• 04.26.11

MIT Media Lab Selects Drop Out As Director

What does it mean when a world-class university that is a globally recognized leader in innovation chooses a director who has not completed his college degree? It means true leadership exceeds academic rank, plain and simple. The MIT Media Lab has taken the bold move, announced today, to appoint Joichi Ito as its fourth director.

Joi Ito

The MIT Media Lab has taken the bold move, announced today, to appoint Joichi Ito as its fourth director.


Joi, as he prefers to be called, is a 44-year-old Japanese venture capitalist. His CV includes serving on the board of Icann, the body dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable, and interoperable. It includes his investments in start ups like Flickr and Twitter. It does not include a completed college degree.

Joi is a current board member of the Mozilla Foundation (developer of FireFox web browser) and is a co-founder and chairman of Creative Commons, a pioneer in intellectual property and the sharing of digital information.

According to the New York Times, L. Rafael Reif, the provost of M.I.T., called Joi “the right person to lead the Media Lab today,” describing him as “an innovative thinker who understands the tremendous potential of technology and, in particular, the Internet, to influence education, business, and society in general.”

The real news here is that MIT is choosing innovation and value above a diploma. They are playing hard ball. There will be fall out and push back. And they will continue to lead the planet. They know their strategy and they’ve got their eye on the ball.

Seth Kahan (
is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and
executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell,
World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of
Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike
Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder
of Seth Kahan’s CEO Leaders Forum, a year-long learning experience for
CEOs in Washington, DC. His book,
Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, is a Washington Post bestseller. Visit for more info and a free excerpt. Follow Seth on Twitter. Learn more about Seth’s work at

About the author

I help leaders with change, innovation, and growth. My latest book is "Getting Innovation Right." My first book, "Getting Change Right," was a business bestseller.