Thomke and Kreick

Speak to Students at SDM Summer Business Trip

By Monica Nakamine
July 26, 2002

A number of distinguished speakers highlighted the SDM Summer Business Trip, which was from July 8-12, 2002. Among them were Stefan Thomke, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School and authority on management of technology and product innovation; and Dr. John Kreick, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass.

Thomke kicked off the Business Trip with a presentation on "Enlightened Experimentation," which is also the main title of his article in the Harvard Business Review (February 2001). In his discussion, Thomke described how new technologies can provide companies with ways to raise their level of innovation by changing the way they think.

"New technologies are making it easier than ever to conduct complex experiments quickly and cheaply," said Thomke, who received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Management at MIT and is a Sloan alum. "Managers now have the opportunity to take innovation to a new level if they are willing to rethink processes, organization, and management from the ground up."

Thomke, revealed a few rules of enlightened experimentation:

  • Organize for rapid experimentation;
  • Anticipate and exploit early information; and
  • Fail early and often, but avoid mistakes

…and provided some historical examples of experimentation technologies:

  • Three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Computer simulation (functional and system level)
  • Combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening
  • Rapid prototyping (3-D printing, stereolithography)

"Professor Thomke is a very dynamic speaker who engages the audience, even at points when it is not truly interactive," said Scott Ahlman, SDM ’01. "I believe that the most valuable point was with regard to the use of computer-aided engineering in experimentation and its ability to help significantly improve design through better understanding of counterintuitive dynamics and resultant solutions."

Kreick, aside from his affiliation with the Draper Laboratory, is also a former president of BAE Systems (formerly called Sanders) and officer of Lockheed Martin Corporation. In his presentation on "Lessons on Program Management," Kreick said that program management is a method that can allow individuals to successfully execute program contracts to produce end-item deliverables that meet or exceed performance requirements.

Kreick also discussed attributes that make for program management success:

  • Common sense
  • Aggressiveness
  • Analytical ability
  • Resourcefulness/creativity
  • Planning ability
  • Decisiveness
  • Dedication to closure/results
  • Business sense
  • Interpersonal/leadership skills

Other highlights of the Business Trip included a workshop on corporate bankruptcy with Professor Larry Weiss, a plant tour at Raytheon, a sunset cruise on the Charles River, LFM-SDM softball game, and a seminar on virtual collaboration with Professor Janice Klein. Overall, the students learned a lot, and had a lot of fun!

"I thought the Business Trip was one of our best yet with regards to strong speakers like Professor Thomke and Dr. Kreick, as well as a good balance between scheduled events, coursework, and free time," said Ahlman. "The social events with our families as a group was also a highlight."