Manuel Sosa, Associate Professor of Technology and Operations Management

Global Executive MBA  Key Management Challenges (KMC)

Innovation is vital to sustain corporate growth.  Yet, it too often remains an elusive goal for many companies. The purpose of this KMC is to explore the innovation phenomenon and to better understand the managerial and organisational challenges that innovation invariably generates. We will examine various sides of innovation management: How to innovate in large and geographically distributed organizations? How to innovate when developing new services? How to micro-manage the innovation process? How to manage innovation in complex projects? How to develop a portfolio of innovation projects? While addressing these questions we will see the conflict of creativity and risk versus process and execution, which is inevitable in the industrialization of innovations. This course presents strategies and actions companies can adopt in order to sustain the innovation record that is required to sustain profitable growth.


A participant completing this course should be able to:

  • Better understand the managerial and organisational challenges associated with each phase of the innovation process
  • Apply decision making structures to enable both bottom-up and top-down innovation management
  • Identify organizational and managerial levers to enable user-centric design, deep and diverse ideation, and rapid and cheap prototyping
  • Understand key managerial principles to coordinate highly complex innovation projects
  • Apply a decision making framework to develop the portfolio of innovation projects that a firm should develop


Day 1:

Session 1 – Uncovering Innovations in a Global Organization

This session is about discovering and effectively deploying good ideas in a distributed organization. We will discuss how innovations emerge, and what levers executives can use to manage innovation in a global company.

Assigned reading:

HBS Case 9-696-061: Managing Innovation at Nypro, Inc (A)

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

  • What is the process employed at Nypro to identify and deploy important innovations?
  • How would you characterize Lankton’s “mental model” of his business?
  • Can you make any generalizations about what sorts of innovations are likely to succeed within Nypro’s “internal marketplace” for technologies? What sorts of innovations are likely to vanish?
  • How should Lankton roll out the Novaplast technology?

Optional reading:

  • Immelt, J., V. Govindarajan, and C. Trimble. 2009. “How GE is Disrupting Itself,” Harvard Business Review.
  • Maxwell, W., and Christensen, C. 2012. “Surviving Disruption,” Harvard Business Review.

Session 2 – 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? 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 reading: Brown, T. 2008. “Design Thinking,” Harvard Business Review.

Day 2:

Sessions 3&4 – An Innovation Exercise

Thomas Edison once remarked, “Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% transpiration”. During the second day of this KMC, participants will be divided into teams and asked to develop a new product to be launched by the end of the day. The goal is to experience the main phases of the innovation journey in order to put in practice key principles to tackle the distinct managerial challenges faced during the execution of an innovation project. Please, bring your digital camera and be prepared to do part of this group exercise off-campus.

Assigned readings:

  • Leonard, D and Rayport, J. 1997. “Spark Innovation Through Empathic Design,” Harvard Business Review.
  • Kelley, T. 2002. The Art of Innovation. (Chapter 4: The Perfect Brainstorm).

Optional reading:

  • Thomke, S. 2001. “Enlightened Experimentation: The New Imperative for Innovation,” Harvard Business Review.
  • Sutton, R. 2001. “The Weird Rules of Creativity,” Harvard Business Review.

Day 3:

Session 5 – Developing Novel and Complex Systems

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? What should he do regarding future development projects?

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

Session 6 – Managing the Innovation Portfolio

Defining the portfolio of development projects is imperative for successful product development. Yet, doing so is an elusive task due to the high degree of uncertainty and ambiguity in such a strategic decision. In this session, we will conduct an intense role-play simulation to experience how to tackle the portfolio decision in large organizations.

Assigned reading: INSEAD Simulation: Printing Equipment Company (Roles to be distributed in class)

Optional reading:

  • Wheelwright, S. C. and Clark, K. B. 2003. “Creating Project Plans to Focus Product Development,” Harvard Business Review, Rev. version Sept.
  • Nagji, B. and Tuff, G. 2012. “Managing Your Innovation Portfolio,” Harvard Business Review.