Sneha Kannan, a senior in biological engineering, founded do.it@MIT as a program to encourage innovation by MIT students. “Our goal is to understand innovation,” she said. “We want to get everyone on campus aware of innovation and break down some of the barriers for those who are interested in being a part of it.”
Since last October, do.it@MIT has been sponsoring dinner discussions with prominent innovators in a variety of fields. Free and open to the entire MIT community, the events have drawn more than 1,000 attendees. The speakers are asked to focus their presentations on innovation, and also the importance of learning from failure.
“Traditionally, we’ve seen that underclassmen are worried about creating because they fear making mistakes,” Kannan said. “We hope to bring to MIT a culture of embracing failure as a necessary step to success.”
Last year, do.it@MIT welcomed speakers from mechanical, software and biological engineering, and earlier this year hosted Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president of Microsoft. This month, the group highlighted a different field when it hosted Fernando Garibay, a long-time collaborator with Lady Gaga and an executive with Interscope Records.
“We thought Fernando was a departure from the people MIT typically brings to campus, so we jumped at the chance to host him,” Kannan said. “We thought he'd be a great choice because of his dynamic personality, as well as his prominent and fascinating work.”
Garibay’s presentation focused on how the Internet has changed the way labels approach artists, as well as how consumers look at musicians. “Music has lost its value,” he said. “We lost the prestige because of how accessible our artists now are.”
Garibay also talked about how labels are working to create a 360-degree management model that embraces this new Internet culture — using the Internet as a tool to reach more people in a variety of ways, from streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora to the use of smartphone apps working in tandem with albums.
Nearly 150 students, representing a variety of majors, attended the event, which included a question-and-answer session at the end.
“I thought it was very fascinating to get a glimpse into an industry that MIT students rarely hear about,” said Christina Qi, a senior studying management who attended the event. “Learning about the music-making process was eye-opening in that it's much tougher than one would expect. The event made me consider the changing relationship between music and technology in a new way.”
do.it@MIT is continuing to host dinner discussions through the rest of the year. Its next event on Nov. 30 will feature Pranav Mistry, of the MIT Media Lab, who developed Sixth Sense, a wearable gestural interface that augments the user’s physical environment with digital information.
Kannan said she hopes to continue expanding do.it@MIT’s programs so that more students can understand innovation in a variety of fields, as well as the difficulties they faced and overcame. “So many of the brilliant people who come to MIT to talk only talk about the successes,” she said. “I think it can be more worthwhile for them to talk about their mistakes, mostly because I find those lessons far more valuable.”