Carliss Y. Baldwin

William L. White Professor of Business Administration

Carliss Y. Baldwin is the William L. White Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. She studies the process of design and its impact on firm strategy and the structure of business ecosystems. With Kim Clark, she authored Design Rules, Volume 1: The Power of Modularity, the first of a projected two volumes. Volume 2, Modularity on Trial, will consider how modular technologies are affecting the basic structure of the global economy—for good and for bad.

Baldwin received a bachelor's degree in economics from MIT in 1972, and MBA and DBA degrees from Harvard Business School. She developed and taught Mergers & Acquisitions, a second-year MBA course, and presently teaches Finance 2, a first-year required course.

She has served on numerous corporate and non-profit boards. At Harvard Business School, she has been a Director of Research, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Planning, and head of the Doctoral Programs. Within Harvard University, she has been on the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the policy and admissions committee of the joint Ph.D program in Science, Technology and Management.

  1. Distributed Innovation in Open Systems——The Role of Modularity

    Distributed innovation in open systems is an important trend in the modern global economy. As education levels rise and communication costs fall, more people have the means and motivation to innovate. Supply chains now stretch around the world as firms outsource production to innovative suppliers, and many firms have structured their products as open systems in which users and complementors are invited to innovate.

    In general, distributed innovation in open systems is made possible by the modularity of the underlying product or process. Modularity reduces the risk that small changes in the environment will cause the whole system to fail, and makes it easier for the entire system to evolve towards higher levels of performance. This is true for complex products and processes and for networks of firms loosely linked in so-called business ecosystems.

    My research is aimed at understanding how modularity is achieved in technical systems as well as the impact of modularity on firm value and industry structure. Currently I am working on projects focused on (1) impact of modularity on intellectual property, (2) the hidden structure of complex systems (especially software), and (3) how design rights may be shared across modular boundaries.