In the Pennsylvania Gazette: Method Inventor
With an innovation portfolio that ranges from medical devices to folding bicycles to social-impact enterprises to junk food, Wharton professor Karl Ulrich has every justification to bask in entrepreneurial mystique. Only that’s exactly what he sets out to demolish in the classroom.
By Trey Popp
" ... Ulrich puts a great deal of emphasis on simply defining the problem. Consider the example I encountered (along with untold thousands of other virtual students) in his Coursera class, for which he proposed to design a better ice cream scoop. Only “design a better ice cream scoop” was in fact an example of how not to define a problem. Better to start with a more specific statement, like, “How do we create a better handheld tool for forming balls of ice-cream from a bulk container?”
From there, he teaches a method called “The Five Whys,” in which would-be entrepreneurs channel their inner four-year-olds to ask, over and over again: Why? As the exercise played out on Coursera, he found his way from “We want to provide convenient access to tasty desserts at home,” to “We’d like to enjoy meals at home more often,” to “We want to build family togetherness.” Then he narrowed down his specifications for a tool capable of accomplishing this, rejecting “improve ergonomics” in favor of “find a better way to transmit axial force from the user’s arms to a tool.” ... '