Background Note | HBS Case Collection | April 2006

Managing Innovation in an Uncertain World: Module 1: Innovation and Uncertainty

by Alan D. MacCormack

Abstract

Describes the first module of a Harvard Business School 30-session elective course called Managing Innovation in an Uncertain World. The course helps students understand the challenges that uncertainty implies for innovation and how to overcome these challenges. The course emphasizes multiple levels of analysis--from creating and executing development projects to building and balancing portfolios of project, to assessing and selecting future opportunities for development--showing how to align these activities to take advantage of the opportunities uncertainty presents. Students respond to all the situations they encounter from these multiple perspectives, and they wear an array of hats, from project manager to CEO, to appreciate how various organizational roles themselves reflect these perspectives. The first module, Innovation and Uncertainty, introduces students to the challenge of managing innovation in general and underscores the relationship between innovation and uncertainty in particular. It introduces the terminology used in the course--specifically, how the challenge of uncertainty can be framed in terms of how an organization explores its innovation landscape and exploits design spaces that are carved out of it. The module helps students understand that organizations make decisions differently when they think in such terms.

Keywords: Design; Curriculum and Courses; Innovation and Management; Projects; Opportunities; Perspective;

Citation:

MacCormack, Alan D. "Managing Innovation in an Uncertain World: Module 1: Innovation and Uncertainty." Harvard Business School Background Note 606-125, April 2006.