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Driving strategic innovation: a week at MIT with Anna Leibel

In October 2018, #LeadingLady Anna Leibel attended the MIT Executive School in Cambridge USA for a week of thought-provoking learning and discussion about achieving high performance through Driving Strategic Innovation.

This opportunity was awarded to Anna as a scholarship by Chief Executive Women (CEW) – an organisation of women leaders enabling other women leaders. Anna reflects on her week at MIT and shares her five key takeaways on driving performance through strategic innovation.


Over the incredible week at MIT, our class of 54 people from 25 different countries, learnt how to unleash the creative talent of our people; move ideas through our organisations and supply chains; and accelerate speed to market. To get to know our class members better, we worked in small teams throughout the week to personalise our learning. The course was led by three esteemed professors with a wealth of knowledge and experience in corporate strategy, marketing optimisation and innovation.

The key insights I gained were:

  1. Strategy needs to start outside: what we do inside our organisation is not as important as what customers and future competitors are doing outside of it
  2. When developing a strategy we need to ask ourselves, “Do we have expertise as part of our value proposition?”, and then “What if that expertise becomes a commodity?”
  3. A good strategy will provide us with the opportunity to say “no”. Our priorities will be clear and transparent and we will know what we shouldn’t be doing
  4. We need to understand our customer’s pain points. Our interaction with a customer is a journey, not an event
  5. Culture and values are paramount for innovation. To cultivate a culture that fosters innovation we need:
    Transformative leaders who aim high and fail forward
    Not only to consider innovation as inventing something new, but how we can apply an idea that is already working elsewhere in a different environment to deliver value
    Diverse thinking by encouraging people to look for ideas where no one else will look

I’m immensely grateful to CEW for this fantastic experience which has bestowed a new perspective on strategic innovation, the role of customers in innovation, the imperative to establish a culture that fosters creativity and broaden my global network.

It’s been great to share and apply my learning to refreshing UniSuper’s company plan. As the leader of IT for the $70B fund, encouraging a culture and creating customs that support ideation and a deep understanding of the customer are now always at the front of mind.


Connect with Anna Leibel.

Find out more about CEW.