Experimentation Matters: Unlocking the Potential of New Technologies for Innovation

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Harvard Business Press, 2003 - Business & Economics - 307 pages
Every company's ability to innovate depends on a process of experimentation whereby new products and services are created and existing ones improved. But the cost of experimentation often limits innovation. New technologies--including computer modeling and simulation--promise to lift that constraint by changing the economics of experimentation. Never before has it been so economically feasible to ask "what-if" questions and generate preliminary answers. These technologies amplify the impact of learning, paving the way for higher R&D performance and innovation and new ways of creating value for customers.In Experimentation Matters, Stefan Thomke argues that to unlock such potential, companies must not only understand the power of experimentation and new technologies, but also change their processes, organization, and management of innovation. He explains why experimentation is so critical to innovation, underscores the impact of new technologies, and outlines what managers must do to integrate them successfully. Drawing on a decade of research in multiple industries as diverse as automotive, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and banking, Thomke provides striking illustrations of how companies drive strategy and value creation by accommodating their organizations to new experimentation technologies.As in the outcome of any effective experiment, Thomke also reveals where that has not happened, and explains why. In particular, he shows managers how to: implement "front-loaded" innovation processes that identify potential problems before resources are committed and design decisions locked in; experiment and test frequently without overloading their organizations; integrate new technologies into the current innovation system; organize for rapid experimentation; fail early and often, but avoid wasteful "mistakes"; and manage projects as experiments.Pointing to the custom integrated circuit industry--a multibillion dollar market--Thomke also shows what happens when new experimentation technologies are taken beyond firm boundaries, thereby changing the way companies create new products and services with customers and suppliers. Probing and thoughtful, Experimentation Matters will influence how both executives and academics think about experimentation in general and innovation processes in particular. Experimentation has always been the engine of innovation, and Thomke reveals how it works today.

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Page 5 - ... something. Learning and progress accrue only when there is something to learn from, and the something, the stuff of learning and progress, is any completed action. The process of managing this can best be thought of in terms of the experiment and, on a more pervasive basis, the experimenting process. The most important and visible outcropping of the action bias in the excellent companies is their willingness to try things out. to experiment. There is absolutely no magic in the experiment. It...

About the author (2003)

Stefan Thomke is the William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He has worked with global firms on product, process, and technology development, organizational design and change, and strategy. He is a widely published author with articles in leading journals such as California Management Review, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American, and many others. He is also author of the book Managing Product and Service Development (McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2006). He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching at HBS, and has been an HBR McKinsey Award Finalist.

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