This course will run on-campus in 2022, date TBD

Course is closed
Lead Instructor(s)
MIT Campus
Course Length
5 Days
Course Fee
2.2 CEUs
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Course is closed
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Even the best ideas can require significant organizational change in order to be successful. But too often, those necessary alterations can lead to bottlenecks that stall the very initiatives and products they were designed to help. In this dynamic, five-day course, you’ll master the tools and strategies you need to create an organization that supports successful innovation at every stage of the ideation and production process.

Course Overview

This course may be taken individually or as part of the Professional Certificate Program in Innovation & Technology.

Innovation typically begins with a new technical concept or other bright idea. But the idea is just the first step on the long path to successful innovation. Technical change usually requires organizational changes as well. These changes include providing resources for technical development and acquiring the support of others in the organization or in outside organizations.

Gaining this support requires negotiation, bargaining, and coalition building. Organizational change, then, is a very complex process. Change of this sort can be very difficult. Significant innovations can be resisted, fall victim to competing ideas, or fail to be sustained.

Thus innovators need their original idea and a vision of how the world will change if the innovation succeeds. The real bottleneck in achieving success is the organizational change needed for implementing that idea. This course focuses on strategies to overcome the bottlenecks: how to build the needed coalition of supporters who will enable the necessary organizational change. This change process is not captured by simple cookbook procedures, so we will investigate a variety of detailed, original case studies, rich in lessons for innovation success and failure. The cases are drawn from many sectors, public and private, from the U.S. and other countries. We will also explore the diversity of innovation experiences of the class participants.

In evaluating organizational innovation strategies, there are obvious differences between public and private sector organizations. Yet while the incentives are often very different, the underlying processes of innovation are very similar in the two sectors. We are particularly interested in public - private interactions. Successful innovation strategies in the private sector often involve effective exploitation of public organizations, while public innovation usually requires mobilization of support from the private sector.

This course was previously titled "Technology, Organizations, and Innovation: Putting Ideas to Work."

Participant Takeaways

  • Exploring how organizational change is usually the key bottleneck in implementing new ideas and technology
  • Analyzing Toyota’s implementation of its lean engineering system and how it actually functions
  • Identifying the issues in applying lean thinking to different business sectors and other countries
  • Understanding the difficulty of implementing organizational change in hospitals and identify strategies to overcome this
  • Comparing the innovation process in the U.S. and Europe and evaluate whether the differences are more or less important than the similarities

Who Should Attend

Private and public managers, consultants, and academics who are working to promote and sustain innovations through organizational change.

Typical participants have come from Samsung, Corning, Shell, Intel, Siemens, Northrop Grumman, Monsanto, Toyota, Halliburton, EMC, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and numerous military labs, Allianz SE, MITRE, Akamai Technologies, the CIA, Deere & Co., Booz Allen Hamilton, the European Commission, and other firms, government agencies, and universities around the world.

Program Outline

Class runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. everyday (with breaks) , except for the last day, when it ends at 1:00 p.m. (US EDT). Recordings of the sessions will be available online for 24 hours after each session.

There will be a Zoom reception for course participants and faculty on the first evening.

Pre-course materials:

A packet of important advance readings will be distributed online in May. In addition, U.S. participants will get hard copies of the packet via Fedex. Overseas participants can get the hard copies on request.

There will be a one-page advance homework assignment to be completed during the week of June 7.

Among the Topics to be Covered:

The Innovation Process:  Overview and Introductory Cases
Innovations usually begin with an invention, a new idea or technical concept. Then there can be a vision of how the invention will be widely adopted. The details of implementing that vision are less glamorous but no less necessary. Implementation and acquiring resources often involves organizational change. But that requires bargaining and coalition building. What strategies do successful innovators use to build coalitions within and across organizations? How are individual incentives offered and exploited? How are the issues framed? How are goals defined, enlarged, or altered over time? How is coalition solidarity maintained? Case example: Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. What did Steve Jobs see that Xerox management missed?

S(t)imulating Innovation
As digital technologies for modeling and simulation offer more value for less money, they provoke fundamental challenges to organizational culture and design. Increasingly, digital models and prototypes are key platforms for managing risk and creating value. They allow for cost-effective creativity, encourage profitable improvisation, and inspire organizations to collaborate in unexpected ways. Thus innovative prototyping styles help generate innovative teams. What is the relationship between how leading innovators model reality and how they actually manage it? How do we explain prototyping failures compared with prototyping successes?

Lean Production as an Innovation
Lean production evolved at Toyota as a new set of arrangements for managing technical change. It now includes a complex web of organizational interrelationships. How does this system actually work? Why did this system evolve at Toyota instead of GM? How did Toyota transplant it to American plants and workers? What is the significance of the recent corporate stumbles at Toyota?

Corporate Strategies for Reshaping Their Environment
Sophisticated entrepreneurs often find that changing public regulatory policy is the key to getting new technology accepted. DuPont had substitutes for CFCs which were too expensive to market until CFCs themselves were phased out. Makowski and Company foresaw natural gas-fired power plants in New England if Canadian and U.S. regulations were reshaped. But Cape Wind has tried for a decade to get approval and funding to build wind turbines off Cape Cod. How did these companies envision the new opportunities? How did they form coalitions to influence public policy? What accounts for comparative success or failure?

Transplanting Lean Thinking
How can the Toyota management concepts be transplanted to very different, non-industrial sectors? Why did Starbucks and Britain’s Tesco supermarkets adapt these processes? Where and why have these ideas met resistance?

Analyzing a Startup in Real Time
Wireless grids are a promising new technology for linking smart objects to each other and the internet. Their potential use spans emergency first responder communications, college campuses, and entertainment media. The technology was developed at universities with public research funding. Now Professor Lee McKnight is trying to commercialize the concept with a for-profit startup. His team has had to negotiate with major partners (European telephone companies and U.S. software makers), seek out equity funding from many sources, and try to create a favorable regulatory standard. Their success has varied greatly from year to year. Is this the year for their breakthrough?

Innovation Teams in Hospitals
Hospitals in Western Europe and the U.S. feature cutting edge medical technology. But most have been slow to upgrade their organizational processes to fully meet their patients' needs. For a decade, Paul Levy was President of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, a Harvard teaching hospital in Boston. His first task as CEO was to implement a financial management plan to turn around a hospital headed for bankruptcy. When financial balance was reestablished, he moved to the task of stimulating clinical teams to improve the quality of the care they delivered. The hospital became nationally known for its program to reduce hospital acquired infections, which can prevent patient deaths. Levy now consults with hospitals around the world on how to stimulate similar innovations.

The Innovation Culture in Boston
What is new about the contemporary startup culture? Is it a new way of innovating or a more fluid approach to long standing issues? Can it survive the failure rate of so many startups? How do startups in the biotech sector differ from those based on software?

Innovation from a European Perspective
Many of the general issues in creating innovations and implementing organizational change can be seen across the industrial world. But how important are the local contexts? Do European cultures, funding, and regulatory agencies make the efforts significantly different? Is there a distinct European innovation process?

Changing Your Organization
Using the strategies and insights developed from the case studies, we will analyze in detail innovation experiences drawn from the participants.

Innovation in a Pandemic
The COVID crisis has created a world-wide demand for new vaccines .The U.S., Europe, China and Russia have responded with new technologies at an unprecedented speed. Many of these involve partnerships between small bio startups and multinational drug companies. But most of these countries have found the social technology of delivering the vaccines to be far more difficult. What are the lessons for innovation to be learned here?

Other Instructors


"This course is essential for anyone assigned the daunting task of implementing technology innovation in their business or organization."
"This course went to the heart of creating innovation within organizations. Any institution would benefit from a thorough understanding of the complexities involved; they are presented in this program by experts who have witnessed and managed these complexities first-hand."
"The course realistically analyzes the complexity of institutions—public and private—when facing the challenge of innovation. It excels in showing the intertwining of policy, politics, science, innovation, and market dynamics."
"The course material and international makeup of the course fostered an intellectually rewarding learning environment. Not only did I expand my own professional network, I brought back specific cases and examples I could apply to enduring challenges in my own office."
"Very interesting lectures. Alumni from all over the world, from different backgrounds and organizations. The course provided a new way to see innovation, much more from a social point of view instead of a technical view. It was an amazing experience. It gave me another way to see innovation processes. It was good to realize that innovation does not have to be a technical process, but it must be conducted in a more social way. I feel much more confident now."
"The course was very well organized, with remarkable lectures and lecturers."
"Not a class, not a lecture, a real live learning experience with colleagues from different industries, languages, and cultures."

The type of content you will learn in this course, whether it's a foundational understanding of the subject, the hottest trends and developments in the field, or suggested practical applications for industry.

Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools - 10%|Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends - 50%|Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world - 40%
Delivery Methods

How the course is taught, from traditional classroom lectures and riveting discussions to group projects to engaging and interactive simulations and exercises with your peers.

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format - 75%|Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations - 25%

What level of expertise and familiarity the material in this course assumes you have. The greater the amount of introductory material taught in the course, the less you will need to be familiar with when you attend.

Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience - 10%|Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field - 50%|Industry Applications Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level - 40%