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Bill Lovejoy
  Bill Lovejoy

Bill Lovejoy Recognized for Creativity, Originality Among U-M Faculty

4/29/2009 --

Ross professor honored for his Integrated Product Development course.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.— Ross professor Bill Lovejoy recently was selected as one of five winners of the University’s Teaching Innovation Prize. This is the first year the campus-wide prize has been awarded. It is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and the University Library to honor the most original approaches to teaching and creativity in the classroom.

Lovejoy, the Raymond T. Perring Family Professor of Business Administration and professor of operations and management science, was cited for his achievements with the Integrated Product Development (IPD) course. He shares the prize with IPD collaborator Shaun Jackson, professor of art and design in the School of Art & Design, and professor of architecture in the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning. Lovejoy and Jackson were selected from a pool of 103 faculty nominees representing 17 schools and colleges at the University. Winners were selected by a panel of Arthur F. Thurnau professors.

The cross-disciplinary IPD course is offered by Ross, the College of Engineering, and the School of Art & Design, and is hosted by the Tauber Institute for Global Operations. For the duration of the course, student teams from each of the three areas of the University collaborate to research, design, manufacture, price, and market a prototype of a fully functional, customer-ready product. At the end of the course IPD teams pit their products against one another in an online and campus trade show. Consumers vote on the viability and practicality of each product and campaign.

"The class requires three different worldviews to converge into one effort," Lovejoy says. "The engineers couldn't do it alone, the designers couldn't do it alone, and the business students couldn't do it alone. Interdisciplinary classes are talked about, but this class brings it into high relief."

As one of the only courses of its kind, IPD has been featured on CNN and in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and The New York Times. Lovejoy created IPD 17 years ago with colleagues from Stanford University. His goal was to create a holistic view of the small business experience. The course has evolved based on students' experiences, feedback, and suggestions, and the product class changes from year to year. Students enjoy tremendous freedom and flexibility in terms of what they create and how they go about it, whether they are tasked with inventing an "urban shopping cart" or a "disaster area personal hygiene station."

"In a sense, we 'create' the IPD experience anew every year," says Lovejoy. "Teaching IPD is like sitting astride a rocket and trying to control its trajectory by sticking out your hands on one side to create some drag. This course generates tremendous energy and its own momentum, and we try our best to control it."

One year, Lovejoy recalls, students were directed to create products to "enhance a meal as a social occasion." The results included "Join," a vacuum clamshell that opened up into two meal trays tethered together at the joint, and the "Flava-Ball," a soft plastic ball with condiments sealed inside that could be thrown across the table at dinner.

But that kind of creativity is just one byproduct of the course, Lovejoy says. "Students take away a systematic approach to innovation and the ability to work on a team whose members have radically different training, sympathies, and capabilities in a highly pressurized, cross-disciplinary, and interdependent effort," he notes.

The Teaching Innovation Prize recognizes faculty who have developed innovative approaches to teaching, found new ways to engage students in the learning process, and cultivated new approaches to student collaboration. For Lovejoy, the beauty of IPD is that it allows students to experiment and make mistakes for which they might get fired in the real world.

"The idea is, let's learn here because all you've risked here is a grade," says Lovejoy. "The next time you face this situation, the mistakes you make could cost money and jobs, so learn here. According to our alumni, these are skills they leverage their entire professional careers."

—Leah Sipher-Mann

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847,