Fall 2007

In Brief

Leading Through Innovation

Haas@Work Heads to Cisco

Looking for innovative ways to utilize Web 2.0 technologies to market their products to small and medium-sized businesses, Cisco Systems turned to Berkeley MBA students for an influx of fresh ideas.

And after an all-day workshop in August, where teams of Berkeley MBA students worked with Cisco project managers to develop ideas for building out the company's online strategy, Cisco senior director of web marketing and strategy Michael Metz fast-tracked four of their proposals for implementation. Among the ideas accepted were the creation of product Wikis, personalization widgets for customers, and a "dating portal" for uniting Cisco partners with medium-sized businesses.

"Cisco got some very cool recommendations to move forward with," said Adam Berman, BS 85, executive director of curriculum innovation at the Haas School. "Our students got the unique opportunity to learn how to drive innovation within a company, interact with senior executives, and even hear the executives deliberate and disagree about their recommendations."

The workshop functions as the centerpiece of the Haas@Work program, an element of the school's Leading Through Innovation strategy. The Leading Through Innovation strategy instills in students the mindset and skills needed to foster and create workplace environments where innovation flourishes.

In October, eight students worked to enhance the four approved recommendations for Cisco – double the number in the previous Haas@Work session. The team consisted of Kim Liu, Premal Savla, Rajneel Ganjoo, Satadip Dutta, Ivan Passos, Hector Mayorga, Saranya Babu, and Jasmin Young, all students in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program. Many of the recommendations by Berkeley MBA students will be piloted and rolled out to customers during the first quarter of 2008.

"Haas@Work gave me an opportunity to think out of the box, learn the internal workings and culture of a big corporation like Cisco, and to actually put my creativity to practical use by helping Cisco deal with a pressing business issue," says Saranya Babu, MBA 08.

Haas@Work was piloted in the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007 with an online travel agency. The school is so pleased with the first two iterations of Haas@Work that it has expanded its scope to accommodate more companies and students. The number of Haas@Work projects are expected to double this coming year.

One company already committed to Haas@Work for the coming year is the $6 billion solar-technology provider SunPower. It's a collaboration that Berman says clearly illustrates both the program's flexibility and potential.

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