Michael Schrage

Research Fellow, MIT Center for Digital Business, MIT Sloan School of Management | Visiting Fellow, Imperial College Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
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Michael Schrage is one of the world’s most provocative thought leaders on innovation.

He has redefined how we think about innovation by focusing on customer acceptance of new products and services as an integral part of the innovation process. He also has pioneered techniques for using rapid prototyping, simulations and modeling to improve return on innovation investment.

His latest book, The Innovator’s Hypothesis, looks at how to develop innovation in a quick, cost-effective way. “Innovation vacations” and the like are all very well for companies with money to burn and time to waste, but most organizations need maximum value from their innovation investments. One solution Michael offers is the 5X5 framework: giving diverse teams of five people up to five days to come up with portfolios of five business experiments costing no more than $5,000 each and taking no longer than five weeks to run. From financial services and pharmaceuticals to customer service, Michael’s 5X5 model is transforming businesses around the world. It's enterprise innovation gone viral.

His previous book, Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? (an HBR Single ebook), is a management bestseller on Amazon.

Michael’s earlier books include the celebrated Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate, which focuses on rapid experimentation and prototyping, speedy simulation and digital design, and Shared Minds: The New Technologies of Collaboration, the first book to explore specifically how collaboration is the key to successful innovation.

A research fellow at the MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, Michael is a columnist for Harvard Business Review, Fortune, CIO Magazine and MIT’s Technology Review, and is widely published in the business press. He is a regular contributor to The Conference Board Review.

Michael is a senior advisor to MIT’s Security Studies Program and consults to the U.S. government on national security systems innovation.

Michael is a powerful speaker with a very direct and engaging style.


  • Research Fellow, Center for Digital Business, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Visiting Fellow, Imperial College Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Senior advisor, MIT’s Security Studies Program
  • Columnist for Harvard Business Review
  • Regular contributor, The Conference Board Review
  • Op-Ed contributor on national security and public policy, The Washington Post
  • Top-rated Lecturer at MIT Executive Education Programs
  • Contributor, CIO Magazine, MIT’s Technology Review, The Los Angeles Times and ComputerWorld
  • Former Merrill Lynch Forum Innovation Fellow
  • Recipient, Doblin Prize, "The Culture(s) of Prototyping"
  • Former director, Ticketmaster
  • Patent pending for "Telepons," a networked, point-of-sale paperless coupon


Sustainable, Cost-Effective Innovation

The goal of this two-day workshop is to give attendees the tools, ideas and insights essential to promoting sustainable and cost-effective innovation throughout their organization. Attendees will come away with a new awareness of how they can productively define, design and invest in innovation. The workshop achieves this goal by focusing on the ’economics of innovation’ — that is, the essential ingredients of cost, benefit, supply, demand and risks that shape a firm’s ’innovation marketplace.’ The key to understanding a firm’s ’innovation economics’ is to understand how firms use—or abuse and misuse—models, prototypes and simulations to manage innovation and risk. How firms ’invest and test’ their models, proto- types and simulations overwhelmingly determines the value they and their customers get from innovation. Drawing on examples, case studies and vignettes from a wide range of organizations, participants will be able to pragmatically assess real-world implementation challenges associated with cost-effective modeling, prototyping and virtual experimentation. The selected examples are based on research from Michael Schrage’s best-selling Harvard Business School Press book Serious Play, his ongoing MIT research and his advisory work. The core ’innovation economics’ principles they articulate apply across industries, across cultures (both corporate and national) and across enterprises regardless of size and scope.

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Innovation Is the Secret to Bringing Good Old Things Some New Life

There is a widespread theory that all dazzling innovations end their days as commodities, products that anyone can make and that are bought only according to their price. Columbia Business School’s Bruce Greenwald once expressed this view with the quip, “In the long run, everything is a toaster.” MIT Media Lab researcher Michael Schrage finds that innovation has a continued role, even in such staid objects as toasters and vacuum cleaners. High-tech companies who panic about the day when everyone can make their latest futuristic doodad at a low price should take note: Ignoring innovation and focusing on cutting prices can be fatal. The evolution of the toaster shows that the appliance is in fact “an unlikely symbol of sustainable innovation,” Mr. Schrage explains. Since the first commercially successful toaster was made by General Electric Co. in 1909, improvements have arrived regularly: bread grilled on both sides (1919); automated toasters (1940s); toaster ovens (1950s); and digital toasters (1990s). He criticizes Hoover Co. for focusing on making its vacuum cleaners cheaper, when there were innovations still to be had — observe the success of Dyson’s expensive and pleasingly bagless vacuums. Price wars for products don’t necessarily mean that innovation has reached its limit; but the low prices could be a signal that more advances are needed. Even actual commodities, Mr. Schrage notes, are subject to developments: Look what Starbucks Corp. managed to do with coffee.

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Innovation for New Value Creation

The omnichannel challenge, the rise of Big Data and a 'new normal' of tepid economic growth are forcing serious retailers to revisit and revise their most fundamental assumptions around their business models. Managing opportunity amidst uncertainty has become as much a cultural issue as a technical and organizational challenge. Deciding how best to align brand value with a novel but sustainable shopper experience has assumed a renewed strategic urgency. This keynote talk will explore the role of segmentation, experimentation, socialization and skill-ification as key (re) design principles for retailers seeking lower-cost, higher impact approaches to creating better experiences for shoppers and associates alike. The talk's goal is to push retail marketers and their colleagues to take better, smarter and faster 'innovation risks' for new value creation.

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MIT's Michael Schrage on Rethinking Finance Systems in the New Corporate Lifecycle
Michael Schrage


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AI Is Helping Companies Redefine, Not Just Improve, Performance
MIT Sloan Management Review


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