Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2006

The Whitesides Lab

by H. Kent Bowen and Francesca Gino

Abstract

A significant part of the long-term economic growth in developed economies depends on the translation of scientific research into new products and processes. Focuses on the front end of this value creation stream. The laboratory of George Whitesides has a 30-year history of outstanding chemistry research as reflected by the quality and quantity of journal papers, paper citations, successful graduates, breakthrough ideas and concepts, and new companies. Details the research philosophy and processes for selecting research problems and forming teams. Whitesides guides students to choose challenging research topics rather than safe, incremental research, and problems that require interdisciplinary teams. Allows discussion of: the principles for operating a creative and productive lab; the role of the leader in creating the infrastructure and systems for discovery and learning; the issues of resource allocation and the appurtenant wasted effort as researchers seek academic research support; and the scale and scope limits for highly successful labs. Also discusses applying the Whitesides lab principles and processes to nonscience organizations and teams.

Keywords: Research; Performance Productivity; Economic Growth; Infrastructure; Creativity; Groups and Teams; Value Creation; Factories, Labs, and Plants; Leadership; Resource Allocation;

Citation:

Bowen, H. Kent, and Francesca Gino. "The Whitesides Lab." Harvard Business School Case 606-064, March 2006.