Eric Svaan

Q. What brought you to the University of Michigan?
I visited the Michigan Business School in 1987 as a prospective doctoral student, but chose to study at Carnegie Mellon University instead. Four years later I came back as a job candidate, and joined faculty in 1991. Here I have taught ever since.
Q: Describe your experiences as an instructor at Michigan, and working with the Tauber Institute.
Teaching at the Ross School is a great personal and professional joy for me. It’s my ideal job: to interact with bright, hardworking people, exploring ideas about making business process work better, faster and cheaper to create value for people to share and enjoy. The Tauber Institute has opened many doors for me to meet people and learn about business all over the world.
Q: What do you consider to be highlights of your career thus far?
It would be hard to top the Tauber Spotlight! event in 2013: Two project teams I advised tied for first place in the competition. I was exhilarated when the first winning team was announced, awestruck when the second announcement came. Cisco and Grainger, for the record.

Q: What new developments in Integrated Product Development (IPD) or Operations do you find most exciting?
I came late to teaching Integrated Product Development, starting in Winter 2016. It has been great to team-teach with Stephanie Tharp of the Stamps School, and to work with our students as they grapple with the difficult Design Challenges we assign to them each term. I’m convinced that the Design Thinking movement which began at IDEO has tremendous potential to unlock creativity and enable vast new developments in value creation. It’s great to be a part of that.

Q: What do you predict will be different in IPD or Operations management 10 years from now?
I believe that big-picture system thinking, informed by rigorous analytics and Design Thinking principles, will re-shape the business ecosystems of the near future. Operations academics and practitioners are well-positioned to lead this coming revolution.

Q: What skills do you feel are most important for today's IPD or Operations students to develop?
Today’s students need sharp analytical skills and minds open to the torrent of information and knowledge available today. Communication skills, both for understanding and expression, are vital. And all of us need to practice learning every day, lest the pace of secular change leave us behind.

Q: What do you consider to be the Tauber Institute’s most significant contributions to IPD or Operations education?
Tauber students who engage fully with their on-campus coursework and field projects are packing a toolkit that will open many future professional doors for them. Our programs have led the way in action-based projects that also demand academic rigor.

Eric Svaan
Integrated Product Development Trade Show - Eric Svaan with students
2017 Tauber Team 3M on site
Tauber Team Projet Kickoff Dinner