6.9280 Leading Creative Teams (Same subject as 15.674 [J], 16.990 [J])

Fall and Spring • MW 2:30-4:00pm • 45-102

Instructor: Dr. David Niño 

Units: 9 (G 3-0-6)

Prerequisites: None

Enrollment is targeted toward graduate students in engineering and technology but open to all graduate students. Registration is limited for MBA student, who are required to apply or admission to the class. 

A recent article about the class can be found here.

For questions, please email David Niño at dnino@mit.edu

The purpose of this course is to prepare MIT graduate students for future leadership in engineering and technology environments by building a foundation of leadership capabilities. Grounded in research and theory, this course will focus on practical leadership skills and how they can be learned, developed, and applied to group situations in creative contexts. Examples of these contexts include project teams that are developing new technologies, decision-making teams charged with solving challenging problems, and research teams that are building new forms of knowledge. This course is offered through the Daniel J. Riccio Graduate Engineering Leadership Program.

*Students can count this course or one of our other grad classes (6.9270 Negotiation & Influence Skills for Technical Leaders, and 6.9260 Multi-Stateholder Negotiation for Technical Experts) to fulfill part of the engineering doctoral minor and GEL's new Technical Leadership Certificate Program.

What skills will I develop in this class?

1. You will gain greater self-awareness. 

Self-awareness is a starting point for leadership development and an essential capability for the exercise of effective leadership. Some of the related skills that we will learn include building emotional intelligence, understanding how personalities shape leadership behaviors, defining personal and ethical values, giving and receiving feedback, coping with change and ambiguity, and managing stress.

2. You will learn to build positive relationships by enhancing your interpersonal skills.

Leadership and teamwork are inherently relational activities and strong interpersonal skills are therefore important enablers. During the course, you will develop related skills in managing conflict and negotiation, motivating and inspiring others, communicating effectively, building positive relationships and networks, building sources of power, and exercising influence.  

3. You will develop your ability to lead a team and be an effective team member.

Our focus on teamwork will center on both leadership and followership as essentially interdependent. Examples of related skills we will learn include how to compose and launch new teams, how to create and communicate an inspiring vision, how to develop groups into real teams, how to empower group members and delegate roles and responsibilities, and how to conduct productive team post mortems.

4. You will learn how to develop creative solutions in team environments. 

The unique context of teams in this class will be “creative” ones – groups that are charged with developing novel and useful solutions to problems. In this class, you will learn several creative problem solving skills, including how to understand problems from different points of views, how to find commonalities among disconnected fields or domains, how to open-up new ways of thinking about problems, and how to create a motivating environment that fosters creative problem solving.

What will the class be like?

This will not be a purely lecture-based course. While we will review and discuss readings to build our knowledge of course topics and skills, we will also draw from many learning methods, including:

  • Self-assessments to measure current skill competence and opportunities for development.
  • Case studies to see examples of how skills are applied in real leadership situations.
  • Role plays and simulations to practice skills in class and receive feedback from others.
  • Reflective learning through the crafting of an autobiography.
  • Visits from guest speakers and interviews with leaders in your chosen areas.

Who will teach the class?

David Niño is a Senior Lecturer in MIT's Daniel J. Riccio Graduate Program in Engineering Leadership. He has served in the role since 2015, when he launched this program to provide academic leadership education for MIT graduate students in engineering and other disciplines. Under his leadership, the program has grown from one graduate class and to a variety of highly-rated academic classes, and in 2022, he received a School of Engineering "Infinite Mile Award" for his work in establishing the program.

In addition to teaching academic classes, he has created several MIT online programs for professionals around the world, reaching over 1,000 learners annually in five different languages. He has also served a leading role nationally in the emerging field of engineering leadership, most recently as Chair of the Engineering Leadership Development Division of the American Society of Engineering Education. This is the nation's latest organization of engineering leadership educators.

Prior to joining MIT, David was a faculty member in the schools of engineering and business at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He was Director of Rice's university-wide leadership program and later played a leading role in designing and establishing the university's first four-year academic certificate in engineering leadership. He consults with technology executives on topics related to developing leadership among engineers, researchers, and other technical experts. He has published on the topics of organizational culture, ethics, engineering leadership, and the development of management of leadership skills. David holds a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his B.A., B.B.A., and M.A. degrees. He lives in Weston, Massachusetts with his wife and three children.

Why is this class being offered?

MIT has long been recognized as a place that educates future leaders in engineering and technology. This is due in part because our graduate students develop deep expertise in technical domains and are therefore primed for leadership within these areas. But leadership involves more than possessing technical depth; it involves having the abilities to organize and unite people around a shared purpose, to build positive relationships, to manage conflicts, to solve problems creatively, and to develop leadership in others. These are a few important skills and abilities, most of which are usually not learned in traditional graduate courses.