Karim R. Lakhani

Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration

Karim R. Lakhani is the Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the Principal Investigator of the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. He specializes in the management of technological innovation in firms and communities. His research is on distributed innovation systems and the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities. He has extensively studied the emergence of open source software communities and their unique innovation and product development strategies. He has also investigated how critical knowledge from outside of the organization can be accessed through innovation contests. Currently Professor Lakhani is investigating incentives and behavior in contests and the mechanisms behind scientific team formation through field experiments on the TopCoder platform and the Harvard Medical School.

Professsor Lakhani’s research on distributed innovation has been published in Harvard Business Review, Innovations, Management Science, Nature Biotechnology, Organization Science, Research Policy and the Sloan Management Review. He is the co-editor of Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software (MIT Press), a book on community-based innovation. He has also published teaching cases on leading organizations practicing distributed innovation including: Data.gov, InnoCentive, Google, Myelin Repair Foundation, SAP, Threadless, TopCoder and Wikipedia. His research has been featured in publications like 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 was awarded his Ph.D. in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also holds an MS 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 four year 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.  He was also the inaugural recipient of the TUM-Peter Pribilla Innovation Leadership Award.

  1. 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.

  2. TopCoder Innovation Series - Professor Karim Lakhani on Open Innovation

    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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software

    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.

  7. President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Panel