Experimentation Matters - Unlocking the Potential of New Technologies for Innovation



Book Author: Stefan H. Thomke

Book Review by : Vivek Gupta
Faculty Member, ICMR (IBS Center for Management Research)


experiment, Elli Lily, BMW, Microsoft, idea generation, concept testing, experimentation, market testing, product, NHSTA, National Highway Safety Traffic Administration

Abstract: Computer based simulations & modeling and field programmable technology has significantly improved the experimentation process. The combination of technology with the right experimentation process has enabled various companies in providing world-class products. There are several examples of product innovations in the automotive, pharmaceutical and software industry, all due to new technologies and the spirit of experimentation of companies.


About the Author: Stefan H. Thomke is an associate professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School, where he has been a faculty member since 1995. His research and writing focus on the management of technological innovation, product development and experimentation strategies. Thomke has authored or co-authored more than three dozen academic papers, articles, cases and notes, which have been published in leading journals such as the California Management Review, Harvard Business Review, Journal of Product Innovation Management Science, Research Policy, Scientific American, and Strategic Management Journal. Thomke holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Book Snapshot

The book discusses the various new technologies that have shaped the experimentation process in today's economy. It explains why experimentation matters and the key technology drivers that have contributed to these experimentations. The book describes the learning curve that various companies like Elli Lily, BMW and Microsoft have undergone during their experimentation process. It also describes about the strategies of how today's managers should deal with the experimentation which must lead to innovation.


Any product development exercise goes through a series of processes starting from idea generation, concept testing, experimentation and then finally the market testing of the product. Any product before reaching to the final consumers goes through a number of experiments and each experiment makes the product more productive and effective with the implementation of the lessons learnt from the last experiment.

Experimentation is one of the most important part of the product development process that leads to innovation. Though experimentation is an integral part of innovation, every experimentation process may not lead to innovation. This depends upon the scope of the experimentation. The old experimentation process, which involved intensive paper work, developing and testing of hypothesis, has changed significantly with the introduction of new technologies. Simulation computer modeling and combinatorial technologies have made the experimentation process simple and has provided a wide scope to the companies to have more and more experimentation in different dimensions. Today, most of the companies do experimentation virtually. Let us go through some of the points, which form the basis of experimentation in today's economy and deal with issues including technology advancement and how organizations are encoding experimentation to their core business processes.

The Technology Affect

The marginal cost of experimentation has come down drastically with the use of advanced technologies. Let us briefly understand these technologies and how companies are using them for their advantage:

Computer Simulation and Modeling: The first prototype computer in 1945 and Monte Carlo methods for numerical simulations are the basis for computer based simulations and modeling. Growth and technological advancement in the semiconductor industry has also made simulation techniques quick. Sequencing analysis of the human genome, design of modern airplanes and automobiles to understand the flow of fluid has been made possible through the computer based simulation and modeling. Following are the major changes brought by this technology:

* Ability to experiment fast at less cost: Imagine how much money it will involve for an organization to go for crash simulation if they do not have the facility for computer based simulation.

* Opportunity to learn more: More experimentation leads to more knowledge and where there is a huge knowledge base there are better chances of coming up with innovative products.

* Ability to produce effective results: Companies are able to produce better results due to the help of this technology, satisfying more customers with their products. This has resulted in improved brand value for the organization and better image among the customers.

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