Manuel Sosa, Associate Professor of Technology and Operations Management

Period 4| September-October 2018|
Seats: 48
Credit: 0.5

Innovating is vital to sustain corporate growth. Yet, it too often remains an elusive goal for many companies. Creativity is fundamental when producing innovations, yet it is typically left unmanaged. SPSD: Creative Thinking will teach you how to use your creative potential to create innovations in organizations. At some point in your managerial career (as a line manager, as a consultant helping a line manager, as an entrepreneur, or even as a private equity manager) you will need to deal with the challenges of creating a new product or service offering. This course will prepare you to identify and tackle such managerial challenges. You will learn how to effectively integrate strategy, marketing, design, and manufacturing decisions by discussing and hands-on practicing state-of-the-art frameworks/tools for effective innovation management.


SPSD: Creative Thinking addresses the managerial challenges associated with integrating the effort of various functions of the firm during the process of developing new products and services and experiences. This course is intended to provide you with three major benefits:

  • Comprehension of the managerial and operational challenges associated with each phase of the innovation process (What are the big questions that every organization big or small needs to answer when managing innovation?)
  • Proficiency with a set of managerial tools and methods for effective innovation management (What are the most useful tools in answering the big questions?)
  • Deep understanding of the role of design thinking in innovation management.

The course is structured in three major blocks through which we will cover all phases of the innovation process:

  • Experiencing the innovation journey (weeks 1-3). Here we not only introduce the generic innovation proces but also the notion of design thinking. Students will experience the innovation process (from a design thinking viewpoint) in a week-long innovation exercise.
  • Understanding creativity (weeks 4-6). Managing the creativity phenomenon in small and large organizations is crucial for effective innovation. This block will be dedicated to understand, experience, and manage creativity. This part of the course will be co-taught with faculty from the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA), one of the most influential design schools in the world.
  • Growing by innovating (weeks 6-8). In this block we will discuss how to grow a business based on innovation-led initiatives. We will discuss the role of prototyping complex and innovative ideas in large organizations.

Recommended Books (Optional)

  • Ulrich, K. T. and Eppinger, S. E. Product Design and Development. Fifth Edition. 2012.
  • Brown, T. Change by Design. 2009.

Outline of Class Sessions

Weeks 1-3: Experiencing innovation

Session 1 – The Innovation Journey
This session looks at the journey of developing new services. IDEO is a creative design company, so the development of innovative services is chaotic and unstructured—or is it? By examining how IDEO develops new products and services we will discuss how innovation systems work.

Assigned reading: 
INSEAD Case: IDEO: Service design (A)

The following questions may help you prepare for the class discussion:

  • What are the overarching steps that can be used to approach any innovation project at IDEO? How appropriate and complete do you believe IDEO’s five step process is?
  • If you were in Peter Coughlan’s shoes, how would you tackle the project given to you? Are there any specific methods (used by IDEO or invented by you) that you would use at different stages?

Optional readings:

  • Brown, T. 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review.
  • Hargadon, A. and Sutton, R. 2000 Building an Innovation Factory. Harvard Business Review.

Session 2 – User needs and Lead users
In this session we will discuss the challenges of gathering, synthesizing, and prioritizing users’ needs. We will discuss frameworks to address this challenge and introduce the concept of lead users.

Optional readings:

  • Abstract from “Identifying Customer Needs”, Chapter 5 of the book Product Design and Development, by Karl Ulrich and Steven Eppinger, 2012.
  • Leonard, D and Rayport, J. Spark Innovation Through Empathic Design, Harvard Business Review. Nov-Dec 1997.

Sessions 3-8 – Experiencing an Innovation Project
Thomas Edison once remarked, “Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% transpiration”. In this multi-session project, participants will be put into groups and asked to develop a new artifact to be launched in session 8. The goal is to experience the main phases of the innovation journey in order to identify the key managerial challenges (and ways to address them) faced during the execution of an innovation project.

Session 3. Off-campus – User needs identification

After kicking off the project at the end of sesssion 2, in this informal session teams will go off-campus to gather user needs. This activity is mandatory because doing this is essential to be able to comple the innovation exercise satisfactorily.

Session 4 – Insighting in action
In this session teams will work on synthesizing their insights from their off-campus activity and start defining the design guidelines that will drive their ideation phase.

Sessions 5-7 – Ideating and Iterating in action
This triple-session is focused on hands-on (guided) group work on ideation and prototyping.

Session 8 – Product Launch
In this session every team will exhibit their final product for final evaluation. A debrief about the entire innovation journey will follow the product exhibition.

Weeks 4-6: Understanding creativity

This week will be dedicated to understand, experience, and learn how to manage the creativiy phenomenon both individually and in organizations. The sessions this week will be focused on experiential exercises co-developed and co-taught with design faculty from the Art Center College of Design.

Reading material will be distributed in class.

Sessions 9 A&B – Understanding Creativity

Sessions 10 A&B – Experiencing Creativity

Session 11– Managing Creativity

Weeks 6-8: Growing by innovating and prototyping

Session 12 – Designing and prototyping new systems
(In-class Exercise)

Session 13 – Developing Complex Products

In large-scale projects, poor coordination among many simultaneously acting parties is the main reason for pitfalls. In this session we will discuss the role of prototyping when managing both innovation and complexity.

Assigned reading:

  • HBS Case 9-692-083 (rev. 2002): BMW: The 7-Series Project (A)

The following questions may help you prepare for the class discussion:

  • What are the causes and consequences of BMW’s quality problems with newly launched products? What should be done to improve “launch quality”?
  • What are your recommendations to Carl-Peter Forster concerning the 7-series prototypes?

Optional reading:

  • Sosa, M., Eppinger, S.D. and Rowles, C.M. 2007 “Are Your Engineers Talking to One Another When They Should?”, Harvard Business Review.

Sessions 14A&B – Designing Branded Experiences

This session goes beyond product/service innovation into experience innovation. The class discussion will be based on insights from the development effort behind the Apple Retail Stores.

Assigned reading:
INSEAD Case: Eight Inc. and the Apple Retail Stores

Sessions 15&16 – Final presentations

This session will be dedicated to present and discuss the final presentations of the final group project.