'Innovation is always a team sport,' Boeing CEO W. James McNerney tells graduates
6/23/2011 - A simple white-and-purple “Executive MBA Program Graduation” sign mounted outside Northwestern’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall provided an early indication that June 11 was, indeed, going to be a very special day.
Many family members, friends and Kellogg School EMBA graduates — 88 in total, representing EMP classes 81 and 82 — gathered excitedly around the poster board for photos on their way to the ceremony.
Dean Sally Blount ’92 congratulated the classes, as well as three graduates in attendance from Kellogg’s joint program with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. A member of the EMP-80 class, which graduated in December, also participated in the afternoon event.
W. James McNerney Jr., chairman, president, and CEO of The Boeing Company, delivered the convocation address. He applauded the graduates for developing the leadership, team-building and collaborative skills that will help them advance the core values of commerce: providing goods and services that improve society.
“Good business starts with good leadership,” he said. “It’s something I expect you are well along the path [toward] or you wouldn’t be here today.”
McNerney has headed several companies that, like Boeing, must innovate to remain competitive. He shared his insights on guiding teams to transform novel ideas into revolutionary solutions. “Innovation is always a team sport,” he remarked. “Everyone can and should be expected to innovate, from the supply chain to the back offices — anywhere.”
McNerney used Boeing’s publicized setbacks with its long-awaited 787 Dreamliner — touted as one of the aviation’s industry’s most fuel-efficient planes — to illustrate the lesson that leadership requires a willingness to take calculated risks. “Leading innovation means living a little on the edge,” he said. “Having the courage to make tough decisions is a big part of leadership in any business.”
At the convocation, the two graduating classes recognized their favorite Kellogg teachers with top professor awards. EMP-81 honored Clinical Professor of Marketing Tim Calkins
and Tokai Bank Professor of Finance Sergio Rebelo
, and EMP-82 chose Visiting Clinical Professor of Executive MBA Sonia Marciano
and Gordon and Llura Gund Family Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship Steven Rogers
Anthony Blood (EMP-81) and Samrat Khichi (EMP-82) delivered the student addresses. Both echoed the theme of the day by thanking all who encouraged them as they pursued their EMBA degrees. They also reminded their fellow graduates of their responsibility as ambassadors of the school.
“We have been the beneficiaries of countless men and women whose pursuit of academic excellence built this legacy that is Northwestern,” said Khichi, senior vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel for Catalent Pharma Solutions. “For now it’s ours to foster and safeguard. We are the stewards charged to keep it and pass it along to the next generation.”