Doctoral Student

Johnathan R Cromwell

Johnathan is a doctoral student in the Management program at Harvard Business School.  Before joining the program in 2012, he graduated from MIT with a degree in Chemical-Biological Engineering and conducted research with several faculty members in the Organizational Behavior Unit at HBS.  He made his transition from engineering to management research because he realized that technologies are created by and for people, and he always found himself drawn to questions about the human side of innovation.  In particular, he is interested in understanding the processes behind the creation and adoption of radical or disruptive innovations.  Today there are numerous new technologies that are all promising to change the way our economy operates or the way we carry out our everyday lives.  Artificial intelligence is changing the way we interact with technology; 3D printing is changing the way we manufacture goods; solar and battery technologies are changing the way we consume energy; and cloud computing is changing the way we conduct business and interact with each other.

Where do these radical innovations come from?  How do they get created?  Once they’re created, why do some radical innovations get adopted while others get rejected?  To approach these questions, his research explores the micro-dynamics associated with individuals and teams.  Currently, his research focuses on innovation in teams.  Recent studies have shown that experts are becoming increasingly specialized, meaning that people need to collaborate more often to solve problems and innovate.  While such collaboration increases the ability of teams to develop radical innovation and leads to more innovative solutions overall, the reality is that many teams are unsuccessful and break down for a number of reasons.  His research specifically explores how teams can take advantage of the positive effects of working in teams while avoiding the negative effects to increase their chances of successfully developing a radical innovation.  

  1. Overview

    by Johnathan R Cromwell

    1. Innovation in teams under pressure (preparing for submission): Organizations often rely on teams to create innovation, but are often subjected to conditions that make it more difficult for teams to innovate. For example, organizations failing to innovate often suffer significant financial consequences. Sometimes these consequences can be marginal, in which organizations lose out on an opportunity to make profit in a new or emerging industry. Other times, however, failing to innovate can lead to the loss of market share in existing industries, which in extreme cases can even threaten organizational survival. Because many organizations are facing larger consequences for failure, many teams inside organizations are subjected to higher levels of pressure. While pressure increases the need for teams to be more innovative, it also hinders many of the processes that make teams effective. As a result, teams are confronted with a paradox: the conditions in which it’s more important for teams to innovate are the same conditions that undermine a team’s ability to innovate. In this study, we investigate why some teams are more innovative than others when facing higher levels of pressure.

    Keywords: innovation; innovation & entrepreneurship; Startups; Decision choice and uncertainty; teams; Team Process;