In addition to offering a diverse roster of non-degree open enrollment courses for individuals, MIT Sloan Executive Education typically works with businesses and organizations to design and deliver personalized educational programs that address their specific challenges, leading to an experience. dynamic learning that can yield meaningful and real results. MIT Sloan Executive Education encompasses groups that view lifelong learning by their employees as a strategic investment and a source of competitive advantage.
One of those collaborations involved Bayer AG, which recently approached MIT Sloan Executive Education with the opportunity to help Bayer develop new capacity across the company’s global operations.
At the start of 2017, Bayer R&D management recognized that the promotion of digital innovation should start with the wealth of talents within its diverse R&D community of 16,000 experts covering three companies (pharmaceuticals, phytotechnics and consumer health), multiple fields of science and technology. , geographies and cultures. Harnessing this potential required ‘digital intrapreneurs’ – both life scientists and data scientists – who would take the lead in pursuing their new data-driven ideas from concept to implementation.
The company’s innovation team rose to the challenge and designed R&D Tech Immersion, an intense three-year training experience, accelerating more than 20 projects in Bayer’s R&D value chain, securing millions of euros funding for these projects beyond the program, and training of 100 participants from across R&D who amplified learning across the company.
“Early in the design and planning phase, we decided that all technology content would be delivered by in-house data experts who we mentored to become trainers,” says Alon Harris, spokesperson for science and technology. sustainability within Bayer R&D, and one of the main architects of the program. “However, when it comes to the entrepreneurship and innovation leadership components, we decided to work with a global leader in executive education and found our ideal partner in MIT Sloan Executive Education. “
Court Chilton, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan, saw an opportunity to help Bayer develop new capacity in data science with learning modules developed at MIT. “A capacity is a combination of a mindset, a set of tools and a process. It’s a distinctive strength that you use to operate the business, ”he explains. “Bayer wanted more people in R&D to have this new core capability and there was no way to scale the few smart data scientists to this scale. So instead of having a few smart people in the data science function, they have a lot more people familiar with the types of problems that data science can / can’t solve, and enough knowledge to define those problems. , ask the right questions and evaluate the results. “
Twenty-five days of training were spread over six to eight months, culminating in an intense week at the MIT Sloan School of Management, which was filled with inspiring but hands-on lectures, exercises and meetings with MIT professors at the cutting edge of revolutionary innovation in AI and life sciences.
Chilton, professor and program director of learning modules at MIT, notes: “Most organizations say, ‘Just go to MIT, listen and do what they teach you’, but not Bayer! The company’s R&D training team participated in every step of the design and implementation of the program. And through this close relationship, we were able to co-create a solution integrating the frameworks we teach, such as design thinking, human-centered design, leadership frameworks. The program has evolved considerably from year to year, so we had to be flexible, experimenting and designing creative approaches, which was very much in the spirit of the program experience.
Trust your people
“We chose people who we felt had the right mindset and perspective and inevitably many of them have now moved into new leadership positions, leading departments or initiatives. digital within the company ”, underlines Michael Devoy, medical director of Bayer Pharma. director, executive vice president of medical affairs and pharmacovigilance, and an active executive sponsor and champion of this program. “The program has seeded this into wider parts of our organization, and furthermore, it has led people to make connections inside as well as outside of Bayer with the development of new partnerships and relationships.”
Devoy points to an important early decision in the selection of participants: “Usually, if we sent executives to MIT, they would be people with more experience in the organization, already mid-career or later. And what’s interesting here is that we took people relatively early in their careers who are very practically motivated, exposed them to a top-notch institution, and then we saw the growth that they have. known. I saw a kind of synergy between these two aspects.
Create space for personal transformation
Kirsten Skogerson is head of the competitive intelligence team at Bayer US Crop Science Division. She participated in the third cohort and described her experience as one that she would never forget because she had changed her thinking now.
“It really came from the MIT part of the program, from this idea that digital transformation is not just about technology, but also leadership capabilities and change management. And it fundamentally changed the way I think about digital transformation and made me realize that I could play a big and bigger role than I originally thought at Bayer, ”says Skogerson. “I could adopt the behaviors that we learned at MIT that are necessary for success in the organization. “
Based in Berlin, Angelo Ziletti is a senior data scientist in a group responsible for decision science in medical affairs, pharmacovigilance and regulatory affairs. Ziletti says the program inspired him to use what he learned and apply it in everyday work situations. He has found it especially valuable to have the opportunity to hone general social skills like patience and empathy, which he sees as essential for problem-solving collaboratively with people who may not have to. expertise in the same field, but whose own expertise is just as crucial in finding a solution together.
“At MIT, the great professors encouraged us to lead the digital transformation. And it’s hard to apply that 100 percent, but you still have to strive to achieve that goal, ”Ziletti shares. “I realized that we data scientists were just as responsible for leading the transformation of the business as business people and senior executives. “
Make connections between people and between disciplines
Jason Lott, vice president of Integrated Evidence Generation, Specialty Medicine, Integrated Care, and Cell and Gene Therapy at Bayer Pharmaceuticals, describes his experience as a participant as “hands down the funniest thing I have ever had. ‘ve done and the most transformative since I’ been at Bayer. It was great! ”He continued by explaining:“ These frameworks of experimentation and innovation, and the approach framework of the ‘problem space’ versus the approach framework of the ‘space of solutions ”, and thinking from an enterprise perspective, end user perspective, desirability, usability was very new to me and it was very impressive. Understanding how data science intertwines with these types of frameworks was brand new to me, it left a big mark on my own thinking.
Senior Vice President Monika Lessl, responsible for corporate R&D, social innovation and the Bayer Foundation, was one of the main sponsors of the program. “Building an interdisciplinary network of change agents was a key objective of this program,” she notes. “It wasn’t just about bringing these people together to learn and each to follow their own path. We intentionally nurtured this network after the program and fostered collaboration. It is absolutely important to keep this link.
Invest in solving real business challenges
The cornerstone of the program was a unique opportunity for participants to directly engage their R&D leaders and present project proposals, advocating for the transformation of their ideas into real and funded digital innovation projects embedded in digital pipelines. respective.
“The challenges we faced covered a wide range of unmet needs and ‘to-do’s’,” says Alon Harris. “Certain challenges were directly linked to our core business: the discovery of new small molecules, antibodies and biomarkers. Other challenges focused on operational excellence: accelerating the development of non-prescriptive products by providing for stability, quickly dealing with global changes in product labeling requirements, minimizing heavy manual tasks when compiling regulatory reports. The third category of challenges was related to inventing new value propositions and new business models, such as finding new ways to harness wearables and provide customers with hyper-personalized product recommendations.
“It wasn’t just something you did in the program and then everyone says how good it is and goes back to their day-to-day jobs,” Devoy points out. “Many of these projects have continued in a practical way or have been implemented as part of Bayer’s normal business. “
Harris adds, “Towards the final phase of the program, and thanks to the exceptional faculty of MIT Sloan, we were able to equip our cohorts with the frameworks and practical tools to drive digital transformation at a strategic level, enabling cultural change, by strategizing around technology. disruption induced by disruption and developing their personal style of leadership in innovation.
He cautions business leaders not to “lose sight of the immense potential of their own employees to become entrepreneurs and spur innovation. It takes time, resources and patience, and there are no shortcuts. Yet, as our experience over the years has shown us: when done right, cultivating this spirit internally has the potential to produce amazing results – for the company, for the organizational culture and for all individuals. who have become innovation leaders in the process. . “