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Mastering Innovation: From Idea to Value Creation

Program Overview

Amazon, Buzzfeed, Netflix, and Uber are a small sampling of companies that have completely reshaped the landscape of their respective industries within a short period of time. They entered markets with new technologies or radically different approaches to doing business leading to the demise or decline of industry incumbents.

The good news is that such disruptive innovations are not random acts of nature — there is a pattern to the phenomena. From the radical innovations that shake up entire industries to the many small innovations that perfect the execution of already successful organizations, innovation can be treated as a process, one that can be managed and turned into a driver of profits and growth.

Read more about the Experience & Impact »

Mastering Innovation Program Highlights and Benefits

  • Become the catalyst for organization-wide change
  • Uncover the patterns that comprise disruptive innovation
  • Understand the competitive dynamics of technology
  • Identify future threats to ongoing growth
  • Create strategic opportunities that outpace competition
  • Construct an architecture that drives innovation across business cycles
  • Inspire a culture of innovation throughout your organization

Contact Us

Schedule a personalized consultation to discuss your professional goals:



June 10 - 14, 2018$9,750

San Francisco, CA

Download the program schedule, including session details.

Tuition does not include accommodations.

Prices are subject to change.

Mastering Innovation: From Idea to Value Creation

Featured Video

“Ideas are where innovation starts, but ideas have no value without execution. This program will show participants a process that can create a real opportunity to transform their organizational culture.”

Professor Christian Terwiesch on Mastering Innovation: From Idea to Value Creation

Still considering your options? View programs within Strategy & Innovation or use our Program Finder.

Experience & Impact

Mastering Innovation will demonstrate that innovation is a process that can be managed and perfected.

When it comes to mastering innovation, executives must:

  • Understand the competitive dynamics of technology, enabling them to identify future competitive threats and internal opportunities for growth.
  • Learn the tools and principles to actively manage the process of creating and selecting exceptional opportunities, and discover how to direct those opportunities to meet the strategic needs of the business.
  • Improve their own creative problem-solving skills and develop these skills in and throughout the organization.

First, executives have to understand how changes in technology, regulations, and consumer preferences will lead to new opportunities for incumbents and entrants alike. In Mastering Innovation, participants will learn to understand the competitive dynamics of technologies, enabling them to identify future competitive threats as well as to generate internal opportunities for growth.

Second, executives need to actively manage the process of innovation. Exceptional opportunities do not just happen, they are made. They can be created and selected through innovation tournaments, an organizational process in which many raw opportunities are considered at the outset and only the best survive selection. While most organizations use some kind of tournament logic to identify opportunities, in Mastering Innovation, participants will learn tools and principles to actively manage this process of creating and selecting exceptional opportunities and learn how to direct it to meet the strategic needs of the business.

Third, executives need to develop creative problem-solving skills. Such skills include the ability to walk in the shoes of the customers, to turn unmet customer needs into problem statements for development teams, to create and evaluate a broad set of alternative solution concepts, and to quickly validate new concepts in the market.

In Mastering Innovation, participants will not only improve their own creative problem-solving skills, but they will also learn how to develop these skills in a large organization. By developing these skills throughout the organization, more and more employees can be engaged in the process, leading to more effective innovation tournaments and building a culture of innovation.

Mastering Innovation will build strategic leadership competencies, at both the C-suite/senior executive level as well as at the team leader level, to foster a culture of innovation and spur strategic growth.

Program Format

Mastering Innovation is held in San Francisco — the heart of U.S. innovation. In addition to the in-person classroom sessions, you will get to interact outside of class with some of the most successful innovators operating in business today, and learn why their strategies succeeded when others did not.

Mastering Innovation includes two online sessions prior to your arrival on campus. These sessions will include an introduction to an innovation tournament, a hallmark of this executive program. This advanced preparation will start to build your innovative mindset and peer-to-peer learning community before you arrive in San Francisco.

Two virtual sessions will be conducted prior to the start of the program to give you insight and guidance on where to find good ideas and how best to communicate those ideas to others. These sessions are:

  • Sourcing Opportunities for Innovation
  • Visual Expression (Whiteboard 101)

In-class session topics include:

  • Technological disruption
  • Innovative business models
  • Innovation Tournaments: Creating and selecting exceptional opportunities
  • Innovation Portfolios: Linking innovation efforts to organizational strategy
  • Establishing an “Innovation Frontier”
  • Open Innovation: Engaging the external innovation ecosystem
  • Organizing for innovation, and the effective use of individuals and groups
  • Need-finding and problem definition
  • Ideation: Generating ideas and divergent thinking
  • Design thinking and its application in organizations
  • Developing a culture of innovation
  • Rapid validation of ideas and lean innovation

Innovation Tournament

An Innovation Tournament is a competition where new ideas compete with one another in numerous rounds of vetting, and only the strongest and most promising ideas make it to the final round. Like its counterpart in sports, this is a structured, multi-round competition. Based on the Darwinian principle of “Survival of the Fittest,” it systematically elicits a large number of innovation opportunities (the contestants) and selects a handful of exceptional ones (the winners). An Innovation Tournament can generate some remarkable innovation opportunities.

Participants in Mastering Innovation will participate in an Innovation Tournament as part of the program. A few weeks before the program starts the learning begins with virtual sessions which prepare you for this exercise. Participants will then submit their three innovative business ideas. These ideas will be reviewed and voted on by fellow participants. When you arrive in San Francisco, you will find out which one of your ideas received the most interest from your fellow participants, and this will be the idea that you work on during the week-long program. By the end of the program, participants will have the necessary skills and tools to design and implement a tournament for their own organizations.

Participant Profile

Participants by Industry

Mastering Innovation From Idea to Value Creation

Participants by Job Function

Mastering Innovation participants by job function 

Participants by Region

Who Should Attend

The ideal participant is an executive who is responsible for leading innovation, regardless of these efforts being internal (improving business processes) or external (developing new products, services, and lines of business). Beyond those who have innovation in their job title, executives who are responsible for driving top-line growth, managing portfolios, or tasked with creating new business models will also benefit.

Potential job titles and roles include:

  • Director, senior director, vice president in large corporations
  • CEO, president, senior vice president, general manager in mid-size enterprises
  • Founders or CEOs of rapidly growing, successful entrepreneurial ventures

The program’s content is relevant across industries. Executives in the following industries will find the program’s content particularly valuable:

  • Financial services
  • Pharmaceuticals and health care
  • Manufacturing and consumer products

Group Enrollment

To further leverage the value and impact of this program, we encourage companies to send cross-functional teams of executives to Wharton. We offer group enrollment benefits to companies sending four or more participants.

Plan Your Stay »


Christian Terwiesch, PhD   See Faculty Bio

Academic Director

Andrew M. Heller Professor at the Wharton School; Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions; Professor of Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine; Co-Director, Mack Institute of Innovation Management

Research Interests: Analyzing operational performance, innovation management, R&D management

Karl Ulrich, ScD   See Faculty Bio

Academic Director

CIBC Endowed Professor; Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions; Professor of Management; Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Research Interests: Environmental issues, product design and development, innovation


Even though my company competes in a sector that behaves more traditionally, this does not prevent us from innovating in how we manage our people, operate, and go to market. Innovation isn’t a niche topic for a few industries only. My company is a 40-year-old global manufacturer of insulation products and solutions. We are moving away from commodity thinking to down-channel selling — we want to use the digital challenge to our favor, and become as customer-centric as possible in our industry.

My functional area of responsibility is broad, which gives me the opportunity to influence many areas. However, if you don’t have a fundamental understanding of how innovation works and how to get others to think towards a goal or even to accelerate the process of thinking towards a goal, then you don’t get as much done. In a role like mine, I need everyone else to generate the great ideas. That is why I think a lot about how I can help set the framework to produce innovative ideas from the bottom up in the organization. I wanted to learn how to anticipate market needs and grow my organization's capacity to innovate, so we can improve top-line and bottom-line performance while building sustainable advantage.

Agile organizations, design thinking, innovation culture — concepts Wharton addressed around those topics made the biggest impression on me. I am pretty process-driven myself, so I could connect easily to the idea of seeing innovation as a process to be managed in the style of a tournament. But this will bring you only half way. Without an organization that is open to ideas, trying non-perfect solutions and accepting failure as part of the journey to success, we won’t arrive at our intended destination. Moving forward, I plan to incorporate the design thinking, innovation governance models and piloting of minimum viable products into the governance of our activities. One of the biggest learnings I had in class was that it is necessary to move away from perfection. Ideas can really change their shape pretty significantly over time for them to be successful.

I am planning to share my Wharton experience with our senior team as my company expands its executive education programming next year. I also hope to return to Wharton for future programs. The quality of Wharton’s teaching and the participant discussions were compelling.”

This is my second time attending a Wharton program on the West Coast, and I found it very valuable. The faculty has done extensive research on innovation and has worked as consultants with many companies. They shared new and better ways of doing innovation and showed how innovation strategy is very different when introducing new products versus introducing services. The instructors really involved the participants in the class — people working in pharma, services, investment and the financial sector — helping us determine how to implement different methodologies into our companies. They told us that we need to look for innovation from our own employees.

Since returning from Wharton, I have a much more complete way of thinking about innovation, particularly about disruption — how to take that quantum leap to differentiate yourself in the market. I now have the tools to evaluate the competition and disrupt the market so our airline partners can grow the number of frequent flyer members.”

Oftentimes people toss up the concept of innovation with no real understanding of what it truly is, how it’s done, or how to define success that comes out of innovation, so the scope of this class was very timely. Working in the biopharmaceutical industry, we are highly regulated. Everyone is looking to uncover innovation but we obviously face a lot of limitations on how we innovate. However, the flip side is that it’s very much possible with the right rigor and the skill sets I learned at Wharton. For me, the most valuable part of this class was the concept of the innovation tournament and developing a consistent approach for fostering innovation that allows for the best idea creation to take the lead and to get the right energy and resources behind it.

Wharton’s class discouraged brainstorming in favor of letting people individually collect new ideas, and putting those ideas through a filter to ensure that they address an actual need. I applied this innovation model to business reviews with my team as we were looking at ways we could be impactful to our business — in fact, we are implementing a regional innovation tournament to look at our 2018 business. As the overall health care landscape changes and our customers take on various amounts of risk, the innovation tournament will allow my team to think about [questions like], ‘How do we partner with different entities that will allow us to provide a better partnership?’ We want to bring value beyond just dollars and this is where innovation comes in.

I have recommended this program to colleagues. I’ve worn several different hats in the company, from sales and marketing leadership to the managed care leadership side, and I believe the concept of innovation applies across all areas of the business. My plan is to return to Wharton in 2018 for another professional development class — eventually my goal is to complete Wharton’s Certificate of Professional Development.”

As an entrepreneur involved with several companies, I have incorporated multiple learnings from Wharton’s Mastering Innovation class in my companies. As CFO for Code Green, a leading sustainability consulting company, I have implemented an annual innovation tournament in our 2018 Corporate Plan that will enable all 35 of our employees, from our most junior staff to senior leaders, to further expand their contributions. That’s powerful! We have some tremendous engineers and sustainability experts and are excited to see what kind of breakthroughs they come up with.

Wharton’s Mastering Innovation teachings are also relevant to a portfolio company, that I co-founded named Better Spaces. Better Spaces works with commercial real estate owners and operators to create scale and community, while reducing carbon footprint and bringing new amenities and programming to create a healthy, inspired, sustainable workplace.

Having access to faculty such as Karl Ulrich and Christian Terwiesch has been phenomenal. I equate it to having a one-week boot camp with the top finance and innovation minds in the world. The depth of knowledge in Wharton’s faculty is both humbling and inspiring.

This class and the Wharton program are ideal for leaders looking to enhance their innovation skills and implement impactful frameworks in their home organizations. The processes and platforms Wharton teaches can be leveraged across multiple industries and are highly relevant to the sustainability work I do.

This was my first course at Wharton and it was exceptional. I was recently accepted into Wharton’s General Management Program and am excited to be taking five additional courses over the next two years to complete the program.”

I run a wealth management practice at Morgan Stanley and many of our clients are officers, directors and 10% shareholders — significant high net-worth individuals who are very good at what they do, but they simply may not have the time or inclination to manage their overall financial affairs. I am in the epicenter of innovation and to learn some of the skill sets that Wharton provided through this session sounded very intriguing. My biggest challenge is making sure that we are constantly innovating within the firm to stay ahead of the technology curve and to the opportunities that present themselves.

This program helped me address how to better innovate within my team dynamic so that we can be more productive. As an example, when you have a problem, you get people in a room to throw out ideas on how to solve the problem. The professor shared how that wasn’t necessarily the best path to get the result you’re looking for. The strategy that he found to be more appropriate would be to get everyone together and tell them what the problem is, and then everyone disperses and works on their own or in a small group, where they can vet out their ideas and then everyone gets back together, and talks collectively about those detailed, finely tuned ideas.

The professor illustrated the point, saying if you were trying to find a needle in a huge grass field, you could either be a rugby scrum and work collectively looking at one blade of grass at a time, or you could spread everybody out one foot away from each other and walk collectively over the entire field. That resonated with me. Now when we do our investment subcommittee meetings, instead of talking out loud in a group forum, we speak of the issue and then we break up into smaller groups and go over our findings and that’s been a huge win for the business compared to what we did before. It’s already resulted in a higher level of efficiency and proficiency. We’ve had the ability to tackle larger issues in a timelier manner just by implementing some of these tools.

As part of Wharton’s General Management Program, I found this class ideal for someone in management who needs to delegate, and who is trying to be as efficient with their time as possible.”

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