MOT Alumnus Uses Capstone Project to Help Others Create a Culture of Innovation

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines innovation simply and succinctly as “the introduction of something new.” But describing how to effectively accomplish that is far more complex.

Enter Thierry Boudet, a graduate from the 2016 M.S. in Management of Technology (MOT) cohort. After starting courses in the MOT program, he became interested in how business leaders talk about innovation and, more importantly, he discovered the absence of a shared understanding of innovation. On the encouragement of Technological Leadership Institute Associate Director and Senior Fellow Paul Hansen, this became the premise for his capstone project, one of the hallmarks of the MOT program. Nearly four years later, his passion for the project continues to grow.

Boudet, who moved to Minnesota from France in 2000, entered the MOT program as a seasoned professional, having worked his way up to the IT director role in the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Minnesota. In spite of his success, he felt his skillset had become hyper-focused and lacked a larger vision.

“The (MOT) program and the diversity of the individuals enrolled in it brought me to consider a much larger context within the management of technology that would have remained out of my sight had I not been a part of the program,” Boudet said.

“The (MOT) program and the diversity of the individuals enrolled in it brought me to consider a much larger context within the management of technology that would have remained out of my sight had I not been a part of the program."

With a heavy emphasis on innovation and leadership in the MOT program, Boudet became interested in how the two work together. He knew the first step any good leader would need to take in order to successfully “introduce something new” was to create a culture where new ideas and innovations could grow. There were no roadmaps or workshops on the topic. Boudet set out to change that. He started with what he knew best — the University of Minnesota, where he had worked for more than a decade.

“I studied how the subject of innovation came up in the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities’ strategic plan,” said Boudet. What he found repeatedly stated in the plan was the institution’s necessity to become more innovative and the good that would come out of having a culture of innovation. However, the “how” was missing.

“From that study came the inspiration to research how to create a culture of innovation,” said Boudet. “I wanted to find a framework and a practical approach that everyone could understand and implement. I wanted it to focus on culture as a whole. At the University of Minnesota, we tend to associate innovation with the research and education mission. However, innovation is critically important for outreach, engagement, administration, IT, finance, etc. and it needs to be understood by everyone from management to individual contributors.”

Boudet focused the research for his capstone project on peer-reviewed articles, general articles and common online searches. Combining and adapting information, he developed his own perspective on the topic and used that research to write his capstone paper which included a first version of his workshop. Boudet says in order to be successful, an organization can split its effort and activities to build a culture of innovation into three distinct areas: driving, enabling, and sustaining.

He remained passionate about the project and the topic after graduating from the MOT program but struggled to connect with the right audience to present his findings and conclusions. That is until the Leadership and Talent Development team (LTD) within the University’s Office of Human Resources approached his boss looking for content to add to one of their sessions on innovation. As the MOT project often involves tackling problems within students’ own workspace, Boudet’s boss recalled the work he had done and suggested it be revived. Impressed by the unique content, the LTD team initially asked Boudet to give one presentation to a senior management cohort in the fall of 2018. That school year, he found himself presenting to a total of five cohorts.

"As a result of the sessions on innovation that Thierry has presented to our faculty and staff leadership cohorts, many participants have commented on how helpful these tools have been in making their work more effective,." said Rosie Barry, Manager of Leadership Assessment and Development in the Office of Human Resources. By the end of 2019, Boudet expects to have led eleven workshops at the University in a variety of departments.

“I do these workshops pro bono for the University as my way of giving back. They are not part of my official role” said Boudet. “But I would like to explore its viability outside of higher education.”

This past fall, he approached the French American Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Minnesota (FACCMN), a non-profit that supports local businesses with ties to France. A member of the organization, he inquired about presenting his workshop pro bono to see how it resonated outside of the higher-ed industry. Boudet said he was inspired to do so by the MOT International Management of Technology Project (IMTP) trip to Southeast Asia.

“When we visited businesses in Vietnam and Singapore, it became obvious that when planning on doing business overseas there are two essential contacts that one should make: the consulate or embassy, and the chamber of commerce.”

Odile Hédoire-Young, the executive director of FACCMN liked his idea, arranged a presentation and was very happy with the results.

“The audience made up of an interesting mix of corporate and start-up executives, promptly became very actively engaged,” said Hédoire-Young. “It resulted in a fruitful exchange of very varied experiences and I believe that everyone left with new ideas on what they can do to catalyze, enable and sustain innovation in their respective companies.”

Boudet called the presentation a success as well.

“It confirmed that I have an adaptable product that is valuable and interesting to many audiences,'' said Boudet. “I learned a lot from the group, gained valuable insight on some of the specific challenges of managing innovation in both global companies and in startups.”

The experience inspired Boudet to start his own side consulting project, CapNuvo, which means a new direction.

“Innovation is typically pursued to get to a better place or a better state, and CapNuvo encapsulates my commitment to point teams in the right direction as they navigate their way to sustainable and continuous innovation practices”, Boudet said. For now, CapNuvo remains a modest side endeavor and fun experiment for Boudet, but he is excited to see where it takes him and credits his experience in MOT for expanding his insight and opening new opportunities.

“When the right attitude is matched with an effective program such as MOT, evolution is possible,” he said.

To learn more about the M.S. in Management of Technology, be sure to attend an upcoming information session or set up an individual appointment with a member of our admissions team.