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 Managing the Innovation Process  posted by  duggu   on 11/29/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Cummings, Jonathon, 15.351 Managing the Innovation Process, Fall 2002. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare),  (Accessed 10 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Abstract image for Managing the Innovation Process.

Abstract image for Managing the Innovation Process. (Courtesy of Prof. Jonathon Cummings.)

Course Highlights

Managing the Innovation Process features a comprehensive set of assignments, lecture notes and readings. Professor Cummings has structured the course to facilitate student participation at multiple levels through group case analyses and an online forum for discussion of weekly readings. In addition, the course Web site is enhanced/modified throughout the term based on weekly feedback from students.

Course Description

This course approaches "managing the innovation process" through five levels of analysis: individual, team, network, organizational, and industrial. At each level of analysis, particular attention is given to the conditions under which innovation processes succeed and fail. The weekly readings consist of a mixture of book chapters, journal articles, and cases, and an online forum will be used for further discussion of the required readings outside of class. Tuesday classes will begin with a reflection exercise that entails critical thinking about the topic for the week, followed by an activity and lecture introducing material found both within and outside of the readings. Thursday classes will begin with a case analysis completed in small groups, followed by a discussion based on the issues raised in the case and online forum. The primary goal of the course is to expose students to a variety of perspectives on innovation, while building on past work experiences and preparing for work experiences in the future.


Class Participation

Each student will be expected to come to class prepared to actively participate in discussions. In particular, the reflection exercise will be collected as a measure of participation and as a way for the instructor to get to know each student.

Online Forum

An online forum has been set up on the course Web site to facilitate discussion of the required readings outside of class. Before the first class session each week, students will post one thought-provoking question to each required reading (2 posts per student). Before the second class session each week, student will reply to one post for each required reading (2 posts per student). Thus, students should contribute 4 messages each week.

Case Analysis

Once a week, 3-4 person groups (assigned by the instructor each week) will be responsible for completing an in-class case analysis. The analysis should integrate previous experiences and materials from required readings, activities, and lectures. In fairness to other group members, students should read the case thoroughly before coming to class.

Book Review

Each student will choose one book from the list of suggested books (or another one approved by the instructor) and complete a 3-5 page book review. Book reviews should apply concepts learned in class to the ideas presented in the book.

Final Paper

The final 10-15 page paper will give students the chance to more closely examine a weekly topic from the course. A list of supplemental readings is provided and the paper should include citations from the selected week. The final paper may take one of three forms:

  • Case Study - illustrate how experiences in a company relate to one of the weekly topics
  • Critical Essay - write an analytical assessment of one of the weekly topics
  • Research Report - empirically investigate an idea related to one of the weekly topics

Class Participation - 15%
Online Forum - 15%
Case Analysis - 40%
Book Review - 10%
Final Paper - 20%

Innovation Points

To encourage regular feedback and the ongoing integration of new ideas into the course, students will receive an "innovation point" for each suggested innovation that is implemented during the semester. Course innovations can include novel improvements to the online forum, exposure to unique web resources, and original activities for fostering classroom interaction. The key to a successful innovation is that, at a minimum, it benefits all students in the class. Innovation points accumulated throughout the semester will be applied to the Final Paper. For example, if you received an 88/100 on the Final Paper, and earned 2 innovation points during the semester, then your grade would be bumped up to a 90/100. In addition, you will be recognized in front of your peers for making an innovative contribution to the course. Happy innovating!


  LEC #       TOPICS
  1       Introduction and Overview

Origin of the Process

This week we will examine innovation from a historical perspective, with particular focus on the hard disk drive industry.


Individual Contributions

This week we will look at the role of individuals in the innovation process, with an emphasis on factors that stimulate innovators within organizations such as Procter & Gamble.


Technical Communication

This week we will consider the importance of technical communication for innovation, including the consequences of insufficient communication in a medical instrument corporation.



This week we will explore the integration of different departments (e.g., engineering, marketing, manufacturing) to enhance innovation within organizations such as Rubbermaid.


Geographic Dispersion

This week we will expose innovation barriers for organizations separated by space and time, including cultural challenges faced by companies like Unilever.


Intra-Organizational Networks

This week we will investigate how social networks among individuals within organizations, for example high-tech firms, can positively impact information transfer and innovation.


Inter-Organizational Networks

This week we will analyze how alliances, partnerships, and coalitions between organizations, such as NYPRO and Vistakon, can impact the innovation process.


Organizational Features

This week we will examine how traditionally innovative organizations, such as Sun Microsystems, effectively manage the innovation process.


Organizational Learning

This week we will explore how firms can learn to innovate by implementing effective management strategies, including ones used by 3M Corporation.


Market Changes

This week we will look at how firms respond to major innovations in their industry, such as those experienced in biotechnology.


Industry Variability

Speaker - Michael Meyer, Product Strategy Practice Leader, IDEO Boston


Standards, Patents, & Open Source

This week we will consider how standards, patents, and the open source movement affect innovation for companies like CompuServe.


Course Wrap-up

Final paper due

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