Technology and Innovation

The early works of William Abernathy on roadblocks to innovation and Richard Rosenbloom on technology and information transfers in the 1960's and 1970's started the Technology Strategy field and helped pave the path for our research today.  With advances in technology impacting every industry, our research reaches across each of our academic units and lends itself to collaborative projects.  As an academic community, we have united to conduct multi-disciplinary projects that center on several areas such as:
  • Value creation of platforms and two-sided markets
  • Use of open architecture and leverage of its collective value
  • Development and execution of innovation strategies
  • The innovative attributes of executives and firms
  • Development of new markets through the creation of disruptive innovations that displace earlier technologies
  • Development of innovations in sectors
  • The impact of innovation on economic growth
Our diverse academic backgrounds, combined together with real-world experience practicing and consulting at tech-related companies, give us a unique lens through which to analyze developments in technology and innovation both on location at companies or through the use of online experiments and other novel methodologies. As an example, Benjamin Edelman uses the Internet to conduct experiments that examine how users interact with search engines. And our research spans our academic disciplines, as seen with Karim Lakhani of the School's Technology and Operations Management unit joining forces with Michael Tushman of the Organizational Behavior unit to explore when open innovation modes complement or replace traditional, firm-based innovation. Through these and other in-depth research projects, we are shaping innovations in technology and, in turn, the future of how business is conducted in the Digital Age.
  1. Prodigy Network: Democratizing Real Estate Design and Financing

    This case follows Rodrigo Nino, founder and CEO of commercial real estate development company Prodigy Network, as he develops an equity-based crowdfunding model for small investors to access commercial real estate in Colombia, then tries out the model in the U.S. U.S. regulations, starting with the Securities Act of 1933, effectively barred sponsors from soliciting small investors for large commercial real estate. However, the JOBS Act of 2013 loosened U.S. restrictions on equity crowdfunding. Nino believes that crowdfunding will democratize real estate development by providing a new asset class for small investors, revolutionizing the industry. The case also follows Nino's development of an online platform to crowdsource design for his crowdfunded buildings, maximizing shared value throughout the development process. Nino faces many challenges as he attempts to crowdfund an extended stay hotel in Manhattan, New York. For example, crowdfunded real estate faces resistance from industry leaders, especially in regards to the concern of fraud, and SEC regulations on crowdfunding remain undetermined at the time of the case.

    Keywords: innovation; real estate; crowdfunding; crowdsourcing; Digital Innovation; Commercial Real Estate; online platforms; Disruption; Transformation; Design; Assets; Equity; Disruptive Innovation; Innovation Strategy; Online Technology; Real Estate Industry; Latin America; New York (state, US); United States;


    Lakhani, Karim R., Katja Hutter, and Greta Friar. "Prodigy Network: Democratizing Real Estate Design and Financing." Harvard Business School Case 614-064, March 2014.
  2. Samsung Electronics: TV in an Era of Convergence

    From the late 1990s to 2006/2007, Samsung Electronics moved from one of 170 TV manufacturers to gain dominant TV market share year over year from 2007-2013. As digital technologies increasingly converged in 2013-2014, the industry faced new questions: What was the future of TV? The case considers Samsung Electronics TV Group's product development processes, as the company's mobile and TV offerings increasingly converged and consumer demands and behavior pushed the historically clear boundaries of product, content, engagement and interaction.

    Keywords: Digital Innovation; technology; technology management; digital convergence; Digital technology; innovation; product development; korea; Samsung; television; Product design; Technological Innovation; Technology; Innovation and Invention; Innovation Leadership; Innovation and Management; Product Development; Product Design; Electronics Industry; Korean Peninsula; Asia;


    Lakhani, Karim, Marco Iansiti, and Kerry Herman. "Samsung Electronics: TV in an Era of Convergence." Harvard Business School Case 614-034, March 2014. (Revised March 2014.)
  3. BGI: Data-driven Research

    BGI has the largest installed gene-sequencing capacity in the world, and to Zhang Gengyun, general manager of the Life Sciences Division, this represented an opportunity to apply his training as a plant breeder and his early career work as a biochemist to improving important parts of the world food supply. But his biggest challenge was in scaling up his organization to address the multitude of opportunities he wanted to address. Along with its massive investments in gene sequencing machines and computing resources for data analysis, BGI had built a large cadre of data scientists who could develop and run programs to sift through the mountains of genetic data that were being generated every day. But the approach raised other questions. Could people trained in traditional fields of botany, biochemistry, and animal husbandry simply use the BGI sequencing platform as a black box, much as people in other industries relied on specialization and a modular division of labor? Or did it take the kind of cross-training and cross-boundary work that Zhang himself had invested two decades of his professional career in? Could the data scientists in BGI's "factory" grow sufficiently to understand the science, and was that now even necessary?

    Keywords: genomics; gene sequencing; life sciences; plant breeding; genetics; Human Genome Program; Beijing Genomics Institute; BGI; rice genome; Technological Innovation; Innovation Strategy; Research; Research and Development; Science; Genetics; Science-Based Business; Strategy; Commercialization; Corporate Strategy; Technology; Information Technology; Software; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Biotechnology Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; China; United States;


    Shih, Willy, and Sen Chai. "BGI: Data-driven Research." Harvard Business School Case 614-056, February 2014.
  4. From Crowds to Collaborators: Initiating Effort & Catalyzing Interactions Among Online Creative Workers

    Online collaborative platforms have emerged as a complementary approach to traditional organizations for coordinating the collective efforts of creative workers. However, it is surprising that they result in any productive output as individuals often work without direct monetary incentives while collaborating with unknown others. In this paper, we distinguish the conditions necessary for eliciting effort from those affecting the quality of interdependent teamwork. We consider the role of incentives versus social processes in catalyzing collaboration. We test our hypotheses using a unique data set of 260 individuals randomly assigned to 52 teams tasked with developing working solutions to a complex innovation problem over 10 days, with varying monetary incentives. We find that levels of effort are driven by cash incentives and the presence of other interacting teammates. The level of collaboration, by contrast, was not sensitive to cash incentives. Instead, individuals increased their communication if teammates were also actively participating. Additionally, team performance is uniquely driven by the level of emergent interdependence, as indexed by the diversity of topics discussed and the temporal coordination of activity in short focused time periods. Our results contribute to the literature on how alternative organizational forms can be designed to solve complex innovation tasks.

    Keywords: online platforms; collaboration; teams; interdependence; Motivation and Incentives; text analysis; temporal coordination; Motivation and Incentives; Online Technology; Creativity; Organizational Structure; Collaborative Innovation and Invention;


    Boudreau, Kevin, Patrick Gaule, Karim R. Lakhani, Christoph Riedl, and Anita Williams Woolley. "From Crowds to Collaborators: Initiating Effort & Catalyzing Interactions Among Online Creative Workers." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-060, January 2014.
  5. The Rise and Fall of Nokia

    In 2013, Nokia sold its Device and Services business to Microsoft for €5.4 billion. For decades Nokia had led the telecommunications (telecom) industry in handsets and networking. By the late 2000s, however, Nokia's position as market leader in mobile devices was threatened by competition from new lower-cost Asian manufacturers. Apple's 2007 release of its iPhone established an entire new category—the smartphone—immediately popular with users. What were Nokia's missteps over the years? What should Nokia have done differently?

    Keywords: Mobile phones; smartphone; telecommunications; wireless technology; emerging market; Technological Innovation; Competition; Emerging Markets; Mobile Technology; Wireless Technology; Telecommunications Industry; Asia;


    Alcacer, Juan, Tarun Khanna, and Christine Snively. "The Rise and Fall of Nokia." Harvard Business School Case 714-428, January 2014. (Revised February 2014.)
  6. Google Car

    By 2013, Google, while not a traditional manufacturer of automobiles, had invested millions of dollars in its self-driving cars which had logged over 500,000 miles of testing. The Google management team faced several questions. Should Google continue to invest in the technology behind self-driving cars? How could Google's core software-based and search business benefit from self-driving car technology? As large auto manufacturers began to invest in automotive technology themselves, could Google compete? Was this investment of time and resources worth it for Google?

    Keywords: Digital Services; innovation; technology; auto industry; Technological Innovation; Online Technology; Market Entry and Exit; Transportation; Auto Industry; United States;


    Lakhani, Karim R., James Weber, and Christine Snively. "Google Car." Harvard Business School Case 614-022, January 2014.
  7. The New Patterns of Innovation

    The search for new business ideas—and models—is hit-or-miss at most firms. Tackling the problem systematically, of course, will improve the odds of success. Traditional ways of framing this search examine competencies, customer needs, and shifts in the landscape. This article proposes adding a new IT-based framework. It involves asking the following question: how can data and analytic tools be used to create new value? The authors have explored that question with many clients. In their work, they've seen IT create new value in five patterns: using data from sensors in objects to improve offerings (think smart energy meters); digitizing physical assets (such as health records); combining data within and across industries (to, say, coordinate supply chains); trading data (as mobile providers do with information on users' whereabouts); and codifying best-in-class capabilities (such as online expense management) as services. Drawing on examples from their own experience and their clients', the authors walk readers through each of the five patterns and how to apply them. They also provide advice and questions that will help executives get started on their own searches.

    Keywords: Value Creation; Information Technology; Innovation and Invention;


    Parmar, Rashik, Ian Mackenzie, David Cohn, and David Gann. "The New Patterns of Innovation." Harvard Business Review 92, nos. 1-2 (January–February 2014): 86–95.
  8. Myomo: Getting Sales in Motion

    In late 2012, the management team of Myomo, a startup which had designed a unique myoelectric arm brace for patients with dysfunctional arms, was deciding which of the three sales models the company had tested to pursue as its sales strategy going forward. Each model had its own unique merits and risks. The team planned to fully examine each strategy to determine how to best get the brace into the hands of those who needed it most, the patients, and identify which one enabled Myomo to grow.

    Keywords: Technological Innovation; Technology; Marketing Strategy; Decision Choices and Conditions; Health Care and Treatment; Business Startups; Sales; Growth and Development Strategy; Medical Devices and Supplies Industry; Health Industry;


    Cespedes, Frank V., Shikhar Ghosh, and Matthew Preble. "Myomo: Getting Sales in Motion." Harvard Business School Case 814-034, October 2013.
  9. PadFone vs. FonePad

    To Jonney Shih, Chairman of ASUSTek Computer, the introduction of Apple's iPad made clear the need to transition his company to a new cloud-computing era. But the company's roots in the manufacture of Windows-powered desktop and notebook PCs bounded the creativity of his design and engineering teams. The case examines the ASUS's efforts to get into the smartphone business, leveraging experimentation it has done in tablets and a range of hybrid devices. Will its experimentation and recombination of features lead it to market success, or simply confuse consumers?

    Keywords: Mobile phones; smartphone; tablet computer; Android; recombination; design thinking; Innovation and Invention; Innovation and Management; Innovation Strategy; Technological Innovation; Growth and Development Strategy; Strategy; Adaptation; Business Strategy; Commercialization; Competitive Strategy; Technology; Internet; Information Technology Industry; Computer Industry; Communications Industry; Technology Industry; Asia; Taiwan; Europe; United States;


    Shih, Willy, and Sen Chai. "PadFone vs. FonePad." Harvard Business School Case 614-023, September 2013.
  10. Living Proof: Are We a Technology Company or a Beauty Company?

    Jon Flint came up with the idea of a science-based beauty company while talking with his hairdresser about the problems with typical hair and skin care products. Together with a small team that included Professor Robert Langer of MIT, he committed to assemble a team of scientists from outside the beauty industry to challenge the conventional wisdom. Their company, Living Proof, wanted to offer women "proof in a bottle" rather than "hope in a bottle."

    As the firm came to market with its first products, it focused on explaining its science to consumers. It found it increasingly necessary to direct more of its resources towards marketing, including a major investment in Jennifer Aniston as its celebrity spokesperson. Were they becoming less of a biotech company and more like a traditional beauty company? How did they reconcile the desire for continued high spending on R&D with the need to ramp up marketing?

    Keywords: Hair care; personal care; science-based; commercialization; R&D; marketing; Innovation and Invention; Innovation and Management; Innovation Leadership; Innovation Strategy; Technological Innovation; Marketing; Marketing Strategy; Product Marketing; Product Positioning; Science-Based Business; Business Strategy; Commercialization; Corporate Strategy; Technology Platform; Expansion; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; United States; Boston; Cambridge;


    Shih, Willy. "Living Proof: Are We a Technology Company or a Beauty Company?" Harvard Business School Case 614-013, September 2013.
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