Doctoral Student

Hila Lifshitz - Assaf

Hila is a doctoral candidate in Management at the Harvard Business School, advised by Professors Mike Tushman (dissertation committee chair), Karim Lakhani and Michel Anteby. Her broad research goal is to develop an in-depth empirical and theoretical understanding of the social fabric of innovation and knowledge creation. In particular, she explores how the ability to innovate is being transformed by the Web and the information age, as well as the challenges and opportunities the transformation means for organizations. 

Hila has taught and facilitated courses on Innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital era, leading organizational change, Strategy, and authentic leadership development. Hila's teaching philosophy is fueled by her research on knowledge and innovation, leading to an emphasis on the importance of knowledge work processes, questioning assumptions and diversity.

Hila earned a BA in Management and an LLB in Law (specializing in antitrust law) from Tel Aviv University, Israel (both magna cum laude). She also holds an MBA (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University with an exchange program at NYU Stern, where she studied strategy & entrepreneurship.

Prior to the doctoral program, Hila was a strategy consultant for six years, specializing in growth and innovation strategy. She held related posts at a consulting firm and at a several corporate centers of large international firms in finance and telecommunications. 

Working Papers

  1. Innovating How to Innovate: Evolutionary Model of Dynamic R&D Paths with Shifting Loci of Innovation

    Until recently, the prevailing consensus among various streams of theoretical and empirical literature in strategy, economics and organizational theory has been that innovation does and should take place within the boundaries of the firm. However, growing empirical evidence and emergent theoretical work suggests that the locus of innovation is shifting beyond the boundaries of the firm. A growing number of organizations currently experiment with changing and opening the boundaries of their R&D processes to various degrees. As a result, the complexity of managing R&D systems has increased and our theoretical models and terminology are inadequate. This paper suggests an organizational evolutionary model that captures the changing organizational boundaries of innovation. The analysis suggests the conditions in which organizations will close or open of these boundaries. For each phase of the innovation process—variation, selection, and retention—we identify the drivers shifting the loci of innovation. We suggest that task decomposition is a critical strategic capability and a choice that determines the boundaries of the innovation process. We build on the existing knowledge theory of the firm and the evolutionary perspective streams of literature with extended examples from Apple, NASA, and IBM. The resulting model captures the rising complexity of managing R&D in organizations across various boundary modes and has important implications for organizational boundaries, capabilities, design, and identity.

    Keywords: managing innovation; organizational boundaries; Evolutionary Perspective on Strategic Management; problem decomposition; Innovation and Management; Boundaries; Change;

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila, Michael Tushman, and Karim R. Lakhani. "Innovating How to Innovate: Evolutionary Model of Dynamic R&D Paths with Shifting Loci of Innovation." Working Paper, August 2013.
  2. Found in Translation: Decoupling Problem Formulation from Problem Solving and Opening the Solution Space

    We have long believed that the way a problem is formulated is crucial to the way it is solved, and that innovative solutions often stem from reframing the problem. However, since problem formulation and problem solving are two intertwined phases that have been all but impossible to tease apart, our knowledge of problem formulation proper has hardly advanced in the last few decades. Recently, a new setting, namely open and distributed innovation, has allowed us to shed light on the problem formulation process and its impact on problem solving. This new model, in a clear juxtaposition to the standard one, suggests a distribution of the innovation process by decoupling the problem formulation process from the problem solving one. Little is known of these processes and how they are different from the traditional coupled problem formulation and solving process. This paper explores the process that strategic R&D problems at NASA went through in both the coupled standard innovation process and the decoupled distributed one. I find a new process of "cross boundary problem formulation" that emerged in the decoupled model when R&D organizational members aimed to broaden the solution space outside their usual knowledge boundaries, to other disciplines and professions. Problems that went through cross boundary problem formulation had more successful solutions. Furthermore R&D members described the new process as the most important capability developed from their experiment with open and distributed innovation. This paper suggests a theoretical model of the cross boundary problem formulation process and implications on innovation.

    Keywords: problem solving; problem formulation; knowledge theory of the firm; distant search; cognitive diversity; Problems and Challenges; Innovation and Invention; Cognition and Thinking;

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila. "Found in Translation: Decoupling Problem Formulation from Problem Solving and Opening the Solution Space." Working Paper, August 2013.
  3. From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA

    The capacity to innovate has always been the Holy Grail for R&D organizations. Recently scholars have argued for shifting the locus of knowledge creation and innovation outside the boundaries of the traditional processes, naming this approach "open", "peer production" or "distributed" innovation. Organizations are experimenting with these approaches yet there is little research on how organizational members open these boundaries: shift the locus of innovation and the ensuing impact. Prior literature on knowledge, identity and professionalism predicts a fierce rejection of this approach. Through an in-depth longitudinal field study of NASA's experimentation with opening knowledge boundaries, I develop the concept of "knowledge boundary work", capturing the change in R&D work, and illustrate the mechanism of shifting the locus of innovation as a co-evolution of knowledge boundary work and professional identity work. I find that organizational members who dismantled their knowledge boundaries expanded and even reconstructed their professional identity from "problem solvers" to "solutions seekers". This entailed a significant transformation both in the R&D knowledge creation process and the members' professional identity and capabilities. This enabled, in turn, further boundary dismantling. I suggest future research directions and discuss the theoretical contributions of these findings on innovation and knowledge, identity, and technology, work, and organizations.

    Keywords: innovation; knowledge boundary work; professional identity; identity work; open innovation; Knowledge Sharing; Identity; Innovation and Invention;

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila. "From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA." Working Paper, October 2013. (Job market paper, in preparation for submission to Administrative Science Quarterly.)

Book Chapters

  1. Open Innovation and Organizational Boundaries: Task Decomposition, Knowledge Distribution and the Locus of Innovation

    This chapter contrasts traditional, organization-centered models of innovation with more recent work on open innovation. These fundamentally different and inconsistent innovation logics are associated with contrasting organizational boundaries and organizational designs. We suggest that when critical tasks can be modularized and when problem-solving knowledge is widely distributed and available, open innovation complements traditional innovation logics. We induce these ideas from the literature and with extended examples from Apple, NASA, and LEGO. We suggest that task decomposition and problem-solving knowledge distribution are not deterministic but are strategic choices. If dynamic capabilities are associated with innovation streams, and if different innovation types are rooted in contrasting innovation logics, there are important implications for firm boundaries, design, and identity.

    Keywords: innovation; organizational boundaries; Institutional Logics; modular innovation; open innovation; Knowledge Sharing; Innovation Strategy; Organizational Design; Boundaries; Collaborative Innovation and Invention;

    Citation:

    Lakhani, Karim R., Hila Lifshitz - Assaf, and Michael Tushman. "Open Innovation and Organizational Boundaries: Task Decomposition, Knowledge Distribution and the Locus of Innovation." Chap. 19 in Handbook of Economic Organization: Integrating Economic and Organization Theory, edited by Anna Grandori, 355–382. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013.

Presentations

  1. From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila. "From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA." Paper presented at the Organization Science Conference: Facilitating the Creation and Transfer of Knowledge, February 2013.
  2. Problem Storming: Decoupling Problem Formulation from Problem Solving and Opening the Solution Space

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila. "Problem Storming: Decoupling Problem Formulation from Problem Solving and Opening the Solution Space." Paper presented at the MIT Innovation Lab, March 2013.
  3. Open Innovation and Firm Boundaries

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila, Michael Tushman, and Karim R. Lakhani. "Open Innovation and Firm Boundaries." Paper presented at the Wharton Innovation and Technology Conference , Mack Institute for Innovation Management, Wharton School and Wharton School, Management Department, April 2013.
  4. From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila. "From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA." Paper presented at the National Science Foundation Conference, July 2013.
  5. From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila. "From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA." Paper presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Showcase Symposium, August 2013.
  6. From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila. "From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA." Paper presented at the Wharton People and Organizations Conference, Wharton School, Center for Human Resources, October 2013.
  7. From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA

    Citation:

    Lifshitz - Assaf, Hila. "From Problem Solvers to Solution Seekers: The Co-evolving Knowledge Boundary and Professional Identity Work of R&D Organizational Members at NASA." Paper presented at the NYU Economic Sociology Workshop , 2013.