EMBA Professor Bob Clark Fosters a Culture of Innovation

By Jake Lestyk ’24

When it comes to leadership development, innovation and team building, look no further than Bob Clark. Clark worked at Boeing for nearly 30 years where he served as director of leadership development and culture while also running his own management consulting firm on the side.

As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, Clark is also an adjunct professor in the LMU Executive MBA (EMBA) program where he teaches a variety of courses including “Managing Innovation.”

“Usually when you talk to people about innovation, they think it’s just about a new product or service,” said Clark. “Innovation could be in the way you deliver your service, how you organize your company, how you reach your customers, or even your financial structure.”

Thus, Clark has chosen to teach innovation from a broad perspective. His course covers the entire spectrum of the innovation process – from ideas or concepts all the way to implementation and support phases. By doing this, his students are able to discern opportunities for innovation from any level or position within an organization.

“In today’s environment, companies that sequester innovation into a separate unit will lag in the future,” said Clark. “Companies that allow everyone to bring their creative spirit to create a culture of innovation find success.”

According to Clark, innovation is largely dependent on understanding your external environment, whether it be competitors, customers or sociological changes. For this reason, Clark asks students to research successful companies that are known for their innovative practices.

“I want my students to understand that as leaders and executives, they need to be building the foundational elements so that innovation is sustained throughout the lifetime of the company,” said Clark.

In conjunction with the “Managing Innovation” course, Clark also teaches a summer practicum course in which EMBA students visit companies in Silicon Valley like Microsoft and Apple to get a closer look at how they innovate. Although the visits have been virtual the last two years due to COVID-19, students have still been able to meet with senior leaders, a few of whom are LMU EMBA alumni, from notable companies such as Tesla, Dell, Google and Kaiser Permanente.

“We’re fortunate to have alumni working at innovative companies who can provide important insights into how large companies innovate and support change every year,” said Clark. “At the end of the course, our students not only grow their professional network, they also have a better understanding of how to foster new ideas and how to execute on them.”