Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations

Improve your ability to manage creativity and to lead an innovation strategy in businesses, schools, hospitals, governments, and other complex organizations and institutions, by diagnosing likely innovation failures before they occur.

About The Course

This course is intended to help you improve your ability to manage creativity, innovation and change in business, education, healthcare, government, and in any other complex organization or institution by diagnosing potential innovation failures before they can occur. Using an “innovation constraints” framework that draws on modern social science research and on insights from business practice, participants will learn how to best manage people (be they co-workers, bosses, customers, clients, friends or any other stakeholders) when innovation is the goal.  While we see several examples of technological innovation, we are not focused on the management of technology.  Instead, we focus on something much more powerful:  understanding and managing the people engaged in creation, innovation and positive change, regardless of the context.

The course is designed to help you answer the following types of questions:

  • What are the conditions for successful innovation?
  • What causes innovation to fail?
  • What makes creative people creative?
  • How should I manage an innovative team?
  • How do I lead an effective brainstorm process?
  • What is an innovation portfolio and how can I manage one?
  • Why do so many great ideas get killed?

The approach in this class will be to treat innovation as the process of generating, assessing, and then implementing useful and valuable ideas.  As we will discuss, generating ideas is relatively easy; what can be hard is getting those ideas listened to, accepted, and implemented in organizations.  In addition to learning how to lead creative people and creative teams, participants will also learn techniques for improving their own creativity.  During the course you will engage numerous activities and exercises intended to bring current habits of thought and behavior to the surface for examination and change.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • Can you really teach people how to be creative and innovative?
    This course does not try teach people how to be creative.  Rather, it teaches us how to stop stopping it.  If we can do that, a person's natural creativity will easily bloom.
  • What are the readings for the course and where are they available?
    Freely available readings will be assigned for each course session.  I also recommend that students purchase the book "Creative People Must Be Stopped!" which was written specifically for this course.
  • What are the course requirements and deliverables?
    • See next question.
  • Will I get a certificate for completing the class?
    The short answer is yes.  Read on for the long answer:

    In recognition that all participants will not have the same goals or time to invest, the course is offered at three levels of engagement.  Each level will receive a different acknowledgement for completing the course.  See the course syllabus for details.  Also see "Course Format" section above for overview.

  • What is the format of the class?
    The class will consist of lecture videos, assigned readings, and exercises.  There will also be individual assignments and team assignments for those taking the advanced levels of the course

  • How do the teams work (given that this is an online class)?
    For those taking the Studio Mastery track, participants will need to work in teams of two-to-five persons to complete the course project assignment.  You are strongly encouraged to recruit other local participants to take the course if only to populate your project team.

  • What if I don't have a team?  How can I find a team to join?
    If you cannot find someone to take the course with you, you can post to the class website in order to recruit other team members.  However, you will not be able to start on the assigned group exercises and project deliverables until you have formed and registered your team.

  • Do I need to watch the lectures live?
    No. You can watch the lectures at your own convenience.

  • How much does it cost to take the course?
    The course is free.  When assigned, readings will be available through links on the internet.  See above for information on the recommended (but not required) textbook.

  • How can I learn more about the course?
    This course is based on the popular Innovation Strategy class at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.   To get a sense of how the course works, please check out the IdeaScale Site we use for managing ideas and projects, and the recommended textbook that was written for the course.   Finally, this animated video describes the basic intellectual framework of the course.

Recommended Background

Ideally, participants will have had experience working in an organization.  Management experience is a plus, but is not required.