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 How to Develop "Breakthrough" Products and Service  posted by  duggu   on 12/27/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Von Hippel, Eric, 15.356 How to Develop "Breakthrough" Products and Services, Spring 2004. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 10 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Bell curve showing lead users at the tip.  

Because they need a solution sooner than most people, lead users have an incentive to create innovative products and services. (Image courtesy of Prof. Eric von Hippel and OCW.)

Course Highlights

15.356 offers videos of several course sessions, showing how this highly interactive class operates. The assignments page describes how students should approach writing their essays, which cover topics of their choosing.

Course Description

To prosper, firms must develop major product and service innovations. Often, though, they don't know how. Recent research into the innovation process has made it possible to develop "breakthroughs" systematically. 15.356 presents several practical concept development methods, such as the "Lead User Method," where manufacturers learn from innovative customers. Expert guest speakers present case studies that show the "art" required to implement a concept development method. 15.356 is a half-term subject.

Special Features

  • Sample video lectures

Technical Requirements

RealOne™ Player software is required to run the .rm files found on this course site.


 Course Description

Firms must develop major innovations to prosper but they often don't know how. Recent research into the innovation process has made it possible to develop "breakthroughs" systematically. This subject presents several practical concept development methods, explaining how and why each works, and the conditions under which each is effective. Presentations of real cases by invited experts conveys the "art" required to implement each.

Course Readings

All assigned readings are available from the campus copy center. A list of readings with full citations is available online.

Assignments and Grading

Students' course grades will be determined primarily on the basis of the quality of two seven page papers or one 15 page paper that builds on one or more course-related topics that especially interest them. Professor von Hippel can discuss good paper topics for each student as the term progresses. In addition students are, of course, expected to prepare for classes by doing the assigned readings and participating in class discussions!

Class Attendance and Participation 50%
Two Mini-Papers (7 pages) 50%


1 Who Develops Breakthrough New Products and Services - Users or Manufacturers?
2 Systematic Generation of Ideas for "Breakthrough" New Products and Services - the "Lead User Method"
3 Finding out What Users Really Need: The "Sticky Information" and "Learning by Doing" Problems
4 Systematic Generation of Incremental Improvements to Existing Products and Services

Traditional Marketing Research Concept Generation Techniques
5 "Brainstorming" and Creativity Training Techniques
Lecturer: Jeff Mauzy, Principal, Synectics, Inc. Cambridge, MA
6 The MIT Media Lab Approach: "Build It and They Will Come."
Lecturer: Joe Paradiso, MIT Media Lab
7 Determining Average Users' Needs Ethnographically and Then Developing Solutions
Lecturer: Dr. Harry West, VP, Design Continuum
8 Why Users Share Innovations with Each Other and with Manufacturers: Informal Know-How Trading, Collective Invention and Voluntary Revealing
9 Toolkits for User Innovation
Lecturer: John Wright, International Flavors and Fragrances
10 User Innovation Communities - No Manufacturer Required
11 Resistance to Adopting Radically New Innovations - Even in Firms that "Want To"   Tell A Friend