Willy C. Shih

Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration

Willy Shih is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration.  He is part of the Technology and Operations Management Unit, and he teaches in the MBA and Executive Education Programs.  His expertise is in manufacturing and product development, and he has written or co-authored more than 125 cases and teaching materials in industries ranging from semiconductors, information technology, consumer electronics, aerospace, transportation equipment, manufacturing processes and tools, and intellectual property.  His paper, “Restoring American Competitiveness,” co-authored with Gary Pisano, won the 2009 McKinsey Award.  His recent book, “Producing Prosperity – Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance,” co-authored with Gary Pisano, has called attention to the link between manufacturing and innovation.  He is also the author of “Back Bay Battery,” a best-selling innovation simulation.

Prior to coming to HBS in 2007, Willy spent 28 years in industry at IBM, Digital Equipment, Silicon Graphics, Eastman Kodak, and Thomson SA.  He worked in product development and manufacturing in a wide range of areas including computer systems, scientific instruments, semiconductors, digital cameras, optical discs and software systems.  Reporting to him have been major manufacturing operations in the United States, China, Ireland, Japan, and Mexico, as well as global sales and marketing operations.  He has led the building of billion dollar revenue businesses.  He was an architect of IBM’s collaboration with Apple and Motorola in the early 1990s, he initiated and managed Eastman Kodak’s digital still camera licensing program, and has led negotiations in numerous intellectual property disputes, including Eastman Kodak v. Sun Microsystems relating to technology in Java.

Willy is on the Board of Directors of Flextronics International, a large electronic manufacturing services provider, and also the Board of Directors of QD Vision, a pioneer in the commercial use of quantum dot technology.  He has S.B. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

  1. Overview

    by Willy C. Shih

    Willy's research interests reflect the 28 years he spent in industry, during which he logged many questions on firm performance, relative competitiveness, and firm culture as an impediment to change. His primary interests today are in the acquisition of capabilities by firms, and the drivers of industrial competitiveness in high tech and science-based businesses.

    Keywords: strategy; technology; competitiveness; competitive dynamics;

  2. Industrial competitiveness in high tech and science-based businesses

    by Willy C. Shih

    How do emerging economies develop industrial and technical capabilities that overtake those of advanced economies?  Are there some industrial sectors that are especially susceptible to such targeting?  What will it take to restore America’s industrial competitiveness?  Gary Pisano and I have been looking at patterns of international performance in high tech and science-based industries.  I have focused in Asia, looking at multiple technology sectors.  I have been examining the process of capability building, and how firms there have moved from imitation to innovation, in the process capturing leadership positions in industries ranging from semiconductors and notebook computers to flat panel displays and mobile phone handsets.
  3. Factory Performance

    by Willy C. Shih

    We are interested in understanding why different factories exhibit performance differences in productivity, quality, and other key performance measures.  We have been studying factories in different countries that manufacture similar electronics products and looking at the issues like organizational identity, social capital, and team psychological safety.  We have done this by embedding research assistants in the production lines as a way of collecting insights and in depth working knowledge.
  4. Evolution of firm structure in vertical specialized technology supply chains

    by Willy C. Shih

    The global market in many everyday products has been transformed by the internationalization of production.  In many industries, semiconductors and electronic products in particular, a sequential mode of production has evolved in which goods are produced in a series of stages taking place in different countries by “vertical specialists” who pass work-in-progress across borders to the next firm in the value chain.  This multi-country production sequence has been facilitated by inexpensive and rapid communications and the low cost to transport goods, as well as declines in tariff and non-tariff barriers.  A distinguishing feature of this kind of vertical specialization is that imported inputs are used to produce export goods.  These might be components or partial subassemblies, but frequently a product might transit through dozens of firms and cross multiple frontiers before it makes it to a storefront for sale to the ultimate consumer.  We are interested in the evolution of firm structure as technological shifts drive changes in the vertical boundaries.