Skip to content Skip to navigation


GSB and Courses

Designing AI to Cultivate Human Well-Being  co-taught with Fei-Fei Li | GSBGEN 596/CS 421+

A multi-disciplinary cross-listed course focused on the goal to help build AI technology that effectively understands, communicates with, collaborates with and augments people. This class aims to expose (a) GSB students to deep learning and AI techniques focused human well-being, and (b) CS students to business thinking and design thinking, as well as frameworks and social science to better understanding human well-being and human-centered designs. Details: The past decade of machine learning has given us self-driving cars, practical speech recognition, video game playing robots, effective web search, and revolutionary drug treatments. As significant as these achievements are, they fall far short of what we would consider humanoid. The goal of this class is to help build AI technology that effectively understands, communicates with, collaborates with and augments people. Behavioral research shows that to thrive, people need meaning. They require a sense of belonging, knowledge that they are making a contribution and an ability to understand and value others. The conditions for this occur when people feel they have the resources and insight to establish a sense of meaning for themselves. On day 1, we will take a deep dive into the behavioral research on well-being to discuss how to build algorithms that cultivate human well-being and help people thrive. Students will also form four-person cross-disciplinary student teams (two GSB and two CS students each). On days 2-5, four pairs of guests (one CEO and one technologist per pair) across four industries (education, news/information, transportation, healthcare) will participate in lightning round exchanges to delve deeply into the challenge of building technology focused on human well-being, followed by interactive discussion with students. On the last day, the four-person student teams will present their proposals (in 2 minutes, with a 2 page proposal) to invited guests. Of note: this course is entirely about high-level "programming" and provides no technical insight on machine learning, data-mining or statistical pattern recognition. view class site

Rethinking Purpose co-taught with Naomi Bagdonas & Tom Bedecarré | MKTG 574 +

We assume happiness is stable, an endpoint to achieve our goal to chase. It's not. Recent behavioral research suggests that the meaning of happiness changes every 5-10 years, raising the question: how might we build organizations and lives that cultivate happiness? Research suggests it is better to aim for meaning. In Rethinking Purpose, we explore how to rethink purpose in work and life. Students will hear from guests and take a field trip to see how Google has reconsidered purpose. Building on the principles for Solve for X (, a platform encouraging moonshot thinking to solve huge problems in the world, we'll harness design thinking principles to create personal moonshots and a path to continue to find those moonshots over the life course. Lastly, we'll map out how to use time in ways that would help build innovative teams, products, and ultimately lives that have positive, meaningful, lasting impact in the world. view class site

Humor: Serious Business co-taught with Naomi Bagdonas | MKTG 346

As children, we all possessed an innate understanding of the power of laughter, and most believed ourselves to be not just skilled in the craft of comedy, but uproariously funny. As we grew up, however, and particularly as we entered the world of business, something changed. Studies show that babies laugh on average 400 times a day, whereas adults average only 15 - a number that decreases significantly on week days. Clearly, business is a serious endeavor. But perhaps it shouldn't be. This course is founded on a deep and scientifically supported belief in the power of humor in business. We will illuminate this belief by first building a bridge between the behavioral science of humor and laughter, illuminating the positive (and negative) consequences of creating a culture of levity. Then we'll explore the bottom line impact of such cultures on business, by revealing research into what makes people laugh both in the living room and the board room, by providing tools to help students harness humor safely and effectively in business, and finally, by exploring personal and cultural shifts for creating lasting systemic change. And we'll have an inordinate amount of fun along the way. Throughout the course, students will practice engaging a mindset of levity and honing the practice of humor. Above all, students will learn that when it comes to personal and professional success, humor is serious business! view class site

The Power of Story | GSBGEN 542

Stories can be a powerful tool for persuasion and leadership. Traditionally, business people persuade using only the left side of the brain, or reason. However, persuasion occurs, just as much (if not more) through emotion. By developing the right side of the brain, engagement can be better built through “uniting an idea with an emotion.”[2] A critical tool is storytelling. In this seminar, we will illuminate the power of story in business by revealing the key elements of storytelling, elucidate the power of the verbal as well as the visual, and discuss how storytelling helps build brands and organizations. The goal of the class will be to Understand what are the four more important stories to tell in business, and learn how to create a story bank; a repository of stories that you will use as a leader. By creating powerful stories and then communicating them in your own way, you’ll see how brands, careers and businesses can gain momentum. view class site

Designing for VR/AR | MKTG 559

Put on a headset or glasses, and you will be transported to an entirely different world. You could be moving through a business room in China, saving the world as a superhero, or following a girl through a Syrian refugee camp. As a medium, Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to be the ultimate empathy machine, connecting humans to other humans and nature in a profound way never before seen in any other form of media. In this class, we will draw on behavioral science and immersive experiences to shed light on the potential of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).  Students will be given a foray into the applications of VR/AR in different industries, understand how the virtual world affects perceptions of self and others, and then reflect on these insights to incorporate these learnings into the real world. Note, the focus of this compressed class is not technical and will focus more on VR than AR. view class site

Building Innovative Brands co-taught with Chris Flink IDEO | MKTG 552 +

"Building Innovative Brands" is a hands-on-two-week exploration of how bold brands are becoming ever more open, participatory, experiential & experimental. Inspired by provocative real-world examples and industry guests, diverse student teams will employ design methods to envision compelling new experiences to enhance a particular brand they have examined. This fast-paced, project-based class will integrate methods from the, marketing courses and psychology courses. It is created for fearless individuals excited to roll up their sleeves to create innovative brand experiences. view class site

Designing Story in a Digital World | GSBGEN 543

Our world is changing at an incredible pace. We’re in the middle of a commerce revolution that is consumer-driven and technology-enabled. Consumer expectations have risen. They want to be inspired by engaging, meaningful experiences, and they want to engage with people and brands that have compelling, data-driven, and authentic stories to share.  But how do you develop that story? Storytelling has always been a significant part of history, but the means through which the stories have been told has evolved with each civilization. From the oral histories, to the works of scribes, to newspapers, television, and now the Internet, personal narrative has been used to communicate the events of the past.  Digital media now combines tradition with technology and allows us to tell stories through voice, text, images, audio, and video. The immersive workshop is structured around three key principles: (1) know your goal, (2) craft your story, and (3) prototype to learn.  You will be a part of an ultra-faced paced design sprint to come up with a compelling story about a brand or person of your choosing, and design the story to be leveraged across digital media. view class site

Designing (for) Happiness | MKTG 555

What we think drives our happiness often doesn’t. So what does? And how can knowing this help us create strong brands and companies? Understanding happiness is crucial to building successful relationships, products, and organizations. Yet recent research suggests that our definition of happiness is often confused and misguided. In this class, we explore new data on happiness, focusing on: re-thinking happiness (a happy you); designing happiness (a happy company); spreading happiness (a happy brand). Students will work together to use an iterative design-thinking approach to understand our own definitions of happiness, uncover what really makes us happy (vs. what we think makes us happy), prototype solutions/products to increase our happiness, and design happy companies and brands. view class site

How to Tell a Story | GSBGEN 542

"Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Stories are all around us. Stories move us, make us feel alive, inspire us to be more than we would be otherwise. As famed screenwriting coach and author of the screenwriting bible, Story, McKee says: “Story is not only our most prolific art form, but rivals all activities—work, play, eating, exercise—for our waking hours. We tell and take in stories as much as we sleep—and even then we dream.”[1] Despite our love for stories, most of us leave stories to “storytellers" - fiction writers, journalists, and film makers. But we all have this skill. We simply need to hone it. The question is - how can we hone it? In this seminar, we will break down the basic elements of storytelling, elucidate the power of the verbal as well as the visual, and discuss how storytelling helps build brands and organizations. view class site

The Power of Social Technology | GSBGEN 358

In the past year, a dizzying number of people have written about (and blogged about, tweeted about…) the mechanics of using Facebook, Twitter, email and YouTube, yet none addresses one of the biggest desires of individuals and corporations: how to leverage the incredible power of the new social technology to make a difference. (No offense to the dancing cats and exploding Pepsi bottles.). Thus the goal of the class is simple: to help you harness social technology in support of a clear single, focused goal – and in so doing cultivate social good. To do so, we’ll travel with the Obama campaign as they use social technology to create political change, with Kiva as they foster economic justice by making micro-loans easily available, and with for-profits like eBay and Nike as they illustrate how social good and profit-making to go hand in hand. We’ll gain insight from leaders from Facebook, Twitter, and Google, learn a framework to structure your thinking and your action, and provide a PoST Toolkit that will get you started on using all the most important social technology tools. Ultimately, this course demonstrates that you don’t need money or power to ignite seismic social change. We’ll show you how with energy, focus, and a good wireless connection, anything is possible. view class materials

Online Courses

A New Type of Leader: Anchored on Purpose, Fueled by Humor co-taught with Naomi Bagdonas | Stanford LEAD Program

In this course, we empower you with tools to unlock higher purpose in yourself, your teams, and in your organizations. Then, drawing on insights from leaders who cultivate levity in their organizations as well as professional comedians, you’ll learn how to use your sense of humor as a secret weapon in business and life to persuade, influence, and lead. view class site

The Innovation Playbook Stanford LEAD Program

To lead is to be able to reimagine the future and to be able to tell stories about that vision in a way that resonate with your investors, stakeholders, and customers to accelerate buy-in and make the vision become a reality. In fact, one reason many innovations fail is not because of the idea or the core product — but rather because the story behind it was not clear. And as a leader, you need to know how to tell powerful stories — both business and personal — to inspire and lead. view class

Power of Story to Fuel Growth School of Engineering, GSB, & Stanford Center for Professional Development

We all want to innovate, but how do we do it? You not only need a big idea, you also need people to create it and people to buy into it. Your big idea needs a story.

Stories fuel innovation. They hold the power to transform listeners; to take listeners on a journey that changes how they think, feel or act. This interactive course covers the variety of roles story can play in an organization of any size, and why a coherent story is transformational for a new venture. What makes an effective story in business? When can you use stories in business? And how do you tell a good story that can be harnessed by social networks for impact? We will explore why story is at the heart of effective innovation and how story can be used to transform culture. By the end of this course you will have cultivated a new tool to use in driving innovation and impact in your organization. view class



Brandless | Jennifer Aaker | 2019

Oh My Green | Jennifer Aaker | 2019