Karim R. Lakhani
Associate Professor of Business Administration
Karim R. Lakhani is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, the Principal Investigator of the Crowd Innovation Lab and NASA Tournament Lab at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the faculty co-founder of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative. He specializes in technology management and innovation. His research examines crowd-based innovation models and the digital transformation of companies and industries. Professor Lakhani is known for his pioneering scholarship on how communities and contests can be designed and managed to achieve innovative outcomes. He has partnered with NASA, TopCoder and the Harvard Medical School to conduct field experiments on the design of crowd innovation programs. His research on digital transformation has shown the importance of data and analytics as drivers of business and operating model transformation and source of competitive advantage
Professor Lakhani’s research has been published in Harvard Business Review, Innovations, Journal of Organization Design, Management Science, Nature Biotechnology, Organization Science, RAND Journal of Economics, Research Policy and MIT Sloan Management Review. He is the co-editor of two books from MIT Press on distributed innovation models including Revolutionizing Innovation: Users, Communities and Open Innovation (2016) and Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software (2005). His research has been featured in BusinessWeek, The Boston Globe, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc., The New York Times, The New York Academy of Sciences Magazine, Science, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Wired.
Professor Lakhani’s research has been recognized on several occasions, including as one of three finalists for the best paper published in operations management in Management Science (2010-2012), as runner up for the Harvard Business Review-McKinsey Award (2013) and as the winner of the Production and Operations Management Award by The Case Centre in 2015. The totality of his research output was recognized by the Technical University of Munich’s Peter Pribilla Foundation Prize for Research in Innovation in 2008 and by the University of Innsbruck’s Innovation Management Partner Award for Excellence in Innovation Research in 2011.
Professor Lakhani has taught extensively in Harvard Business School’s MBA, executive and doctoral programs. He co-developed a new course on Digital Innovation and Transformation for the elective MBA curriculum and co-chairs the executive program on Competing with Big Data and Business Analytics.
He serves on the Board of Directors of Mozilla Corporation and Local Motors.
Professor Lakhani was awarded his Ph.D. in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also holds an SM degree in Technology and Policy from MIT, and a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and Management from McMaster University in Canada. He was a recipient of the Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship and a doctoral fellowship from Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Prior to coming to HBS he served as a Lecturer in the Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship group at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Professor Lakhani has also worked in sales, marketing and new product development roles at GE Healthcare and was a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group.
Revolutionizing Innovation: Users, Communities, and Open Innovation
The last two decades have witnessed an extraordinary growth of new models of managing and organizing the innovation process that emphasizes users over producers. Large parts of the knowledge economy now routinely rely on users, communities, and open innovation approaches to solve important technological and organizational problems. This view of innovation, pioneered by the economist Eric von Hippel, counters the dominant paradigm, which cast the profit-seeking incentives of firms as the main driver of technical change. In a series of influential writings, von Hippel and colleagues found empirical evidence that flatly contradicted the producer-centered model of innovation. Since then, the study of user-driven innovation has continued and expanded, with further empirical exploration of a distributed model of innovation that includes communities and platforms in a variety of contexts and with the development of theory to explain the economic underpinnings of this still emerging paradigm. This volume provides a comprehensive and multidisciplinary view of the field of user and open innovation, reflecting advances in the field over the last several decades.
The contributors -- including many colleagues of Eric von Hippel -- offer both theoretical and empirical perspectives from such diverse fields as economics, the history of science and technology, law, management, and policy. The empirical contexts for their studies range from household goods to financial services. After discussing the fundamentals of user innovation, the contributors cover communities and innovation; legal aspects of user and community innovation; new roles for user innovators; user interactions with firms; and user innovation in practice, describing experiments, toolkits, and crowdsourcing, and crowdfunding.
The Importance of Innovation
President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Panel
The Challenge of Digital Transformation
The ubiquity of digital technology and internet connectivity is driving both new and old players across all industries to invest in new capabilities, define new business models, and compete in new ways. From software to automobiles, from healthcare to financial services, models for value creation and value capture are evolving rapidly. In the Summit’s opening session, Prof. Karim R. Lakhani will give you insight into how organizations are transforming — to go far beyond simply remaining relevant, and to become innovative leaders in new and varied industries.
Digital Ubiquity: How Connections, Sensors, and Data Are Revolutionizing Business
When Google bought Nest, a maker of digital thermostats, for $3.2 billion just a few months ago, it was a clear indication that digital transformation and connection are spreading across even the most traditional industrial segments and creating a staggering array of business opportunities and threats.
The digitization of tasks and processes has become essential to competition. General Electric, for example, was at risk of losing many of its top customers to nontraditional competitors—IBM and SAP on the one hand, big data start-ups on the other—offering data-intensive, analytics-based services that could connect to any industrial device. So GE launched a multibillion-dollar initiative focused on what it calls the industrial internet: adding digital sensors to its machines; connecting them to a common, cloud-based software platform; investing in software development capabilities; building advanced analytics capabilities; and embracing crowd-based product development. With all this, GE is evolving its business model. Now, for example, revenue from its jet engines is tied to reduced downtime and miles flown over the course of a year. After just three years, GE is generating more than $1.5 billion in incremental income with digitally enabled, outcomes-based business models. The company expects that number to double in 2014 and again in 2015.
Using the Crowd as an Innovation Partner
From Apple to Merck to Wikipedia, more and more organizations are turning to crowds for help in solving their most vexing innovation and research questions, but managers remain understandably cautious. It seems risky and even unnatural to push problems out to vast groups of strangers distributed around the world, particularly for companies built on a history of internal innovation. How can intellectual property be protected? How can a crowdsourced solution be integrated into corporate operations? What about the costs?
These concerns are all reasonable, the authors write, but excluding crowdsourcing from the corporate innovation tool kit means losing an opportunity. After a decade of study, they have identified when crowds tend to outperform internal organizations (or not). They outline four ways to tap into crowd-powered problem solving—contests, collaborative communities, complementors, and labor markets—and offer a system for picking the best one in a given situation. Contests, for example, are suited to highly challenging technical, analytical, and scientific problems; design problems; and creative or aesthetic projects. They are akin to running a series of independent experiments that generate multiple solutions—and if those solutions cluster at some extreme, a company can gain insight into where a problem’s “technical frontier” lies. (Internal R&D may generate far less information.)
Open Innovation – How can I use the crowd?
Innovation has become an urgent imperative for entrepreneurial and established organizations. Over the last decade, in industries as diverse as fashion design, media software, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and automotive, the most cutting edge organizations have started to externalize their innovation process by working actively with communities and sponsoring contests – so called open innovation. At this lecture, Karim Lakhani from Harvard Business School will provide best practice examples and a framework for using communities and contests to solve the most pressing innovation problems.
He is the Principal Investigator of The Crowd Innovation Lab at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science, which has worked closely with strategic partners at NASA, Harvard Medical School, Scripps Research Institute, various US government agencies and private sector partners. The idea is to solve innovation problems while simultaneously driving social science insights on the optimal organization of crowd-based innovation. Professor Lakhani will also discuss the Lab's experience in working with its strategic partners to drive change in the organization of innovation.
The push to legalize crowdfunding
Legislation in Congress could make it easier for everyday people to become investors in small companies. Harvard Business School’s Karim Lakhani and entrepreneur Slava Menn tell Kara why “crowdfunding” is all the rage.
Professor Lakhani - Harvard Business School - shares his thoughts on the extreme value outcomes born from Open Innovation competitions, Big Data opportunities and the TopCoder Platform
OCT TechNovation: Accessing the Ideas Cloud
Through a renewed focus on innovation and technology, NASA seeks to be an important catalyst for intellectual and economic expansion for the nation. Our inaugural TechNovation Speaker Forum gathered NASA employees from across the agency to listen to our special presenter Karim R. Lakhani, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in management of technological innovation and product development in firms and communities. Lakhani discussed innovative approaches to solving problems by leveraging the knowledge of virtual communities, known as "the cloud" and by using distributed or open innovations. The program was carried live on NASA Television with Q&A from participating NASA centers.
MIT Communications Forum, October 4, 2007
For the forum's topic of collective intelligence, Karim Lakhani participated as a speaker in "a conversation about the theory and practice of collective intelligence, with emphasis on Wikipedia, other instances of aggregated intellectual work and on recent innovative applications in business." A podcast and a webcast are available through the forum's website.
Harvard Business School Case on Wikipedia: Wikipedia (A)
On August 24, 2006, the "Enterprise 2.0" entry in the Web-based encyclopedia Wikipedia was made a candidate for deletion. Wikipedia was an unusual encyclopedia because virtually anybody could start a new article or edit an existing one. This egalitarian philosophy had enabled very rapid growth but also led to the creation of some articles that did not meet established standards. Wikipedia's "articles-for-deletion" (AfD) process was an attempt to deal with this problem. Anyone could nominate an article for deletion; nomination caused a notice to be placed on the article's page alerting readers to the deletion request and pointing them to a special page where they could debate it. An AfD process lasted five days, after which a Wikipedia administrator reviewed the arguments and made a decision on the fate of the article.
In the spirit of Wikipedia we have released this under a GFDL license, and we will teach it in Andrew McAfee's second year MBA course on Managing in the Information Age this Spring to get students familiar with the inner workings of a distributed community and to grapple with issues related to authority, decision making, expertise and norms of behavior in a community setting.
Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software
What is the status of the Free and Open Source Software (F/OSS) revolution? Has the creation of software that can be freely used, modified, and redistributed transformed industry and society, as some predicted, or is this transformation still a work in progress? Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software brings together leading analysts and researchers to address this question, examining specific aspects of F/OSS in a way that is both scientifically rigorous and highly relevant to real-life managerial and technical concerns.