Friday, November 17, 2006

MIT i-Teams, a blueprint for COINs

Yesterday I was listening to the project presentations of the MIT I-Teams course, an entrepreneurship class taught by Ken Zolot and sponsored by the Deshpande center. In this class students are exploring the commercial viability and developing go-to-market strategies of innovations made by MIT researchers. In other words they are working together as COINs (Collaborative Innovation Networks). While all of the innovations were undoubtedly of high scientific merit and had commercial potential, I was struck by the differing quality of the presentations. While for some products it was hard to understand what the uniqueness, barrier to entry for competitors, and the market was, others had really well-thought out go-to-market strategies. One of my favorites was the team presenting a new and safer bike helmet. While all the other teams had chosen a speaker to present their go-to-market strategy, this team had chosen to get on stage as a team. It was obvious that some of the presenters had worked on this project for years, so they had very deep knowledge of the product. Also, the team operated as a cohesive unit, with different people presenting different parts of their strategy. I think this proves the well-known insight that each company is only as good as its leadership team – even for a student team. The greatest product idea does not make a great company – or go-to-market strategy in this case. Unfortunately collaboration is not yet taught at our universities as a separate subject. This class is definitively a great step in this direction, teaching students to become better members of COINs.

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