15.356 | Spring 2004 | Graduate

How to Develop "Breakthrough" Products and Services


Paper Assignment

For each paper:

  1. Choose a topic covered in this class that especially interests you.
  2. Briefly explain topic at start of paper 
    Devote 1-2 pages to this. No extra reading needed here: derive from class lectures and discussions, assigned readings and other sources of information that you may already have.
  3. Expand the topic in the direction of your interest
    State and summarize where you are going with the topic and then go to it! Devote remainder of paper to this. Fine to draw in your personal experience and views in addition to findings from extra reading on the topic.


  1. Topic: “Brainstorming” as a concept generation method.

  2. Brief Explanation of Topic: 
    Here is how brainstorming was described in class readings and lectures. Here is how it is thought to work, and what its advantages and disadvantages are thought to be (1-2 pages).

  3. Expansion of Topic in Your Direction of Interest: 
    Brainstorming is based on analogical thinking. I want to explore what kinds of innovations analogical thinking is likely to reveal. Can it reveal/invent any kind of innovation - or are their limitations? 

    Here are my ideas. 

    Next, here is what some studies of problem-solving say about analogical thinking. 

    Finally, here are the conclusions I draw with respect to the characteristics of brainstorming as a method for generating concepts for radical new products and services.

One Paper or Two Smaller Ones?

Students can turn in a final, fifteen-page (space and one-half, please) paper at the last class. Or, they can turn in two seven-page papers at the final class. If students would like early feedback, they can also turn in one short paper at the midpoint of the class. These deadlines are summarized in the table below.

1 Who Develops Breakthrough New Products and Services - Users or Manufacturers?  
2 Systematic Generation of Ideas for “Breakthrough” New Products and Services - the “Lead User Method”  
3 Finding out What Users Really Need: The “Sticky Information” and “Learning by Doing” Problems  
4 Systematic Generation of Incremental Improvements to Existing Products and Services 
Traditional Marketing Research Concept Generation Techniques
5 “Brainstorming” and Creativity Training Techniques 
Lecturer: Jeff Mauzy, Principal, Synectics, Inc. Cambridge, MA
6 The MIT Media Lab Approach: “Build It and They Will Come.” 
Lecturer: Joe Paradiso, MIT Media Lab
If a student wants early feedback, first seven-page paper due at this class
7 Determining Average Users’ Needs Ethnographically and then Developing Solutions 
Lecturer: Dr. Harry West, VP, Design Continuum
8 Why Users Share Innovations with each other and with Manufacturers: Informal Know-How Trading, Collective Invention and Voluntary Revealing  
9 Toolkits for User Innovation 
Lecturer: John Wright, International Flavors and Fragrances
10 User Innovation Communities - No Manufacturer Required  
11 Resistance to Adopting Radically New Innovations - Even in Firms that “Want To” Second seven-page paper (or 15-page paper) due at this class

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2004
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments