Stefan H. Thomke

William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration

Stefan Thomke, an authority on the management of innovation, is the William Barclay Harding Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He has worked with US, European and Asian firms on product, process, and technology development, organizational design and change, and strategy.

Since joining the Harvard faculty in 1995, Professor Thomke has taught and chaired numerous MBA and executive courses on innovation management, R&D strategy, product & service development, and operations, both at Harvard Business School and in individual company programs in the United States and abroad. He is chair of the Executive Education Programs Leading Product Innovation and Driving Growth Through Innovation, which helps business leaders in revamping their innovation systems for greater competitive advantage, and is faculty chair of HBS executive education in India. Professor Thomke is currently on the core faculty of the General Management Program (GMP) and has previously taught in the Advanced Management Program (AMP). Previously, he was faculty chair of the MBA Required Curriculum and faculty co-chair of the doctoral program in Science, Technology and Management (S,T&M). He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Apgar Award for Innovation in Teaching at HBS.

Professor Thomke's research and writings have focused primarily on the process, economics, and management of business experimentation in innovation. He is a widely published author with more than three dozen articles, cases and notes published in books and leading journals such as California Management Review, Harvard Business Review, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Management Science, Organization Science, Research Policy, Sloan Management Review, Strategic Management Journal and Scientific American. He is also author of the books Experimentation Matters: Unlocking the Potential of New Technologies for Innovation (Harvard Business School Press, 2003) and Managing Product and Service Development (McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2006).

Professor Thomke was born and grew up in Calw, Germany. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering, a S.M. degree in Operations Research, a S.M. degree in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he was awarded a Lemelson-MIT doctoral fellowship for invention and innovation research. Prior to joining the Harvard University faculty, he worked in electronics and semiconductor manufacturing and later was with McKinsey & Company in Germany where he served clients in the automotive and energy industries.

Contact information: Harvard Business School, Soldiers Field, Morgan Hall 489, Boston, MA 02163 (U.S.A.); Telephone: +1 (617) 495-6569; Fax: +1 (617) 496-4059, E-mail:

  1. Experimentation Matters: Unlocking the Potential of New Technologies for Innovation

    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 is limiting. New technologies—including computer modeling and simulation—promise to lift that constraint by changing the economics of experimentation. They amplify the impact of learning, creating the potential for higher R&D performance and innovation and new ways of creating value for customers. In this book, Stefan Thomke argues that to unlock such potential, companies must not only understand the power of new technologies for experimentation, but also fundamentally change their processes, organization, and management of innovation. He shows why experimentation is so critical to innovation, explains the impact of new technologies, and outlines what managers must do to integrate them successfully.
  2. Lessons from India

    Published on Jan 23, 2013

    There are something in India that you won't find anywhere else in the world according to HBS Professor Stefan Thomke.

  3. Customers Don't Want More Features

    There is a common myth about product development: the more features we put into a product, the more customers will like it. Product-development teams seem to believe that adding features creates value for customers and subtracting them destroys it. This attitude explains why products are so complicated: Remote controls seem impossible to use, computers take hours to set up, cars have so many switches and knobs that they resemble airplane cockpits, and even the humble toaster now comes with a manual and LCD displays.