New course in innovation offered;
taught by executive-in-residence

A new course in innovation available to MBA students will be taught by executive-in-residence Michael Bills, former managing partner of the U.S. studios at Fitch, an international design and consulting firm.

Offered Winter Quarter 2009, the elective course will help students develop skills and understand methods in innovation processes and how they are applied in business and commercial strategy. Students will learn to differentiate innovation from traditional research and development operations. The course will also delve into the creative process and examine emerging trends in the development of new and existing products, services and brands.

“Michael Bills is a thought leader in consumer strategy and product development,” said Karen Hopper Wruck, associate dean for MBA programs. “He brings to Fisher a passion for his work and his class will be an exciting, dynamic experience for students.”

As an executive at Fitch, Bills worked as a consultant on brand, marketing and innovation for companies such as Starbucks, Nestle, BP, P&G, Coca-Cola, Tommy Hilfiger and Universal Studios. He was president of Retail Planning Associates before the company was acquired in 2004 by WPP and Fitch. Prior to retiring from the company, he managed Fitch’s eight studios in North America and a team of 235 associates.

The Marketing and Logistics course, Innovation Practice, Theory, Process and Application (BUS 894.81), is designed to be highly interactive and discussion oriented. Students will engage in a team project as well as individual assignments. Reading materials and assignments draw on multiple disciplines.

“Innovation is radically different from research and development traditionally used by companies to create new products,” Bills said. “With the R&D approach, companies look at their core competencies and create new products based on that. Innovation looks at the consumer as the basis for development. It looks outside the organization. Innovation uses different skills sets; it involves both left and right brain approaches.”

"We have a number of exciting guest lecturers from P&G, Herman Miller, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and Resource Interactive and really interesting cases and articles assessing innovation challenges faced by companies like Google, Motorola (Red), Apple and famed chef Ferran Adria," Bills said.

In addition to teaching, Bills will be leading a research project on innovation with the help of MBA student Amy Litzinger, marketing and other key faculty with an interest in innovation. The study will examine innovation curriculum at the top 30 business schools and its evolution as an emerging field of study. The research will be conducted through a quantitative survey and interviews with business leaders, consultants, scholars and students. Bills said he will also report on innovation’s role in new product and business development.

“Leading edge companies in reaction to disruptive and seismic shifts in the marketplace are increasingly investing in innovation processes to ensure their businesses on-going viability,” Bills said. “This ever evolving effort to differentiate their products, services and brand perception is a relatively new approach. Innovation is radically different from traditional silo structures and linear work of research and development and product delivery processes historically found in most organizations. Innovation employs multidisciplinary collaboration.”

Second-year MBA students may sign up for the course. The class will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 -10:18 a.m.

For more information about the research or the online survey regarding innovation, contact Amy Litzinger or Bills.