I’m about half-way through the course offered by David A. Owens, Professor of the Practice of Management and Innovation at Vanderbilt’s Graduate School of Management, where he directs the Executive Development Institute. I’m enjoying the course, partly because I’m highly interested in innovation and how it happens, but also because Owens delivers the course well. He’s comfortable in front of the camera, and the approach he takes to analyzing innovation is somewhat innovative itself. As opposed to digging into what makes innovation work, the course is entirely framed from within the perspective of what gets in the way of innovation. The framework itself is very logical and easy to follow, and Owens breaks down innovation constraints into a number of logical categories, such as individual, group, organizational, industry/market, societal, and technological constraints. Each week he reviews one of these areas, using examples from industry, and proffering means to overcome the constraints that are typical in these categories.
Though it’s a minor detail, the way he places himself in the weekly videos stood out for me. Of the 8 or 10 courses I’ve looked at, he’s the only person to record himself standing and show his entire body as though he’s standing next to the slides and images he presents. It was nice to see a different approach, and it works well because it allows him to use lots of body language which livens up the presentation. He also enlisted an illustrator to create cartoon-ish sketches that appear throughout each lecture. Again, something that seems like a small touch, but as someone who has seen a ton of online course video, it’s something that I think increases engagement, and that will be vital to creating some separation among professors and courses that are offered on platforms like Coursera. I’m not sure when the course will be offered again, but I’d recommend it as an interesting overview of the challenges associated with innovation.