Innovation as a process

In an informative new book, two Wharton professors look at innovation from a process management perspective.

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In the popular imagination, innovation is often associated with creative inspiration that can neither be predicted nor planned. So what happens when two professors of operations and information management (who have also developed products and launched companies) tackle the topic of innovation?

An informative new book, Innovation Tournaments: Creating and Selecting Exceptional Opportunities, is the result. In it, Christian Terwiesch and Karl T. Ulrich, professors at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, look at innovation process — in other words, a process management approach to innovation.

In particular, Terwiesch and Ulrich focus on “innovation tournaments” as a tool that companies can use to identify promising ideas for innovation, which they term “opportunities.” Much as the American Idol television show is able to use a tournamentlike approach to identify a small number of promising performers from thousands of would-be contestants, companies can use tournaments, Terwiesch and Ulrich argue, to identify new opportunities for their businesses. Ideas may be sought from employees, from people outside the organization, or from a combination of internal and external sources.

You can read more of this book review of Innovation Tournaments in the


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My venture, (, a Philadelphia dentist and doctor appointment booking website, placed first in Professor Karl Ulrich's Wharton West San Francisco web design tournament in January.  He uses a web program called the Darwinator to let Wharton students crowd-source the best ideas.  My co-founder and I found the innovation tournament tremendously valuable in honing our concept during the multiple week tourney and quickly building our business. 

- Vicente C. de Baca, Wharton MBA '09