Karl Ulrich

Senior Advisor to the Dean / Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions / Professor of Management at The Wharton School



The Wharton School

Karl T. Ulrich is the CIBC Professor of Entrepreneurship and e-Commerce and Advisor on Asia Strategy at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds an appointment as Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His research is focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and product development.

He is the co-author of Product Design and Development (5th Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2011), a textbook used by a quarter of a million students worldwide. His most recent book is Innovation Tournaments (Harvard Business Press, 2009). He is the winner of many teaching awards, including the Anvil Award, the Miller-Sherrerd Award, and the Excellence in Teaching Award at The Wharton School. At Penn, he co-founded the Weiss Tech House and the Integrated Product Design Program, two institutions fostering innovation in the university community.

In addition to his academic work, Professor Ulrich has led dozens of innovation efforts for medical devices, tools, computer peripherals, food products, web-based services, and sporting goods. As a result of this work, he holds more than 20 patents. Professor Ulrich is a founder of Terrapass Inc. which the New York Times identified as one of the most noteworthy ideas of 2005, and he is a designer of the Xootr scooter, which Business Week recognized as one of the 50 coolest products of the 21st Century. Professor Ulrich holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT.


  • Karl Ulrich, Would Graduate School Work Better if You Never Graduated from It?
  • Karl Ulrich, Business School, Disrupted in The New York Times.
  • Karl Ulrich, A Tool for Finding the Best Employees in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Karl Ulrich, Three Ways Customers Could Gain from Small Data in The Wall Street Journal.
    Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich (2014), Will Video Kill the Classroom Star? The Threat and Opportunity of Massively Open Online Courses for Full-time MBA Programs, William and Phyllis Mack Institute for Innovation Management.
  • Karl Ulrich, Young Entrepreneurs’ Secret Weapon: Social-Networking Savvy in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Karl Ulrich and Laura J. Kornish (2014), The Importance of the Raw Idea in Innovation: Testing the Sow’s Ear Hypothesis, Journal of Marketing Research, 51, pp. 14-26.
  • Karl Ulrich, It Pays for Entrepreneurs to Have Rich Friends in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Karl Ulrich, For Capitalism to Work, Everyone Has to Think It’s Fair Game in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Karl Ulrich, Most Colleges Aren’t All That Expensive in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Karl Ulrich, It Isn’t Work OR Life. Work IS Life in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Karl Ulrich, Wharton to Launch Business Radio Channel on Sirius in BusinessWeek.
  • Karl Ulrich, When It Comes to Innovation, Companies Are Better Off Thinking Small in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Karl Ulrich, Take Rising Costs as an Opportunity for Analysis in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Karl Ulrich, Determining ‘Purchase Intent’ Is Crucial in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Joel Wooten and Karl Ulrich (Under Review), The Impact of Visibility in Innovation Tournaments: Evidence from Field Experiments.Abstract
  • Joel Wooten and Karl Ulrich (Under Review), Idea Generation and the Role of Feedback: Evidence from Field Experiments with Innovation Tournaments.Abstract
  • Karl Ulrich and Karan Girotra (Work In Progress), Empirical Evidence for the Role of the Domain Name Itself in Website Performance.
  • Karl Ulrich, Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society (2011)
  • Laura J. Kornish and Karl Ulrich (2011), Opportunity Spaces in Innovation: Empirical Analysis of Large Samples of Ideas, Management Science, 57 (1), pp. 107-128.
  • Karl Ulrich and Steven Eppinger, Product Design and Development (2011)
  • Karl Ulrich (2011), Design Is Everything?, Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28, pp. 394-398.
  • Karan Girotra, Christian Terwiesch, Karl Ulrich (2010), Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea, Management Science, Vol. 56, No. 4, 2010 (pp. 591-605).Abstract
  • Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich, Innovation Tournaments (Harvard Business School Press, 2009)Abstract
  • Karan Girotra, Karl Ulrich, Christian Terwiesch (2007), Valuing R&D Projects in a Portfolio: Evidence from the Pharmaceutical Industry, Management Science, 53 (9), pp. 1452-1466.Abstract
  • Taylor Randall, Christian Terwiesch, Karl Ulrich (2007), User Design of Customized Products, Marketing Science, Vol. 26, No. 2.Abstract
  • Karl Ulrich (Working), Exploration in Design (chapter from new design book).
  • Karl Ulrich (Working), Variety (chapter from new design book).
  • Karl Ulrich (Working), The Environmental Paradox of Bicycling.Abstract
  • Karl Ulrich, Are Cyclists Destroying the Earth? in New York Times.
  • Karl Ulrich (Working), Aesthetics in Design (chapter from new design book).
  • Karl Ulrich (Working), The Roles of Users, Experts, and Institutions in Design (chapter from new design book).
  • Taylor Randall, Christian Terwiesch, Karl Ulrich (2005), Principles of User Design, California Management Review, Vol. 7, No. 4.Abstract
  • Karl Ulrich and David J. Ellison (2005), Beyond Make-Buy: Internalization and Integration of Design and Production, Production and Operations Management, 14 (3), pp. 315-330.
  • Karl Ulrich (2005), Estimating the Technology Frontier for Personal Electric Vehicles, Transportation Research, 13 (3), pp. 448-462.
  • Karl Ulrich, Marshall L. Fisher, Kamalini Ramdas (2003), Managing Variety for Assembled Products: Modeling Component Systems Sharing, Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, 5 (2), pp. 142-156.
  • Vish Krishnan and Karl Ulrich (2001), Product Development Decisions: A Review of the Literature, Management Science, 47 (1), pp. 1-21.
  • Karl Ulrich and T. Randall (2001), Product Variety, Supply Chain Structure, and Firm Performance: Analysis of the U.S. Bicycle Industry, Management Science.
  • Karl Ulrich, Professor Scooters All the Way to the Bank.
  • Marshall L. Fisher, Kamalini Ramdas, Karl Ulrich (1999), Component Sharing in the Management of Product Variety: A Study of Automotive Braking Systems, Management Science.
  • Karl Ulrich and David J. Ellison (1999), Holistic Customer Requirements and the Design-Select Decision, Management Science, 45 (5), pp. 641-658.
  • Karl Ulrich, Taylor Randall, Marshall L. Fisher, David Reibstein, “Managing Product Variety: A Study of the Bicycle Industry”. In Product Variety Management: Research Advances (International Series in Operations Research & Management Science), edited by Teck-Hua Ho and Christopher S Tang, (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998), pp. 177-205
  • David Robertson and Karl Ulrich (1998), Planning for Product Platforms, Sloan Management Review.
  • Karl Ulrich, Marshall L. Fisher, Taylor Randall, David Reistein, “Managing Product Variety: A Study of the Bicycle Industry”. In Managing Product Variety, edited by Teck Ho and Christopher S Tang, (1998)
  • Taylor Randall, Karl Ulrich, David Reibstein (1998), Brand Equity and Vertical Product Line Extent, Marketing Science, 17 (4), pp. 356-379.Description
  • Karl Ulrich (1995), The Role of Product Architecture in the Manufacturing Firm, Research Policy, 24, pp. 419-440.

Awards and Honors

  • Elective Teaching Award – Wharton Executive MBA Program, 2012-2015
  • Excellence in Teaching Award – Undergraduate Division, 2010
  • Teaching Commitment and Curricular Innovation Award – MBA Program, 2010
  • Excellence in Teaching Award – The Wharton School, 2007
  • Distinguished Fellow – POMS College of Product Innovation and Technology Management, 2006
  • Anvil Award – The Wharton School, 2000

Knowledge @ Wharton

  • Why Bicycles Are Making a Huge Comeback in China, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/30/2017
  • Disrupting the Disruptors: Startup Accelerators Feel Pressure to Evolve, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/28/2016
  • How (Not) to Name a Company in the Digital Era, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/13/2016
  • How Vision – and Persistence – Built Bangladesh’s GrameenPhone, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/08/2016
  • Disruption Ahead: What MOOCs Will Mean for MBA Programs, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/16/2014
  • What’s Driving Tesla’s Open Source Gambit?, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/25/2014
  • Domain Name Land Rush: More Room for Companies, Competition and Scam Artists, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/21/2014
  • Separating Facts from Fiction About 3D Printing, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/31/2013
  • In Wharton Innovation Competition, Seeking Solutions for Middle Eastern Challenges, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/14/2013
  • Wharton Experts: Middle East Innovation Needs Institutions, Policies and Quality of Life, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/14/2013
  • Inside a Health Care Innovation Center, Knowledge @ Wharton 11/06/2012
  • Wharton’s Karl Ulrich: Access to Capital, Better Property Rights, and Stronger Education Needed to Cultivate Middle East Innovation, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/29/2012
  • Wharton’s First Innovation Tournament in the Middle East: A Competition of Ideas, and a Comparison of Challenges, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/14/2012
  • Wharton’s Karl Ulrich Analyzes the Strategies of Today’s Most Successfully Innovative Companies, Knowledge @ Wharton 02/20/2012
  • Procter & Gamble: Mastering the Art of the Innovation Tournament, Knowledge @ Wharton 12/20/2011
  • The Customer Lifetime Value Equation: Will It Pay Off for Tech Companies?, Knowledge @ Wharton 12/07/2011
  • Life after Steve Jobs: What to Expect from the Next Generation at Apple, Knowledge @ Wharton 10/12/2011
  • Putting the Squeeze on Consumer Choice, Knowledge @ Wharton 09/23/2011
  • What’s Fueling the Tech Patent Bull Market?, Knowledge @ Wharton 09/14/2011
  • Is Zynga’s Dependence on Facebook the Key to Its Success — Or Its Downfall?, Knowledge @ Wharton 08/03/2011
  • The Innovation Gap: As Product Cycles Turn, Nokia and RIM Scramble for Market Share, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/08/2011
  • 2011 Innovation Tournament: Finding ‘A Novel Match Between a Solution and a Need’, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/25/2011
  • With Its New Music Storage and Player, Can Amazon Deliver in the Cloud?, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/11/2011
  • Innovation Strategies for a New Economy, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/31/2011
  • When to Gamble — and When to Fold? Innovation Strategies for a New Economy, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/31/2011
  • Is Google Stuck in ‘Perpetual Beta’?, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/30/2011
  • In Search of the Perfect Search: Can Google Beat Attempts to Game the System?, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/16/2011
  • Weekend Business Plan Brainstorming Comes to the Middle East, Knowledge @ Wharton 01/11/2011
  • The Envelope, Please: From Eight Great Innovative Tools, Which Ones Are the Winners?, Knowledge @ Wharton 12/28/2010
  • Surrounded by Rivals, Can Research in Motion — and the BlackBerry — Prove That It’s Hip to be Square?, Knowledge @ Wharton 12/08/2010
  • Will Tablets Close the Book on eReaders?, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/07/2010
  • Tarnished Brands at Bargain Prices: Will the Tech Sector’s Latest Growth Strategy Pay Off?, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/09/2010
  • How Group Dynamics May Be Killing Innovation, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/12/2010
  • Apple’s iPad: A Gadget Killer — or Just Another Gadget?, Knowledge @ Wharton 02/03/2010
  • How Can You Find the Most Promising New Opportunities? Hold an Innovation Tournament, Knowledge @ Wharton 07/15/2009
  • As Smartphones Proliferate, Will One Company Emerge as the Clear Market Winner?, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/27/2009
  • A World Transformed: What Are the Top 30 Innovations of the Last 30 Years?, Knowledge @ Wharton 02/18/2009
  • The Net Impact of Netbooks? It Depends on Who Uses Them for What, Knowledge @ Wharton 11/26/2008
  • It’s a Breeze: European Firms Bring Years of Experience to U.S. Wind Power Market, Knowledge @ Wharton 10/15/2008
  • Bridging the Global Digital Divide, One Laptop at a Time, Knowledge @ Wharton 06/11/2008
  • An Earful on Ethanol: Rising Food Prices, Inefficient Production and Other Problems, Knowledge @ Wharton 05/28/2008
  • Getting Credit for a Novel Approach to Offsetting Auto Emissions, Knowledge @ Wharton 03/23/2005
  • The New Age of Service Robots: From Fighting Fires to Serving Beer, Knowledge @ Wharton 11/20/2002
  • A New Approach to Valuing Biotech Stocks, Knowledge @ Wharton 10/24/2001


A holder of more than 20 patents for medical devices, tools, food products, sporting goods, and more, Karl’s expertise is in innovation, entrepreneurship and product development. He is the co-founder of the Weiss Tech House and the Integrated Design Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Karl’s Xootr scooter was recognized by BusinessWeek as one of the coolest products of the 21st Century.


Courses Taught

Read about executive education

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