Course Detail

Innovation Leadership (34108)

Course Description by Faculty

  • Lyman, Lindsey
  • Content
    Course Introduction

    This course is designed for students who want to create things, break things, and be a leader of change in their organizations. Designed as a skills-based class, this course will arm you with the tactical tools needed to identify and execute innovation opportunities. In this class, innovation is defined broadly to include new products and services, new business or revenue models, a dramatic change in go-to-market approach, an operational innovation, or any other step-change initiative. We will also explore the structural and cultural challenges that large organizations face when executing breakthrough innovation or making a major change. However rather than learning theoretical best practices for corporate innovation, we will instead focus on learning tools so that you can influence better innovation outcomes. By the end of this class you will have developed actionable skills that will make you a more effective innovation leader while having the confidence to act boldly.

    What you will learn

    This class is designed to make you a better thinker, and to arm you with skills in addition to knowledge. You will gain insight on how to lead growth in the context of high risk, nebulous, and highly uncertain innovation initiatives. To this end, we present alternative tools and approaches for de-risking step-change innovation, in particular in situations when we can’t rely on existing data or processes to lead us to the right answer. We will cover the foundational principles of user-centered design and prototyping through the context of solving business problems broadly, however traditional product development tools are not the primary focus of the class.

    You will learn how to think ambidextrously, execute more quickly, and be more creative in how you solve problems. You will learn how to identify and challenge your own orthodoxies, experiment to learn, network to create better solutions, and communicate more effectively to gain support from stakeholders. Specific learning goals of this course include becoming:

    • A stronger innovation practitioner (greater proficiency of using innovation skills and tools)
    • A more effective manager of innovation (ability to manage the process and connect the right people/recourses/thinking to make things happen)
    • A more inspirational leader of innovation (greater ability to think creatively, teach others, and inspire others)

    NOTE: This course is not a substitute for Building New Products and Services (37200), as it does not directly cover traditional product development topics such as conducting and synthesizing front-end customer research, brainstorming techniques, concept writing techniques, and traditional concept testing techniques. These are important skills for students wishing to pursue careers in product development, brand management, product management, marketing management, and associated fields, and are not covered in this class.

    Course design and organization

    Throughout the quarter students will work in teams on a group Innovation project. In your first assignment, you will be asked to select a company or industry that you feel is ripe for innovation, and answer the question: “What new business would put my company/industry/product out of business?” This could include a new/emerging technology, an alternative revenue model, a new product, or any other kind of change that could threaten your selected company’s existing revenue streams. All too often, companies don’t ask themselves this question or explore what would be required to execute on the answer. We will use this as the context through which to practice applying the new innovation skills learned in class. By week 3 you will have identified the risks/unknowns surrounding your new idea and will have developed plan to mitigate them. By week 4 you will have built your first prototype or experiment and will iterate this several times by the end of the class. In week 10, you will present your project to the class, focusing not on the idea, but rather on the process you went through to de-risk, iterate, and validate (or invalidate) it. Your grade will be based on the quality of your thinking, the amount of progress you make against your risk mitigation/learning plan, the number of quality iterations you make on your project, and your ability to communicate your work effectively.

    To supplement course lecture material and the out-of-class project described above, we will do an in-class exercise most weeks to practice and reinforce these skills. You will be exposed to guest speakers (innovation and design leaders and thought leaders in these fields) as well as in-class field trips (availability permitting) to apply what you’re learning to how this work is happening in the real world.


    This class is highly recommended for students who wish to lead corporate growth or innovation projects, work in corporate incubators or venturing, or pursue management consulting careers. Students aspiring to take roles in general management (P&L responsibility), brand marketing, product management, or project management positions will also find this class valuable. Although this class isn’t designed specifically for entrepreneurs, students who are exploring where and how to channel their desire to innovate will find this class to be highly relevant and useful.


    1st class attendance is mandatory. If you are considering/trying to register for the course, please come to the 1st class even if you aren’t yet registered, so that you can seamlessly integrate with the class should you join the class after week 1.

  • Prerequisites
    None. No undergrads (including Dougan Scholars). Non-Booth students require instructor permission: strict.
  • Materials
    Assigned readings and materials will be posted to Canvas site prior to start of course. There is no required textbook for this class.
  • Grades
    Cannot be taken pass/fail. No exams given.

    50% Team Innovation Project

    20% Peer Review

    20% Final Reflection Paper

    10% Class Participation

    No auditors. No pass/fail grades.

    • No auditors

    • No pass/fail grades

  • Syllabus
  • Spring 2019Section: 34108-01M 1:30PM-4:30PMHarper CenterC02
Description and/or course criteria last updated: February 19 2019