Penn College Adds Coursework in Innovation Leadership

Published 10.22.2015

Workforce Development
Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies News

Pennsylvania College of Technology recently launched a program in innovation leadership that is designed to teach systematic steps to stimulate – then implement – effective new ideas, enabling graduates to lead change within their industries, careers, communities and personal lives.

Appropriate to any field, the concepts taught in the innovation leadership curriculum are based on the continuous-improvement principles of W. Edwards Deming, who is credited with helping to rebuild Japan’s economy after World War II. Deming taught that in order for companies to remain competitive, they must develop a practice of never-ending innovation to meet customers’ evolving needs and tastes. The concepts were refined into a system by corporate innovator Doug Hall, founder and CEO of the Eureka! Ranch.

“I can picture students graduating and setting the world on fire,” said Bill Mack, special assistant to the provost. “They have the technical skills they’re being hired for, but now they’ll also have innovation skills to help companies to apply those techniques to develop new processes.”

Innovation leadership is offered as a minor to those seeking any Penn College bachelor’s degree and as a 12-credit professional certificate to associate-degree students and the public at large. Both the minor and the certificate teach students how to create, communicate and commercialize meaningfully unique ideas.

“One thing we hear from employers about skills students need to have is critical thinking,” said Tom Gregory, associate vice president for instruction. “This is critical thinking at its best. Students who complete these courses will have proven their critical-thinking ability.”

Innovation leadership students have access to patent-research and sales-forecasting tools and learn to write provisional patents. With many students already developing unique products and processes as part of their senior projects, Mack sees the innovation leadership coursework as ideal for Penn College students.

“I suspect that we’re going to have a lot of students graduating with provisional patents,” Mack said. “That will look really good on resumes.”

In addition to four core courses that make up the professional certificate, the minor includes a project course, during which students will create real proposals for a new product or system, as well as an elective course.

Courses involve a great deal of writing, presentations and group work.

“Innovation is working with a lot of people,” Mack explained. “We all have what we think are good ideas, but when you bounce them off a group, they can become great ideas.”

Penn College is the first college in Pennsylvania – and one of just a few across the nation – to offer the academic curriculum, which Hall developed with the University of Maine based on the system he has used to help corporations. Several Penn College employees attended a weeklong session at the ranch and are pursuing “black belt” certification in innovation engineering.

Through the innovation engineering concept, Hall hopes to reinvigorate the nation’s economy, transforming innovation from a random event into a reliable, scientific system for profitable growth. His research shows that his system for never-ending innovation delivers increased innovation speed and decreased risk.

“Any employer – in any classification of company – can benefit from someone trained in these principles who is capable of delivering fast results,” said Shannon M. Munro, executive director of workforce development and continuing education at Penn College.

The efforts to bring the courses to Penn College have been supported through grant funding from the Innovative Manufacturers’ Center via the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development’s Discovered in PA, Developed in PA program.

“We are pleased to be working with the Innovative Manufacturers’ Center, which is assisting in mentoring the Penn College employees in their quest to become Innovation Engineering Black Belts,” Munro said. “More and more, employers are looking for employees with skill sets that are taught in the minor and professional certificate. All the faculty and staff from Penn College who attended the weeklong session were required to go through the same program that our students will go through.”

“It was an experience that will allow me to not only prepare my students to excel in their chosen career path, but also help Penn College to innovate in this changing world of academics,” said Anita R. Wood, associate professor of computer information technology.

To learn more about Penn College’s applied innovation leadership certificate or its innovation leadership minor, call 570-327-4518 or visit the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.