Oct 01

“I would like to take this time to welcome you to BADM 790-Spring II 2020. This new course is the culmination of over 30 years of research, teaching, and working with managers in the area of innovation. It is the last building block for launching a new innovation certificate in the Darla Moore School of Business. The idea of creating an innovation certificate is the ‘why’ I came to the University of South Carolina.”

Laura B. Cardinal, PhD, SmartState Endowed Chair, SmartState Center for Innovation + Commercialization

For more than 30 years, SmartState Endowed Chair Laura B. Cardinal has been working toward the moment when she would launch the second in her series of Strategic Management of Technology + Innovation classes (SMTI). Her vision is to create a Certificate in Strategic Innovation at the Darla Moore School of Business, which will recognize students who have completed the rigorous series of interactive courses that fuse science and innovation with business strategy.

“I have noodled many of these ideas over the years and fine-tuned them based on experiences in the field seeing first-hand what companies need to succeed at innovation. This encompasses a wide range of things: people, knowledge base, organizational routines and processes, and a willingness to step outside of comfort zones and silos. The SmartState Chair and Center for Innovation + Commercialization offered me the platform to bring these concepts to life and a vehicle for transforming business education in the arena of innovation,” Cardinal explains.

The Spring 2020 semester marked the debut of the newly designed SMTI II prototype course. Six Professional MBA (PMBA) students registered for the ride, representing a broad swath of industries: energy, federal research laboratories, chemical, government, and healthcare. Five had completed SMTI I so in many ways, the cohort felt like a class reunion; the camaraderie was instantaneous.

The smaller class size was also perfect for the conversation-driven format. The SMTI II guinea pigs—so named as they were the first to test the new material—met in person at the Moore School of Business on Saturday, March 14. This initial class began with a deep dive into South Carolina’s industry verticals. With the commonality of SMTI I between them, the students were comfortable opening up with perspectives and ideas, resulting in that rare intimacy and freedom of discussion that leads to a richer experience. The eight-hour class flew by, leaving everyone looking forward to the next class on Saturday, March 28.

And then the unthinkable: a global pandemic shut down in-person learning across the nation, forcing SMTI II to immediately pivot to an online format. This was a particular challenge for Prof C, who thrives on the energy of in-person discussions to teach and engage students. Convening her SMTI II students online for eight-hour classes for the remainder of the semester was daunting.

Fortunately, the students were ready, patient and flexible. The discussion was surprisingly easy and fluid in the Zoom group format, retaining the intimacy of the first in-person, on-campus gathering. Interruptions by small children, partners, and spouses were excused. Short breaks for snacks and other relief were also part of the day. The remaining three classes went well, despite the shift to a digital venue.

When the semester concluded in May, everyone breathed a common sigh of relief that Prof C and the SMTI II cohort prevailed, proving the prototype and achieving an invaluable academic experience. As South Carolina began to ease its COVID-19 restrictions and restaurants began to welcome guests, the class met in person, with masks, for a lunch at Tazza Kitchen. It was a pleasure to convene and celebrate the success of SMTI II and look ahead to the new Certificate in Strategic Innovation.

Editor’s Note: We think that Ms. Darla Moore herself, a businesswoman known for her strength, intelligence, and moxie and the namesake of our school, was looking over the class with a smile of approval.