Managing Technological Innovation, Spring 2019 Syllabus

Columbia University
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

IEOR 4998                                                                                                      Jerry Neumann
Spring 2019                                                                                                   TA: TBD

Managing Technological Innovation


Course Description
This course provides an introduction to and overview of technological innovation in small, fast-growing enterprises. We will explore both the theories of innovation as well as the strategic and tactical approaches and processes that these theories entail. We will discuss, both amongst ourselves and with speakers from startups and venture capital firms, the practical realities of implementing these approaches and processes in today’s entrepreneurial environment.

The textbooks for the class will be:

  1. Osterwalder, Alexander, and Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation, John Wiley and Sons; 1st edition (July 13, 2010).
  2. Fitzpatrick, Rob, The mom test: how to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1st edition (September 10, 2013).

There will be handouts and case studies distributed through Courseworks. There will also be several case studies you will need to buy through the Harvard Business School Publishing site, the link will be given on Courseworks. Other assigned readings will be available on the internet for free.

The readings do not generally duplicate what we talk about in class. Because we are learning in large part through case studies, you need to do the readings so you can participate in a meaningful way. The readings provide you with the tools to do the analyses we will work through in class.

The final grade for the course will be a weighted average of your grades on the group project papers, an individual paper, in-class participation, and homework.

Group paper 1             20%
Group paper 2             20%
Group paper 3             20%
Individual paper          20%
Participation & HW     20%

Group Papers
You will form a group of three or four people from the class. The group will choose an idea for a startup business and will use the strategies and processes we learn to explicate this business opportunity. There will be three group papers.

Individual Paper
You will critique the business plan of a startup company (list of companies to be provided towards the end of the semester) using the ideas, tools, and techniques taught in this class. This paper will be an individual effort.

In-class participation
You are expected to read regularly the assigned material before each lecture and participate in the general discussion during the lecture. Participation in case-study discussions and in-class group assignments is critical to the learning process.

Because of the importance of participation and the interactive nature of most of the class, don’t use laptops and phones during class. Class slides will be posted after every lecture, so taking notes may not be necessary (but is up to you.)

Written assignments to be handed in for about half the classes. These are meant to familiarize you with the problems to be discussed in the next class. As such, they will be graded with a check, a check minus, or ‘not handed in.’

Everything you hand in should be through Courseworks. Please put your uni in the filename of homeworks and the individual paper and make sure that everything you submit has both your uni and your name in the body of the submission.

Attendance is mandatory. Our teaching method is interactive, if you don’t come to class, you don’t learn. If you can’t make it and have a good reason, email me and the TA. I understand if you need to miss a class or two.

On the days we have a speaker, if you can’t make it into your seat by the scheduled class time, please wait until the speaker leaves (after about an hour). Coming and going while an outside speaker is speaking is rude.

This class is unlike most engineering classes: we are learning a way of engaging with society across a broad range of poorly-specified problems. As such, communicating is important, both in writing and verbally. Real-world data, analysis of extant data, and expert third-party opinions are convincing, your personal opinion less so, unless you happen to be an acknowledged expert on the issue being discussed.

For clarity and conciseness, I prefer a writing style that is heavier on bullet points, charts and other graphical demonstrations, and analytical argument, not the first-person essay-style writing generally taught in high-school.

Schedule of Meetings, Readings, and Assignments

Section I: Problems and Solutions


January 25, February 1, February 8, February 15


Introduction to MTI

What this class is and what you will have to do
What is technology, what is innovation
Sources of innovation


Problems and Solutions

Google Case
What do startups do?
Customer decision making
The competitive environment
Founder-market fit

Readings for this class:
– Google case, on Courseworks
– Altman, “Startup Playbook

Put together a pithy (less than one page, PDF) introduction to yourself with a recent picture of you that will help me recognize you in class. Include your UNI, your name, what you’re called, your school and major.

For my information to assess the level of knowledge of the class in aggregate, I’d appreciate if you could also note any entrepreneurial/startup experience you might have, and any entrepreneurial/startup/business classes you have taken.


Industry Analysis

Basis of competition
Competitive positioning and market segmentation
New markets
Market creation vs. discovery

Readings for this class:
– Porter, Michael, “The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy
– Alvarez and Barney, “Discovery and Creation: Alternative Theories of Entrepreneurial Action
– Anderson and Tushman, “Technological Discontinuities and Dominant Designs

Do a Five Forces analysis of Google Search at the time of its introduction.


How to Think

Guest teacher: Justin Singer

– Sterman, “All Models Are Wrong
– Heuer, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis (Part I only)
– Costa, “Describing the Habits of Mind
– Menand, “Everybody’s an Expert


Patterns in Technological Innovation

iTunes Case

Readings for this class:
iTunes Case
iTunes Case, Technological Innovation
Christensen, “The Evolution of Innovation
Aldrich and Fiol, “Fools Rush In? The Institutional Context of Industry Creation

Answer one of the case questions. Be prepared to discuss the others in class.


Group Paper 1 due March 1


Section II: Experimentation and Feasibility


February 22, March 1, March 8, March 15, March 29
(March 22 is Spring Break)


Business Models

Business Models
Business model canvas (and customer archetypes)
Financial models

Readings for this class:
Osterwalder, Business Model Generation, pp. 14-119, and pp. 200-239.

Prepare a business model canvas for a product of your choice (don’t use one that’s in the book.)



MVP & Iteration
Key Performance Indicators
Measuring progress

Readings for this class:
Ries, “The Promise of the Lean Startup
Fichtner, “Lean Startup 101 for Developers
Thompson, “Building a Minimum Viable Product? You’re Probably Doing it Wrong


Financial Analysis on the Fly

Market size
Unit economics
Lifetime Value
Cost of Customer Acquisition

Readings for this class:
– “Unit Economics & Lifetime Value”, in the Files section
– Blank, “Market Size Hypothesis
– Mauboussin and Callahan, “Total Addressable Market

Other resources (not required, but if you want more info on market sizing):
– Gentschev, “The Secrets of Market Sizing
– Gentschev, “A Full Market Sizing Example
– Preuss, “Modeling Total Addressable Market

Do a market size analysis of one of the following:
– NYC pay-per-ride scooters
– Quantum computers
– Martian colonization (just number of “customers”, not potential revenue)


Circle Lending Case

Readings for this class:
The Circle Lending case (on the HBSP site)

Prepare one of the following for Circle Lending:
– A market sizing, both top-down and bottom-up
– A business model canvas, with a one-page discussion of value propositions and associated customer segments


Group Paper 2 due April 5


Section III: Building a Product and Company


April 5, April 12, April 19, April 26, May 3


Defining the Product

Customer interviews
Product management
User stories

Readings for this class:
Fitzpatrick, Rob, The Mom Test

Prepare a customer interview script as if you were researching the idea for Circle Lending or another startup of your choosing.


Medium Term Planning and Analysis

Fishbone Analysis
Financial models
Analyzing results and changing course

Readings for this class:
 “Building a Financial Model”, in the Files section
Yoskovitz & Kroll, “Lean Analytics” presentation


Zipcar Case

Readings for this class:
The Zipcar case


Do one of these analyses and hand it in online. Bring a copy to class so we can discuss.
– Fishbone analysis
– Model the Zipcar LTV and COCA with appropriate assumptions (make sure you note your assumptions in detail and provide either support from the case or some other rationale.)


Financing the business

Corporate structure
Venture capital
Employee stock options
Other means of financing

Readings for this class:
“Explanation of corporate structure and equity”, in the Files section
Zider, “How Venture Capital Works
Dotzler, “What do venture capitalists really do, and where do they learn to do it?
NVCA 2018 Yearbook (will be in the Files section once released)


Group Paper 3 due May 3


Individual Paper due May 10