EMBA Students Visit Innovative Organizations in Northern California

EMBA students are spending their summer studying how organizations gain competitive advantage through the ways they manage innovation via technology, products, services, processes, marketing, and management systems. As part of the course, the 17 students – along with LMU adjunct professor Bob Clark and staff members Clarence Griffin and Shelley Wells – spent a week in Sacramento and Silicon Valley visiting some of the most innovative companies in the U.S.

A few days in Sacramento provided students with a better understanding of the current climate in California to support – or challenge – innovation. They toured the State Capitol and met with a number of individuals who shape policies and decisions, including assembly members, lobbyists and legislative consultants. Topics discussed included government-industry relations, lobbying activity, state budget initiatives/constraints related to innovation, educational and environmental issues, and laws and regulations affecting innovation.

Next, students headed to Silicon Valley to get a closer look at the innovation landscape inside some of California’s most cutting-edge companies, including Tesla, Facebook, Oracle, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Pagewell, Plug and Play, Genentech and Bracket Computing. Students were welcomed inside these high-profile companies where they got the rare opportunity to meet with executives and ask questions about leadership, product and managerial development, investing and culture. The main objective was to meet with both established companies and those just starting out to learn more about the different processes they went through.

“To witness firsthand the way some of the most innovative companies in the world operate was extremely inspirational and enlightening,” said EMBA student Josh Smith. “It was truly a once in a lifetime experience!”

EMBA student Morgan Gruenebaum shared similar feelings, "The domestic trip provided a rare opportunity to observe innovation at work and experience the passion employees had toward their company and its purpose. I came away from the trip inspired to discover what I want in my career and driven to make it a reality."

The main project of the course asks students to analyze a specific company and identify how that company does (and does not) foster and support innovation. After returning to Los Angeles, student teams completed a Trip Findings Report recapping what they learned and how it could be of value to their company. Several weeks later, they each gave presentations that described the primary and secondary data collected prior to and during the trip, their analysis of the data, and recommendations for the company.

Aside from learning more about the role innovation plays in an organization, a key theme that emerged from the trip was the importance of establishing relationships and building connections.  

“Each company visit was made possible through a personal connection – either through family, friends or co-workers,” said EMBA program coordinator Shelley Wells. “In other words, get involved!”