‘One of the biggest secrets in the MBA world’
Here is a question for you: What do you get when you combine business education with design innovation?
Answer: The Kellogg MMM Program.
Kellogg’s Full-Time MMM Program might be one of the biggest secrets in the MBA world. MMM is a dual-degree program, meaning when you graduate, you leave Northwestern with two degrees. One is the awesome Kellogg MBA. The other is a Masters of Science in Design Innovation from the Segal Design Institute, which is part of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University.
The program is still two years in length, though MMM students begin one quarter earlier than the Full-Time Two-Year students. You graduate with the Two-Year students in the spring of your second year.
Oh, and let me clear up one misconception: You do not need an engineering background to enroll in the MMM Program. I studied Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. Another student studied History at Harvard. Another studied German Studies in China. MMM students come from a very broad background from all over the world.
Now you may be saying, “I know what business education is, but what does design innovation mean?”
Design Innovation pertains to how you look at the world in terms of solving problems. It’s an end-user empathy approach at the world, but one that is not just relevant to developing products:
- If you manage a team, you need to be able to put yourself in team members’ shoes before you can create a rally point.
- If you are trying to sell a product, you need to know what your target customer is thinking – who they are, why they do what they do.
Everyone is unique and design thinking helps you use those lessons in your career.
Professor Eyal Maoz was fond of saying to us this summer (in Marketing Management), “Once you understand the customer and his point of view, see how easy it is to design a product for him?” And he was right. It was. Design Innovation is highly relevant to anyone who is looking to create something better for a group of people – to resolve a set of needs, whether that be through a product (digital or physical) or service.
I think the degree is great for a career in product development or product management, but I think the lessons are applicable anywhere. The INNOVATION is the change you make in an existing product, process, or organization; the DESIGN is the user-driven approach.
There are consulting firms and large companies with separate innovation divisions, but also companies that focus only on Design Innovation consulting. You don’t need to think of the MMM program as pushing you toward that type of career, but it definitely prepares you for one.
I am taking a MMM class this fall – Research, Design, Build – that uses the same process defined at design consultancies such as Gravity Tank, and our instructors are actually from Gravity Tank! We are producing real world applications of what we learn and applying them on campus with Kellogg students. This is a great way of understanding how a startup idea can be developed, prototyped and iterated.
There are 60 people in MMM each year, and you must apply to be in MMM when you apply for Kellogg. Our MMM class is very close, we have specific social events for program students and we take at least one class together each quarter for the entire two years.
Michael Nguyen is currently a MBA / Masters of Design Innovation (MMM) candidate at Kellogg. In the past he served as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Cyworld Vietnam, the country’s first social network; co-founded Mimo, a popular Twitter-like service in Vietnam; and helped RedOctane launch the Guitar Hero video game franchise. Connect with him on LinkedIn.