Applied Innovation in Silicon Valley

Course Description

While not a prerequisite, this course builds on ‘Software Design’ (GBUS 8632)- see details below.

While every year technology improvements make it easier to build more powerful software and systems, creating software that’s relevant to users and competitive in the marketplace is tougher than ever. By one measure, 64% of features are rarely or never used, 50-70% of IT projects fail, and 90% of new products are flop. That’s a lot of waste, expense, and missed opportunity.

Where does this problem originate and who should solve it? Hint: it’s not with the software developers, testers, or administrators. If you guessed ‘the businessperson’, you’re absolutely right. Few skills are as highly demanded in the marketplace as the ability to identify user needs and translate those into digital solutions.

The purpose of this STS is to learn first-hand, at the “gemba,” how the practice of digital innovation really works in Silicon Valley. This STS is similar to previous Darden sponsored “kaizen” and “field” courses. The difference is that this course will specialize in innovation in software development.

Takeaways include:
Structuring innovation questions
Pairing the above with innovation charters
Running product design sprints/programs
Creating agile-friendly inputs
Leading interdisciplinary collaboration (in digital)
Opportunity to receive feedback and advice from practitioners
Opportunity to consult with and observe practitioners en situ, at the ‘gemba’

The STS will take place in San Francisco, CA. (Students will make their own arrangements for travel and lodging with recommendations from the program.)

The course will build on projects from ‘Software Design’ (8632). While not a prerequisite for the STS, all students will select a project from 8632 to use as their subject in the STS.

In your introduction to the process of software design, we will use the Venture Design framework as a way to step through the elements of a best practice, disciplined execution. The primary course objectives are making sure you leave with the following capabilities:
Exploring & Testing for (Valuable) Customer Problems
Formulating Testable Propositions & Designing Experiments to Test Motivation
Formulating User Stories and Story Maps for Development
Identifying patterns and comparables for (parallel) prototyping
Structuring and executing usability testing
We’ll also close with a few additional tools to improve your engagement in ‘technical’ discussions, like the model-view-controller pattern.

Teams and Projects

While the assignments are a mix of individual and team assignments, students will work in teams of 3 (min) to 5 (max) individuals. While these will be projects that have been developed in ‘Software Design’ (GBUS 8632), the course is designed to accommodate students who are new to the topics. Preparatory readings are available in the section below.

Course Structure

Your team deliverable is an improved software design- improved relative to where it was in 8632. You will improve your deliverable through work within your team, peer reviews (from classmates outside your team), instructor review, and review and observations from the practitioners we’ll meet in Silicon Valley.

The design is composed of sketches, research, conclusions, and notes that would serve as an input into development (and will serve as such for those of you enrolled in Software Design (8633)). It is not a specification. It is not a plan. It is an input into the product’s hypothetical next step, which would be a series of discussions and iterations on the creation of working software through the work of an interdisciplinary team.

You’ll encapsulate most of your final work in the Venture Design template. The process to arrive at a quality deliverable is a combination of individual drafting, team collaboration, and field work with real, live subjects.