Course Review: Innovation & Experimentation
Babson’s MBA program debuted an exciting new class in the Fall 2014 semester, Innovation & Experimentation, which comprehensively covers the process of creating new products or services and improving those which already exist. The course is essentially broken down into two sections: one covering the process of product or service development, and the other focused on testing the the concept that is in development. In the class, students form teams of four or five and develop and innovation presented at the semester’s midpoint. At the end of the semester, student teams present the results of their market research experiments.
The Innovation curriculum primarily covers two approaches to innovation, Design Thinking and the “Inside the Box” method. Design Thinking guru Tim Brown of IDEO describes Design Thinking as “innovation [that is] is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported”. Using these observations, innovators attempt to derive a feasible way to create customer value.
The Inside the Box methodology is based on Drew Boyd’s book of the same name. I usually find these types of business books to be garbage, but I read this one cover-to-cover before the semester began and have since recommended it even to non-business school friends. The book’s philosophy is that people are at their most creative when they focus on the internal aspects of a situation or problem—and when they constrain their options rather than broaden them. The Inside the Box approach is broken down into six approaches: Subtraction, Multiplication, Task Unification, Division, Attribute Dependency, and Contradiction. These approaches are sure the get the wheels turning and help any entrepreneur who feels the need to tap into additional creativity.
Students are granted access to tools such as SPSS from IBM and Qualtrics Survey Software to test their respective innovations against the potential marketplace. The course thoroughly prepares students to conduct effective market research experiments by walking them through tried and true quantitative methods of analysis.
I highly recommend this course to anyone who has an entrepreneurial mindset and wants to successfully integrate an innovation process into either a start-up business, or an established organization.