Managing the Innovation Process: Preparing Students for the Future of Business in a Rapidly Changing World
- Written by Daphne Halkias, PhD, Core Faculty
Today’s fast-changing environment pushes successful companies to adapt, excel, and grow more rapidly than ever before. Consumer needs, technological developments, demands for growth, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, natural disasters, regional conflicts, and new governmental regulations put pressure on competitive advantages. Instead of sustainable advantages, today, understanding and developing adaptive and changeable settings for the global business world is a crucial point. The focus of innovation, products, and systems has now shifted from financial resources to flexibility and fast incorporation of new technology and services. The former confidence in the stability and value of brands is decreasing, making no room for safety zones. Even the most stable industries and the most influential brands can be torn apart by black swan events, both natural and human-made, as we have all seen with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Learning to adapt to today’s rapid emergence of these socio-economic dilemmas and turbulent markets — from the community to the global level -- is brought to light in ISM’s Managing the Innovation Process course (MIPR). This course is suitable for graduate students from a variety of backgrounds. The overall aim is to develop a high-level understanding of the dynamics of innovation, distribution, and outcomes of entrepreneurial opportunities, and the relationships that are important in developing high-impact organizations. The course intentionally integrates concepts from human resources, finance, marketing, operations, and information technology, and is intended for a wide range of industry, service sector, or non-profit careers.
Students explore how organizations respond to external (customers, suppliers, competitors, consultants, media, globalization) or internal (technical divisions, marketing, sales, logistics, production) opportunities, and use their creative efforts to introduce new ideas, processes, or products. By using innovation management tools, managers and entrepreneurs alike can trigger and deploy the creativity and novel ideas of all employees towards the continuous development of a company. These management tools, concepts, and practices are applied through various course activities starting with viewing eleven online modules from the Managing Innovation series by Professor Frank Piller, Head of the Institute of Technology and Innovation Management at Aachen University in Germany. This online module course series is a companion to the popular innovation and design workbook Big Picture: The Innovation Model. This workbook and all other course materials are provided as open-access on MyISM.
The most popular student activity in the MIPR course is playing the Back Bay Battery simulation game, offered to ISM students by Harvard Business School Press. This game is a single-player tool and simulates the challenges around innovation and risks that face product development managers who need to balance financial goals against the need to innovate, capitalize on new product/market opportunities, and guard against disruptive technologies. In this simulation, students play the role of a business unit manager at a battery company facing the classic “innovator’s dilemma.” They play against the computer, and feedback is immediate. Players have to manage R&D investment tradeoffs between the unit’s existing battery technology versus investing in a new, potentially disruptive battery technology.
For the MIPR course’s culminating assignment, students develop their Final Innovative Product Project. The purpose of the assignment is to allow students to apply the ideas learned in this course that touches upon a business challenge that is of particular interest to them, their region, community, culture, and country. Previous students have focused on such innovative product developments as an alternative food network, sustainable retail fashion, unique apps for connecting different groups along supply chains, IoT platforms including one for wine lovers, and novel recreational vehicles. Students hailing from emerging market economies have presented exciting innovations to address local, grassroots sustainability issues including products for local economic development and breakout from poverty, and an educational app for girls living in rural poverty. Students take their new product, service, or process from idea generation to where the idea can be pitched to potential investors to include design, development, and launch plans. Along with their final project business report, students submit a PowerPoint presentation of their project pitch with audio narration. We hope to see some of these unique and remarkable pitches come to ISM’s annual Pitch in Paris event.
In the MIPR course, students develop responsible business practices through business thinking approaches, grounded ethical professional practice, and considerations based on the sustainability goals of the World Economic Forum. MIPR is a course for every business student and where I hope to work with more ISM students promoting innovation management, particularly to strengthen post-pandemic businesses and markets worldwide.
This article originally appeared in ISM's 2020 Summer Newsletter.