Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


This course provides you with a framework to understand the structure and dynamics of high-tech businesses, together with an approach for their effective strategic management. It is focused on domains in which systems are important, because either or both products are parts of larger and more complex systems, or they are comprised of systems.

The domains that will be covered include computing, communications (in particular the mobile and IP domains), consumer electronics, industrial networking, automotive, aerospace and medical devices. The course will be of particular interest to those interested in managing a business in which technology will likely play a major role, and also to those interested in investing in or providing counsel to these businesses.

The emphasis throughout is on the development and application of ways of thinking or mental models that bring clarity to the complex co-evolution of technological innovation, the demand opportunity, systems architecture, business ecosystems, and decision-making and execution within the business.

This involves the acquisition and application of a set of powerful analytical tools that are critical for the effective development of business strategy for high-tech and systems business, and for technology strategy as a key element within business strategy. These tools provide insights when anticipating and deciding how to respond to the behavior of customers, complementors and competitors, and when deciding which technologies to invest in, opportunities to target or partnerships to pursue. The objective of the program is to improve (significantly) the odds of success when figuring out how to create and capture value, make difficult decisions and develop and deliver technologies, platforms and products.

The course uses case studies and presentations, and also relies upon independent research by participants. The case studies provide an extensive opportunity to integrate and apply these tools and theories in a practical, business policy context. The readings support the case study and provide a strong theoretical framework to support the practical analysis of real-world cases.

Class Preparation

This is not an easy course, because this is not an easy subject, and its objective is to provide a complete introduction to and overview of this complex, dynamic and uncertain area.

It is critical that you both read and review the case studies and the readings before class. You cannot participate effectively without being familiar with the case material, and having taken the time to develop your own insights. The readings are essential to enable you to make sense of the case studies as we develop the body of knowledge both inductively and deductively.

The grades for class participation will be awarded on the basis of the quality of the contribution, not the quantity. You should not feel compelled to speak up in every class. We will, however, seek to ensure that everyone participates, by calling on you at our discretion if you have not spoken up, so it behooves you to participate when you do think you have something interesting to say. Interesting questions, in a spirit of inquiry, count as much as interesting answers.

As both a matter of courtesy and to ensure that you derive the full benefit from the class, please observe the following guidelines, all of which will be taken into consideration as criteria in evaluating your class participation grade:

  • prepare properly
  • arrive on time
  • turn off your cellphone
  • do not use your laptop
  • do not leave early


Grades will be determined by a combination of individual class participation, by four short individual papers, and by a longer final paper and accompanying summary presentation, which must be done in project teams of three to five people.

Class participation 30%
4 short papers 30%
Final paper and summary presentation 40%

Short Papers

During the first part of the course I will ask you to write four short papers that apply ways of thinking and mental models developed during the previous weeks to a technology domain (a specified sphere or activity or knowledge) of your choice. All of these papers should be about the same domain; you should consult with me or one of the TA’s if you find this difficult or impossible. Although you will likely find it helpful to pick your domain and do much of your research early, you will benefit from waiting for the summary lecture on the topic before finalizing your draft, and in each case will have at least a week to submit the paper after this lecture.


Group work is not just acceptable but very actively encouraged. I strongly recommend that you form a study group with a few friends who can meet to discuss the cases and readings before each class. Our experience suggests that this will significantly increase both your enjoyment of the course and the amount that you find yourself learning.

Project Teams

You must form teams of between three and five people for the final project no later than Lec #9. This gives you at least eight (8) weeks in which to complete your project work. Each project team will focus on a particular domain and a business within that domain. The fourth class is set aside to give everyone who wishes to an opportunity to pitch a proposal for a domain and a business within that domain as the focus of a project team. This allows three weeks for you to form project teams. You are responsible for forming yourselves into project teams, and this is why we have set aside a session to facilitate this.

Final Paper and Presentation

The final paper and presentation must be completed in your project teams. They are both due for submission by 9:00 am on Lec #24.

Whereas the short papers are essentially descriptive, the final paper is prescriptive in nature. It should focus on a specific business within the domain that your group has chosen, and set out what you believe the strategy of that business should be. The analysis should cover technological innovation, the demand opportunity, life cycles and transitions, the relevant system architecture and business ecosystems.

Your recommendations on strategy should cover creating and capturing value, key decisions and delivering value. It should also include the supporting analysis and rationale for your recommendations, applying the ways of thinking and mental models developed in the class.

You should also prepare a short presentation of up to 9 minutes duration, comprising an absolute maximum of 15 slides that provides a summary of your recommendations and the rationale for them. Each team will present their recommendations in the final two classes, Lec #24-25.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2009
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments