged students to consider how their “internal gyroscopes” (values, ethics, and moral center) were positioned—and how they could be turned toward creative tendencies.

Likewise, she encouraged a good look at the “organizational kaleidoscope” (collection of assets that comes together to produce value) to develop insight on the assets in an organization and assist in rearranging them into constructs that add value. She noted that creativity focuses on the future by combining available resources, and this multifunctionality develops the ability to do more with fewer resources.

“I went to a very large school for my undergraduate [studies], and even though the president was a great leader there, too, I never had the chance to hear her speak to any of my specific classes,” said Brittany Young (MBA Marketing ’17). “I know it is truly a special opportunity to have the president of MSU speak to just our class when I know she is very busy.”

“Each lesson shared – the importance of adhering to core values as depicted in the gyroscope, the need to distinguish big ideas from bright ones, the need to improvise, to be curious and bold, to embrace team spirit and diversity, and finally to be able to distinguish between triage, transition, and transformation – are indeed timeless,” said Sanjay Gupta, The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean.

Eli Broad College of Business

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