MBA Program’s Product Innovation Lab is on Forbes’ 10 Most Innovative Business Courses List

Forbes.com posted its story about the top ten innovative courses on August 10, 2010.

The Product Innovation Lab, a practicum course in the MBA program’s innovation management concentration, has been providing real world experience for graduate students since the course was established in 2002.

Business, engineering and industrial design professors at NC State team-teach the course.

“We challenge graduate students in management and engineering to provide innovative marketable solutions, in response to loosely defined needs provided by the project’s sponsoring companies,” explains John McCreery, associate professor in the NC State College of Management’s Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. McCreery is one of the professors teaching the course, which is part of the NC State Jenkins MBA program’s innovation management concentration. He also is director of the College of Management’s Master of Global Innovation Management program.

“This course positioned me extremely well with regard to my career at IBM,” says Chris Spencer, who graduated with his MBA from NC State in 2005 and now is an emerging technology strategist within IBM’s software group. “It’s one of the things that I always talk about when I talk with our Extreme Blue interns and others considering the Jenkins MBA program. If it wasn’t for this course, I seriously doubt that I would be an innovation strategist with IBM today,” he said.

Spencer’s team project back in 2005 dealt with smart metering in the power industry. A sampling of other team projects in this course include a video conferencing system for patients in rural areas needing physical therapy, diet/nutrition tracking on iPhones, and a heated blanket for individuals in wheelchairs and other seated positions [see photo above], McCreery said.

“We expect the student teams to do primary, voice-of-the-customer research,” McCreery says, “and we push them toward prototyping.”

Spencer said the launch of the course was “extraordinarily well timed. This push toward innovation began to grow around 2005, when companies started realizing that it’s not just about operations and cost reduction. It’s about how do I – or my company – position myself so that I can compete effectively as the market changes.

“We know that the market is fluid and dynamic, and for businesses to be successful, they have to able to adapt. The Product Innovation Lab is designed to help you get your arms around the whole process and to extract business value out of it. That’s what the course taught me.”

The course was initially developed by Dr. Mitzi Montoya, formerly Zelnak Professor of Marketing Innovation in the NC State College of Management and now executive dean of the Arizona State University College of Technology and Innovation.

“This course is one example of the real world approach that we take to our curriculum and student experiences here at the Jenkins MBA program,” said Dr. Steve Allen, associate dean for research and graduate programs at the NC State College of Management. “This recognition by Forbes reflects the real world value that our students gain through our curriculum options.”

Also represented on Forbe’s top 10 Innovative Course List are:

  • University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business
  • John Hopkins University’s Carey School of Business
  • Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
  • Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead School of Management
  • University of California, San Diego, Rady School of Management
  • University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business
  • University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business
  • University of Washington’s Foster School of Business
  • Babson College’s Olin Graduate School of Business

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