Elizabeth Jane Altman

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Doctoral Student

Elizabeth J. Altman is a doctoral candidate in Management at the Harvard Business School.  Her research interests include innovation, strategy, organizational change, platform-based businesses and their related ecosystems.  Her work focuses on the impact to incumbent organizations as platform-based highly networked business models become more prevalent in the global economy.  Altman’s research projects focus on organizational and managerial challenges to firms as they transition from operating in traditional product-centric industries to ones where competition is platform-based.  She studies firms that themselves transition to platform businesses and also accessory and application providers that join platform-related ecosystems.  

Altman was formerly vice president of business development in Motorola's Mobile Devices business.  During Altman's 18 year career at Motorola, she served in various executive and leadership positions including roles in industrial design, product development engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and strategy.  Altman’s main areas of professional expertise include business and innovation strategy, business development, M&A, equity investing, developing and managing strategic alliances, and technology licensing.  

Altman earned dual graduate degrees in mechanical engineering and management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earned her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University. She has served on the Cornell University Board of Trustees and is an emeritus member of the President’s Council of Cornell Women and the Cornell University College of Engineering Advisory Board.  Altman is co-author of the book The Innovator’s Guide to Growth (Harvard Business Press, 2008).

Publications

Books

Journal Articles

  1. Technology and Innovation Management

    Elizabeth J. Altman, Frank Nagle and Michael Tushman

    The goal of this annotated bibliography on technology and innovation is to organize and present the most important literature relevant to a scholar seeking to understand and advance the field. It includes articles that are highly-cited and foundational pieces, as well as recent articles that help give the reader a sense of where the field is headed and where likely opportunities for future research lie. This article seeks to strike an equilibrium among the variety of perspectives that exist in technology and innovation literature, balancing new and old research as well as economic, organizational, and cross-disciplinary methodologies. The innovative process is broadly considered here, as well as the technologies that result from it, including business model innovation, service-level innovation, and product innovation, highlighting articles that utilize diverse levels of analysis.

    Keywords: technology; technological change; innovation streams; organizational evolution; executive leadership; organizational architecture; Technology; Technological Innovation; Innovation and Management; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Leadership; Organizational Design;

    Citation:

    Altman, Elizabeth J., Frank Nagle, and Michael Tushman. "Technology and Innovation Management." In Oxford Bibliographies: Management, edited by Ricky W. Griffin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. View Details

Book Chapters

  1. Innovating without Information Constraints: Organization, Communities, and Innovation when Information Costs Approach Zero

    Elizabeth J. Altman, Frank Nagle and Michael Tushman

    Innovation has traditionally taken place within an organization's boundaries and/or with selected partners. This Chandlerian approach to innovation has been rooted in transaction costs, organizational boundaries, and information processing challenges associated with distant search. Information processing, storage, and communication costs have long been an important constraint on innovation and a reason for innovative activities to take place inside the boundaries of an organization. However, exponential technological progress has led to a dramatic decrease in information constraints. In a range of contexts, information costs approach zero. In this chapter, we discuss how sharply reduced information costs enable organizations to engage with communities of developers, professionals, and users for core innovative activities, frequently through platform-based businesses and ecosystems and by incorporating user innovation. We then examine how this ease of external engagement impacts the organization and its strategic activities. Specifically, we consider how this shift in information processing costs affects organization boundaries, business models, interdependence, leadership, identity, search, and intellectual property. We suggest that much of the received wisdom in these areas of organization theory requires revisiting. We then discuss the implications for an organization's management of innovation and conclude with research opportunities.

    Keywords: Knowledge Sharing; Cost; Innovation and Management; Collaborative Innovation and Invention;

    Citation:

    Altman, Elizabeth J., Frank Nagle, and Michael Tushman. "Innovating without Information Constraints: Organization, Communities, and Innovation when Information Costs Approach Zero." In Oxford Handbook of Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: Multilevel Linkages, edited by Christina E. Shalley, Michael A. Hitt, and J. Zhou. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, in press. View Details

Working Papers

  1. Product to Platform Transitions: Organizational Identity Implications

    Elizabeth J. Altman and Mary Tripsas

    Organizations are increasingly recognizing that value they once derived from offering standalone products can be significantly enhanced if they transition to platform-based businesses that harness the innovative capabilities of complementors. While the competitive dynamics of platform-based businesses have been studied extensively in the economics and strategy literatures, the organizational implications of shifting from a product to a platform-based business model remain relatively unexplored. We propose that such a shift is not simply an operational change, but may challenge the core of how an organization views itself, calling into question organizational identity. Organizations that have historically defined themselves as creative and innovative may have trouble accepting a platform-based context where outsiders engage in much of the creative activity. Organizational identity can also influence whether and how organizations become platform-based. To succeed, we propose that organizations must question elements of their existing identity and actively modify it to become consistent with their new business approach.

    Keywords: Organizational change; organizational identity; multi-sided platforms; Ecosystems; complementors; managing innovation; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Multi-Sided Platforms; Innovation and Management; Organizational Culture;

    Citation:

    Altman, Elizabeth J., and Mary Tripsas. "Product to Platform Transitions: Organizational Identity Implications." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-045, December 2013. (Revised September 2014.) View Details
  2. Innovating Without Information Constraints: Organizations, Communities, and Innovation When Information Costs Approach Zero

    Elizabeth J. Altman, Frank Nagle and Michael L. Tushman

    Innovation traditionally takes place within an organization's boundaries and with selected partners. This Chandlerian approach is rooted in transaction costs, organizational boundaries, and information challenges. Information processing, storage, and communication costs have been an important constraint on innovation and a reason why innovation takes place inside the organization. However, exponential technological progress is dramatically decreasing information constraints, and in many contexts, information costs are approaching zero. We discuss how reduced information costs enable organizations to engage communities of developers, professionals, and users for core innovative activities, frequently through platforms, ecosystems, and incorporating user innovation. We suggest that when information constraints drop dramatically, and the locus of innovation shifts to the larger community, there are profound challenges to the received theory of the firm and to theories of organization and innovation. Specifically, we consider how shifts in information costs affect organizational boundaries, business models, interdependence, leadership, identity, search, and intellectual property.

    Keywords: managing innovation; Information Costs; Information Constraints; communities; Organization Boundaries; Technological Progress; Platforms and Ecosystems; User Innovation; Innovation and Management; Boundaries; Collaborative Innovation and Invention;

    Citation:

    Altman, Elizabeth J., Frank Nagle, and Michael L. Tushman. "Innovating Without Information Constraints: Organizations, Communities, and Innovation When Information Costs Approach Zero." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-043, December 2013. (Revised September 2014.) View Details

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Intuit QuickBooks: From Product to Platform

    Andrei Hagiu and Elizabeth J. Altman

    This case focuses on the challenges and opportunities faced by a successful incumbent organization attempting to transform a large portion of its business from a traditionally product-centric operating mode to a platform-based one that leverages network effects to create durable competitive advantage. Strategic questions include the extent to which the organization should invest in platform initiatives, the appropriate resource allocation among various product and platform offerings, and the most beneficial business model for each of a few candidate multi-sided platform initiatives.

    Citation:

    Hagiu, Andrei, and Elizabeth J. Altman. "Intuit QuickBooks: From Product to Platform." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 714-477, March 2014. View Details
  2. Intuit QuickBooks: From Product to Platform

    Andrei Hagiu and Elizabeth J. Altman

    This case focuses on the challenges and opportunities faced by a successful incumbent organization attempting to transform a large portion of its business from a traditionally product-centric operating mode to a platform-based one that leverages network effects to create durable competitive advantage. Strategic questions include the extent to which the organization should invest in platform initiatives, the appropriate resource allocation among various product and platform offerings, and the most beneficial business model for each of a few candidate multi-sided platform initiatives.

    Keywords: Technology Industry;

    Citation:

    Hagiu, Andrei, and Elizabeth J. Altman. "Intuit QuickBooks: From Product to Platform." Harvard Business School Case 714-433, October 2013. (Revised December 2013.) View Details

    Research Summary

  1. Overview

    by Elizabeth Jane Altman

    Elizabeth J. Altman is a doctoral candidate in Management at the Harvard Business School. Her research interests include innovation, strategy, organizational change, platform-based businesses and their related ecosystems. Her work focuses on the impact to incumbent organizations as platform-based highly networked business models become more prevalent in the global economy. Altman’s research projects focus on organizational and managerial challenges to firms as they transition from operating in traditional product-centric industries to ones where competition is platform-based. She studies firms that themselves transition to platform businesses and also accessory and application providers that join platform-related ecosystems.

    Keywords: innovation management; multi-sided platforms; business ecosystems; Organizational change; Paradox; organizational identity; Multi-Sided Platforms;