“For today’s business, technology means data, and for business leaders in both traditional and new industries, it means knowing how to interpret and use data,” says Nancy Qian, James J. O’Connor Professor of Managerial Economics & Decision Sciences at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Whether bringing to market the latest self-driving-car technology or Cloud-based offerings, or leading a large Google business unit or 15-person startup, my colleague offers a concise take on the challenge leaders of technology businesses face today. Understanding how technology and analytics can solve problems, drive innovation, and advance business objectives is now an imperative for business leaders across sectors.
That’s the kind of knowledge and capability students gain at Kellogg. Kellogg Leaders combine strong analytical skills with empathy and the ability to connect with customers as well as employees to be a high-impact leader of today and tomorrow.
“Kellogg infuses traditional management education with high-powered data analytics to create seamless training for business leaders in a high-tech economy,” Qian says. At Kellogg, students acquire deep acumen across business, technology, and analytics, along with the ability to use their wide-ranging expertise to lead teams and organizations to create business and social value in the near and longer term.
Bringing together technology and traditional MBA rigor is a priority for Kellogg, and an example is the fast-growing MBAi degree program, which I have the honor of spear-heading, as well as new curriculum across the business school and other dynamic resources in the broader Northwestern campus.
Kellogg’s MBAi program, launched in 2020, exemplifies the school’s domain-spanning learning opportunities.
A joint degree between Kellogg and Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, the MBAi—which stands for “MBA, Artificial Intelligence”—features a new catalog of coursework designed for those operating at the cutting edge of business and AI-driven technology. MBAi students generally have academic and/or professional backgrounds in STEM, such as product management, data science, or software engineering.
Over the accelerated, five-quarter program, faculty from both schools guide students through a blended curriculum including business strategy and analytic technologies and covering traditional core courses along with courses such as Applied AI and Machine Learning and Technical Product Management.
MBAi graduates emerge from the program equipped to drive strategic innovation with deep understanding of the technologies powering it. This is a critical capability as, despite the availability of promising AI-driven technologies, most firms still struggle to use these resources to deliver and scale successful business outcomes.
The MBAi prepares students for careers not only in existing technical roles, but in leadership positions in consulting, operations and strategy, as well as in the emerging positions of the future in which you lead with systems and technologies that right now, may not even exist.
It’s important to note that technology is already well-represented at Kellogg beyond the MBAi, such as through the popular Data Analytics and Technology Management pathways. But as faculty, we are working hard to weave AI and analytics even more thoroughly into the curriculum.
Analytical and Experiential Curriculum
Indeed, technology and analytics are ubiquitous themes and topics in the Kellogg curriculum.
For example, Kellogg’s globally renowned marketing department features multiple analytics-focused courses, including Customer Analytics and AI, where students gain proficiency using databases, analytics, machine learning, and other technology-driven approaches to collect and act on customer information, and Marketing Research and Analytics, where students work in teams to use quantitative and qualitative research techniques to solve business problems.
Meanwhile, the Analytical Consulting Lab (ACL) is a prime example of an experiential Kellogg offering. “Analytics is about diagnostics and improvement,” says Joel Shapiro, Clinical Associate Professor of Managerial Economics & Decision Sciences, who teaches the course. “The lab is the perfect opportunity to practice that skill-set and find out how analytics can capture economic opportunity within a business.”
Specifically, students work with “real data, real businesses, real people,” Shapiro says. With the client business’s leaders, ACL students scope specific problems and clean up and analyze data to develop strategic recommendations. For example, the upcoming fall course will include a project for an area business offering a wellness app. “Students will focus on how users make their way through the app and how to make the app better to improve customers’ outcomes and experience,” Shapiro says. Businesses and students alike benefit from learning to work as a high-functioning analytics team.
The ACL course is just one example of how Kellogg prepares students to use analytics in any business setting. “Analytics helps you make better decisions,” Shapiro says. “And every business leader needs to do that.” Kellogg’s curriculum and other resources seek to help current and future leaders gain a working knowledge of analytics and the technologies behind it, regardless of their educational or career visions.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystem
Kellogg’s MBAi and other technology-focused curricula contribute to the dynamic entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem that Kellogg shares with Northwestern University.
In fact, 70% of Kellogg students are enrolled in an entrepreneurship course, whether focused on launching a new business, becoming entrepreneurs through acquisition, or driving corporate innovation. Moreover, students benefit from cross-campus innovation partnerships and opportunities such as the NUvention courses offered through the McCormick School’s Farley Center, including AI Analytics, where students create AI-driven ventures such as those using Internet-of-Things technologies.
Finally, Kellogg is a key player in Northwestern’s new technology accelerator, which will be located at 1801 Maple in downtown Evanston. Named for donor Kimberly K. Querrey, who donated $25 million to the project, the accelerator will include labs and collaborative workspace for startups, staff, and advisors from across Northwestern and the broader community. Kellogg School Dean Francesca Cornelli notes that through the accelerator Kellogg “will work directly with cutting-edge scientists to leverage customer insights and develop financial and operational models that will help bridge scientific and commercial success.”
From the recently launched MBAi program to the school’s evolving, analytics-rich curriculum and campus-wide innovation ecosystem, Kellogg is shaping high-impact leaders of tomorrow with the cross-domain skills to work at the increasingly critical intersection of business, technology, and analytics.