Dorothy A. Leonard

William J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration, Emerita

Dorothy Leonard*, the William J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration Emerita, joined the Harvard faculty in 1983 after teaching for three years at the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has taught MBA courses in managerial leadership, corporate capabilities, new product and process design, technology strategy and innovation management. At Harvard, M.I.T., and for corporations such as Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, and 3M, Professor Leonard has conducted executive courses on a wide range of innovation-related topics such as cross-functional coordination during new product development, technology transfer and knowledge management. She has initiated and served as faculty chair for executive education programs such as Leveraging Knowledge for the 21st Century, Leading Product Development, and Enhancing Corporate Creativity. She also served as a Director of Research for the Harvard Business School and Director of Research and Knowledge Programs for Harvard Business School's non-profit organization, HBS Interactive.

Professor Leonard's major research interests and consulting expertise relate to managing knowledge for innovation and stimulating creativity in group settings. She has consulted with and taught about these topics for governments (e.g., Sweden, Jamaica) and major corporations (e.g., IBM, Kodak). She served on the corporate Board of Directors for American Management Systems for twelve years and for Guy Gannett Communications for three years in both cases until the company was merged or acquired.

Her numerous writings appear in academic journals (e.g., "Core Capabilities and Core Rigidities in New Product Development" awarded Best Paper by Strategic Management Journal for sustained impact on the profession), practitioner journals (e.g., "Deep Smarts" in Harvard Business Review) and books on technology management (e.g., "Guiding Visions" in The Perpetual Enterprise Machine). In addition, Professor Leonard has written dozens of field-based cases used in business school classrooms around the world. Her book, Wellsprings of Knowledge: Building and Sustaining the Sources of Innovation, was published in hardback in 1995 by Harvard Business School Publishing, reissued in paperback in 1998, and has been translated into numerous languages. Professor Leonard's book, When Sparks Fly: Igniting Group Creativity, (co-authored with Walter Swap) was published September, 1999 by Harvard Business School Press. Also widely translated, it has been reissued in paperback in 2005 and was awarded Best Book on Creativity by the European Association for Creativity and Innovation. Her latest book (with Walter Swap) is: Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom, published in January, 2005. Before obtaining her Ph.D. from Stanford University, she worked in Southeast Asia for ten years.

*formerly Dorothy Leonard-Barton

For more information please go to Professor Leonard's Webpage

  1. (formerly Leonard-Barton) Creating and Exploiting Knowledge-Based Assets

    by Dorothy A. Leonard

    For the past several years, Dorothy Leonard's research has focused on how companies develop and exploit strategically advantageous knowledge assets. In her 1995 book Wellsprings of Knowledge (HBS Press), she identified and described in depth, activities that create and channel technological knowledge to invent, import, integrate and commercialize technology. In current research, she is investigating how companies redirect their capabilities towards new markets.
  2. The Power of Tacit Knowledge

    by Dorothy A. Leonard

    Knowledge that is unlikely to be codified, but remains largely in peoples' heads, is often critically important to the innovation process. Dorothy Leonard is extending her prior work on knowledge assets to explore why, when and how tacit knowledge is shared during the early stages of new product development. The study includes investigation of barriers to sharing such knowledge (e.g., non-overlapping mental models) and conditions under which such sharing is imperative (e.g., when innovation is moving too swiftly to await codification, or when such knowledge is competitively sensitive.)
  3. Enhancing Group Creativity

    by Dorothy A. Leonard

    In Wellsprings of Knowledge, Dorothy Leonard discussed the importance of creative abrasion--the exploitation of intellectually diverse perspectives to foster innovation. Current work, which will be reported in a book to be published in 1999 (When Sparks Fly: Igniting Group Creativity), is based on the assumption that innovative products and services derive from the well-managed, dynamic interaction of individuals in groups--not just from the brains of individual "creatives." Research on the topic includes interviews with a cross-sectional sample of managers.