MIT Professional Education Expands Learning Opportunities in Asia

Courses in Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Taipei meet Asia’s growing demand for leadership and innovation.

In May and June of 2018, MIT Professional Education hosted a short course, Leading Innovative Teams, in Shenzhen, China; Hong Kong; and Taipei, Taiwan.

The course was led by Dr. David Niño, Senior Lecturer at the Bernard M. Gordon MIT Engineering Leadership Program, and designed to help executives from diverse fields of work bridge the gap between innovation and leadership while maximizing the impact of both.

Nearly 150 people across the three cities participated in the courses, from C-suite executives and Chinese government officials to grad students and entrepreneurs.  While most participants were from China, approximately 20 percent hailed from countries such as India, Singapore, Belgium, Ireland, Israel, and the United States.

In China, where global economic influence continues to expand, “Management skills are something that a lot of people here still need to learn,” said participant Kristoff Vanbergh. “People believe here that you’re born with the talent to lead, but I believe someone can be taught to become a good manager.”

Huiping Yan, Chief Financial Officer of ZTO Express, one of China’s largest express delivery companies, said “Education and training by MIT, a leading institute in innovation and cutting-edge technology, is what really interested me. We need to reinvent and reshape the way we do business, and going forward, how technology and innovation is going to propel us even further in gaining further competitive advantage in the market.”

The course is popular both at MIT and abroad in part because of is its recognition of cultural differences. For example, in China, where “saving face” is a cultural norm and failure often has only negative connotations, Niño encouraged participants to consider instances where failures and mistakes lead to new opportunities for innovation and propel momentum towards that next great big step for an organization.

A discussion of environmental impact and social responsibility prompted Huiping Yan to consider the unintended consequences of her rapidly growing company. “[We need to think about] the environmental impact of the volume of packages and plastic. Do we use biodegradable materials? What can we do to address those issues with the growth of our business? We need to ask ourselves as business leaders.”

Beyond bringing MIT’s technical leadership and innovation insights to the Asia region, Niño also introduced participants to MIT’s emphasis on hands-on learning style, where participants engage in case-based exercises and regularly engage in lively and interactive discussions.

“We’re lucky there’s such a diverse group,” said participant Kristoff Vanbergh about the variety of participants in the course. “The course would be different if they were all Chinese, but since there’s a diversity of young people, older more experienced people, foreigners, locals, government people; they approach the same thing and formulate the same issue, but see the problem differently. It creates a dynamic interaction.”