Karl Ulrich Photo
Segal Seminar Series

Karl Ulrich

October 6, 2009, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center
2133 Sheridan Rd. Evanston, IL 60208

Innovation Tournaments


Extremely valuable innovations are usually based on statistically exceptional opportunities. In most settings, organizations use tournaments to find these exceptional opportunities, by which I mean they generate many candidate opportunities and develop and filter them until only the very best remain. Although the basic idea of a tournament is common in industrial practice, very little science has been brought to bear on the problem of generating more, better opportunities and on more accurately evaluating and selecting the exceptional few. In this talk I lay out the beginnings of a science of innovation tournaments, illustrating how the somewhat random process of identifying and selecting opportunities can be managed more deliberately. I then link the concept of innovation tournaments to the popular notion of "design thinking," arguing that design thinking works well for some types of problems but not others.

This event is part of the Segal Seminar Series.


Karl Ulrich is the CIBC Professor of Entrepreneurship and e-Commerce at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds an appointment as Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He is the co-author of Product Design and Development (4th Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2008), a textbook used by a quarter of a million students worldwide. His most recent book is Innovation Tournaments (Harvard Business Press, 2009). At Penn, he co-founded the Weiss Tech House and the Integrated Product Design Program, two institutions fostering innovation in the university community. In addition to his academic work, Professor Ulrich has led dozens of innovation efforts for medical devices, tools, computer peripherals, food products, web-based services, and sporting goods. As a result of this work, he holds more than 20 patents. Professor Ulrich is a founder of Terrapass Inc. which the New York Times identified as one of the most noteworthy ideas of 2005, and he is a designer of the Xootr scooter, which Business Week recently recognized as one of the 50 coolest products of the 21st Century. Professor Ulrich holds bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT.

Contact J. Edward Colgate at 847-491-4264 or colgate@northwestern.edu for further questions.