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SFU MBA professor Ian McCarthy stresses the importance of social media as an innovative tool.

The compelling tweets of SFU MBA professor Ian McCarthy earned him a spot on OnlineMBA’s international list: "50 Business Professors You Should Follow on Twitter."

Business professor Ian McCarthy started out as a techie, working for several years as a manufacturing engineer before earning a PhD in operations strategy from the University of Sheffield in England. So it’s no wonder that he’s as comfortable with the latest communications technology as with flow charts and pie graphs.

Tell me about your Twitter handle: @toffeemen68.
I thought I was going to use Twitter for personal reasons and Toffeemen is the nickname of the English soccer team I support, Everton. I kept it because a lot of people think it’s interesting and wonder what it means.

How is social media part of your teaching and research strategy?
I started just to try it out, but I realized it has to be strategy-driven. Organizations are monitoring what’s going on in the world, what competitors are doing and social media is a really important way of doing that because it happens much faster than other publications. You can use it to broadcast or to listen, so I’m listening and broadcasting to a community of people who would be interested in my research. My self-serving, strategic reason for doing it is I want the world to know a bit more about my research and teaching and benefit from it.

How did you get involved with SFU’s MBA program?
SFU has an MBA in technology management and it’s great because in one MBA we have people from biotech firms, software companies and computer gaming companies. They all started with engineering and science degrees and now they’re either thinking about setting up their own venture or they want to develop their current business in a different way. They want the management skills across the board, but it’s focused purely on technology companies and the people who are growing them or starting them. So that focus on innovation is what brought me to SFU.

How much of social media's advancement do you think is driven by the consumer?
The evolution of the smart phone and all the apps is interplay between the consumer and technologists and it’s done in an open way. Google is more open than Apple, but Apple is still open and controlling. If we don’t have the platform architecture to let consumers and companies keep changing what phones do, then it’s limited to expert hackers who just do it for themselves. But Apple and Google are monitoring these people and sometimes employing them or copying them. Tech has this ability where you can configure it. You can’t do much with a lump of coal, but Xboxes and cellphones are really highly configurable.

What role does social media play in the MBA courses you teach?
It really does shape my teaching and my research. I incorporate it when I teach innovation. The majority of innovations are created by consumers who are frustrated with products and decide to improve them themselves. This is “open innovation” and in terms of tracking and monitoring it, social media is very important. Also, in terms of coaching students about jobs and managing their reputations, five years ago it didn’t exist, but now their online presence is a major factor.