Innovating

To support my activities to help others to become better innovators, I create spaces, teaching tools, and programs.

Spaces

When design (thinking) activities are taught, the emphasis is often placed on a set of techniques processes. While this is important, the successful execution is not only contingent on a thorough process understanding, but also can be effectively supported by the appropriate space and cultural embeddedness.

Various design thinking practices come with very different spatial requirements. For example, the synthesizing phase must allow searching for patterns and insights across a multitude of disparate data elements. One way to foster this work is to provide ample vertical wall space to attach the material so that the design thinkers can study the material in its totality, having most of it simultaneously in view. Similarly, ideation activities can be effectively supported by vertical wall space that allows teams to view the emerging idea pool while they are being produced to stimulate further idea generation. While similar in space requirement, these activities require different soundscapes. Synthesizing, as a rather contemplative activity, benefits from a quite and focused atmosphere, whereas a generative activity such as brainstorming works best in a lively, often loud and boisterous setting. Finally, prototyping activities benefit from a spatial environment that is forgiving (“invites to making a mess”) for the purpose of rapid learning.

At Babson, I helped create the Design Zone, a studio space that can serve flexibly both as teaching space and student work space. It includes concrete floor, movable high tables, plenty of movable white boards, and a workshop area. A detailed description of the Design Zone can be found in the book chapter: Fixson, Sebastian K., Victor P. Seidel, and Jennifer Bailey. “Creating Space for Innovation: The Role of a ‘Design Zone’ within a Business School.” In Evolving Entrepreneurial Education: Innovation in the Babson Classroom, edited by Victoria L. Crittenden, Nathaniel Karst, and Rosa Slegers, 217–34. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing, 2015.

 


Teaching Materials

Innovation Simulation: Breaking News, HBSP 8675-HTM-ENG, co-developed with Tucker Marion and Harvard Business Publishing

In this 20-minute online simulation, students manage the innovation process for The Citizen Sun, a struggling newspaper company. Working with limited time and budget, students design innovation initiatives such as open innovation campaigns, customer focus groups, hackathons, or internal R&D projects to generate a pool of innovation ideas. Students must then review, test, and make a selection from among those ideas in order to choose the best possible innovation for The Citizen Sun news organization. The simulation teaches students about managing the innovation process, the different modes of innovation, idea generation and selection, and the role of organizational context in innovation. The simulation was launched on HPB in September 2017 (https://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cbmp/product/8675-HTM-ENG).

The Grommet: Managing Operations at a fast-paced Start-Up, BAB224-PDF-ENG, Babson College, co-developed with Paul Mulligan

The case asks students to take on the role of the operations manager of an online retail start-up. Starting as an inventory and forecasting problem, the case teaching plan adds successively layers of decisions for the firm, to build the firm’s business model from the inside out. Students learn the central role the operating model plays for the success of the startup.


Programs

As founding Faculty Director I helped build Babson’s Master of Science in Entrepreneurial Leadership (MSEL) program. The program is designed for its graduates to develop the skills and attitudes necessary for (i) Identifying, shaping, and articulating problems and opportunities in uncertain and ambiguous environments, (ii) Creating, developing, and refining new solutions to these problems, (iii) Assessing, evaluating, and judging the economic and social consequences of these solutions, and (iv) Conducting this work with others (team members, users, customers, clients, mentors, mentees, etc.) in a global environment.

The program design included the development of the innovative LEAP course at the heart of the program (the course’s initial version is described here: Fixson, Sebastian K., Danna Greenberg, and Andrew Zacharakis. “Leading Entrepreneurial Action Project (LEAP): A Project-Based Course Integrating Three Disciplines.” In Evolving Entrepreneurial Education: Innovation in the Babson Classroom, edited by Victoria L. Crittenden, Nathaniel Karst, and Rosa Slegers, 175–90. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing, 2015.