Bill Reich, Salesforce Director and IE Brown 2012, on the Art of Innovation

We recently had the pleasure of talking to Bill Reich, an alumni of IE Brown’s inaugural class in 2012, and currently a Director of Solution Engineering at Salesforce. In the course of our conversation, Reich explained how his years studying to be a professional pianist, coupled with IE Brown’s humanities infused Executive MBA curriculum prepared him to perform at a senior level in one of the world’s most successful IT companies, and drive innovation.

Practice Makes Perfect
“As a musician, I’m trained to practice over and over again, each time finding a way to improve performance. This same philosophy applies to business. Market success requires relentless repetition to refine a skill, product or idea to make it faster, better and more appealing.”

“This type of intentional repetition is what differentiates business as usual from innovation. In the former, you’re putting in the hours and getting the job done. In the latter, you’re continuously reflecting on, and questioning your work – whatever it might be – from different angles to push the envelope.”

“This process can be cripplingly tedious. As an individual, you can muscle your way through it because you know what motivates you. The question becomes, how do you scale this necessary tenaciousness across a team or industry to propel companies forward?”

Using Empathy to Build Grit
“I believe Salesforce promoted me to my current leadership position because they recognized my capacity to inspire this type of innovative work ethic. I have IE Brown to thank for this ability. Through coursework that extended into psychology, economics, and even literature, we were trained to seek different perspectives and dig deeper to problem-solve beyond our own assumptions. This liberal arts tradition of critical thinking lies at the heart of empathy and provides a powerful skillset for building teams wired to move the needle.”

“Through my IE Brown training, I’m able to think deeply about individuals on my team, transcend my own suppositions about who they are and what they want, and develop a respect for their unique contribution and what drives them. It is this quality that empowers me to scale intentional tenaciousness – repetition for the sake of progress – and impact the bottom line.”

The Art of Innovation
“Traditional Executive MBA programs will teach you business expertise but they won’t prepare you to go beyond business; to inspire teams to master the art of innovation and breakthrough to new possibilities that advance businesses and society.”


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