Technology and Innovation

Technology and Innovation is a featured research topic at Harvard Business School.

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, which focuses on value creation of platforms and two-sided markets; use of open architecture and leverage of its collective value; development and execution of innovation strategies; 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; and the impact of innovation on economic growth.​ 

  1. Publicis Groupe 2016: Maurice and the Millennials

    Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Jonathan Cohen

    Having built Publicis Groupe through acquisitions maintained as separate brands, CEO Maurice Lévy wanted to transform the advertising and marketing firm to an integrated digitally-ready enterprise to address industry changes. In early 2016, following a reorganization, he faced questions of how to change the culture and use digital capabilities more effectively than competitors. Lévy turned to millennials within the Groupe and technology entrepreneurs outside the Groupe for innovations in order to create platforms for clients rather than simply react to existing social media platforms. As he increasingly focused on a new generation, questions remained about who would succeed this CEO of 31 years.

    Keywords: managing change; Transformations; digital; millennials; Change; innovation; Acquisitions; Merger; culture; advertising agency; marketing; reorganization; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Technology; Change Management; Restructuring; Management Succession; Marketing; Mergers and Acquisitions; Transformation; Innovation and Invention; Advertising Industry;


    Kanter, Rosabeth Moss, and Jonathan Cohen. "Publicis Groupe 2016: Maurice and the Millennials." Harvard Business School Case 316-127, June 2016. View Details
  2. Building the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise of the Future at Siemens

    Willy Shih

    This case describes the motivation for and the development of Siemens' digital manufacturing enterprise vision, which became the foundation for its implementation of Industrie 4.0. While the effort started with a purely defensive move by Anton Huber, head of the Digital Factory Division, to protect his core programmable logic controller business from the migration of value to software from hardware, the scope expanded radically as the company completed the acquisition of UGS. It was then able to articulate a complete roadmap from computer-aided product inception and design through simulation and automation system design all the way to the factory floor. The initial implementation at the Electronics Works Amberg became widely cited as the prototype for Industrie 4.0.
    The central question of the case is the importance of vertical integration to the delivery of the vision, in the face of pressure for open standards that will expose large parts of the system to competition and price pressure. How will Siemens earn a reasonable rate of return?

    Keywords: big data; Internet of Things; internet of everything; Industrie 4.0; digital factory; digital enterprise; digital manufacturing; manufacturing; Production management; Production Planning; Computer software; Germany; German manufacturing; Machinery and Machining; Information Technology; Technology Platform; Technological Innovation; Production; Supply Chain; Life Cycle; Software; Technology Networks; Manufacturing Industry; Germany;


    Shih, Willy. "Building the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise of the Future at Siemens." Harvard Business School Case 616-060, May 2016. View Details
  3. The Mirroring Hypothesis: Theory, Evidence and Exceptions

    Lyra J. Colfer and Carliss Y. Baldwin

    The mirroring hypothesis predicts that organizational ties within a project, firm, or group of firms (e.g., communication, collocation, employment) will correspond to the technical patterns of dependency in the work being performed. A thorough understanding of the phenomenon is difficult to achieve because relevant work is scattered across multiple fields. This paper presents a unified picture of mirroring in terms of theory, evidence, and exceptions. First, we formally define mirroring and argue that it is an approach to technical problem solving that conserves scarce cognitive resources. We then review 142 empirical studies, divided by organizational form into (1) industry studies, (2) firm studies, and (3) studies of open collaborative projects. The industry and firm studies indicate that mirroring is a prevalent pattern but not universal. However, there is evidence of a mirroring “trap”: firms focused on the current technical architecture may fall victim to architectural innovations arising outside their boundaries. Thus in technologically dynamic industries, partial mirroring, where knowledge boundaries are drawn more broadly than operational boundaries, is likely to be a superior strategy. Firms can also strategically “break the mirror” in two ways: by implementing modular partitions within their own boundaries or by building relational contracts that support technical interdependency across their boundaries. Finally, in contrast to industry and firm studies, studies of open collaborative projects, most of which focused on software, were not supportive of the hypothesis. We argue that these contradictory results arise because digital technologies make possible new modes of coordination that enable groups to deviate from classical mirroring as seen within firms. This working paper includes Appendix A, which describes our detailed findings by category. Appendix B, a tabular summary of the 142 studies in our sample, is available on request from the authors.

    Keywords: modularity; innovation; product and process development; organization design; design structure; organizational structure; organizational ties; mirroring hypothesis; industry architecture; product architecture; complex technical systems; Technology; Organizational Design; Organizational Structure; Relationships; Innovation and Invention; Product Development;


    Colfer, Lyra J., and Carliss Y. Baldwin. "The Mirroring Hypothesis: Theory, Evidence and Exceptions." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-124, April 2016. (Revised May 2016.) View Details
  4. Reinventing Best Buy

    John R. Wells and Gabriel Ellsworth

    On February 25, 2016, Best Buy announced a second year of comparable-store sales increases and a 13.5% increase in online sales. These results were in marked contrast to four years of declining comparable-store sales from 2010 to 2013. CEO Hubert Joly, appointed in August 2012, was now in his fourth year of reinventing Best Buy with his "Renew Blue" strategy. When he took over, Best Buy was losing share to, which was encouraging consumers to view products at Best Buy and other physical stores and then buy them for a lower price online, a practice known as "showrooming." Undaunted, Joly had encouraged the practice, convinced that it presented an opportunity to sell to customers as long as Best Buy's prices were competitive. Joly had committed the company to a multi-channel strategy in North America and exited struggling international operations. Operating margins had increased as a result, but growth was still proving elusive. Had Joly done enough to reinvent Best Buy?

    Keywords: Best Buy; Hubert Joly; Renew Blue; showrooming; webrooming; e-commerce; E-Commerce strategy; online retail; multichannel retailing; omnichannel; marketplaces; turnaround; consumer electronics; consumer electronics accessories; appliances; stores-within-stores; store experience; store size; store pickup; store management; Business Subsidiaries; Business Units; Business Growth and Maturation; Business Model; For-Profit Firms; Customer Focus and Relationships; Customer Satisfaction; Entertainment; Film Entertainment; Games, Gaming, and Gambling; Music Entertainment; Television Entertainment; Theater Entertainment; Price; Profit; Revenue; Geographic Scope; Multinational Firms and Management; Business History; Cost; Selection and Staffing; Reports; Technological Innovation; Job Cuts and Outsourcing; Human Capital; Leading Change; Business or Company Management; Goals and Objectives; Growth and Development; Growth and Development Strategy; Management Teams; Brands and Branding; Product Marketing; Consumer Behavior; Demand and Consumers; Media; Distribution; Order Taking and Fulfillment; Distribution Channels; Infrastructure; Product; Service Delivery; Service Operations; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Public Ownership; Problems and Challenges; Programs; Groups and Teams; Sales; Salesforce Management; Strategy; Adaptation; Business Strategy; Competition; Competitive Advantage; Competitive Strategy; Corporate Strategy; Expansion; Technology; Hardware; Information Technology; Internet; Mobile Technology; Online Technology; Search Technology; Software; Web; Web Sites; Wireless Technology; Resource Allocation; Computer Industry; Electronics Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Information Technology Industry; Retail Industry; Service Industry; Technology Industry; Telecommunications Industry; Video Game Industry; United States; Minnesota; Minneapolis; Saint Paul; St. Paul;


    Wells, John R., and Gabriel Ellsworth. "Reinventing Best Buy." Harvard Business School Case 716-455, March 2016. (Revised May 2016.) View Details
  5. Bridging Science and Technology Through Academic-Industry Partnerships

    Sen Chai and Willy C. Shih

    Partnerships that foster the translation of scientific advances emerging from academic research organizations into commercialized products at private firms are a policy tool that has attracted increased interest. This paper examines empirical data from the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation, an agency that funds partnerships between universities and private companies. We assess the effect on participating firms' innovative performance, comparing patent count, publication count, and proportion of cross-institutional publications between funded and unfunded firms. Specifically, we measure the impact on each of these variables based on three dimensions—small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME), younger firms, and size of the collaboration firms participated in—to establish boundary conditions. Our results suggest that receiving funding affects firms' innovative behavior differently depending on the type of firm, where (1) peer-reviewed publications increased significantly more for SMEs and larger projects, (2) granted patents increased significantly up to four years after funding for young firms and those in larger projects, and (3) proportion of cross-institutional publications increased significantly more three years after funding for all three sample specifications.

    Keywords: economic development; technological change; Research and Development; government policy; Technological Innovation; Research and Development; Technology; Policy; Technology Industry; Denmark;


    Chai, Sen, and Willy C. Shih. "Bridging Science and Technology Through Academic-Industry Partnerships." Research Policy 45, no. 1 (February 2016): 148–158. View Details
  6. Aspiring Minds

    Karim R. Lakhani, Marco Iansiti and Christine Snively

    By 2015, India-based employment assessment and certification provider Aspiring Minds had helped facilitate over 300,000 job matches through its assessment tools. Aspiring Minds' flagship product, the Aspiring Minds Computer Adaptive Test (AMCAT), used machine learning algorithms to evaluate the abilities of job seekers and provide feedback by measuring not only skills and knowledge, but also personality and behavior traits. Since its founding in 2007, the company developed several new assessment products, including SVAR, a spoken-English evaluation, Automata, a programming skills evaluator, a customer service test, and TESLA, a suite of products that assessed and provided certification for vocational skills. The company had recently expanded into parts of Africa, the Middle East, the Philippines, the U.S., and most recently, China. Aspiring Minds had seen success as a business-to-business (B2B) entity, creating and selling technology products geared towards industry verticals. By 2015 the business-to-consumer (B2C) side of the business in India had been quite successful as well, generating revenues equal to that of the B2B side. As Aspiring Minds worked to establish a presence in China, co-founders Himanshu and Varun Aggarwal considered whether a B2B or B2C approach would best help the company achieve scale.

    Keywords: Technology; Strategy; Higher Education; Technological Innovation; Employment; Technology Industry; India; China;


    Lakhani, Karim R., Marco Iansiti, and Christine Snively. "Aspiring Minds." Harvard Business School Case 616-013, November 2015. (Revised May 2016.) View Details
  7. BandPage (A)

    Karim R. Lakhani, Colin Maclay and Greta Friar

    BandPage CEO James "J" Sider is about to receive results from BandPage's targeted advertising campaign on music streaming service Rhapsody and learn whether BandPage's strategy to improve ad click through rates and generate revenue has succeeded. BandPage, which began as a Facebook app to help musicians build professional-looking pages and convert fan "likes" into revenue, has become a major hub in the online music network. BandPage has deals with upstream and downstream music partners, from streaming services to ticket sellers to merchandise companies, and has built relationships with artists by providing a one stop shop to update current band information across most major music sites simultaneously. BandPage's most recent project has been to differentiate fans by their behavior on streaming sites in order to target super fans with high priced, exclusive and/or personalized offers from artists. At a time when tensions are high between streaming services and artists who believe that they are not being fairly compensated for the use of their music, Sider is convinced that BandPage can help streaming services drive revenue growth for artists through ticket, merchandise and exclusive offer sales. If the Rhapsody data proves that BandPage's strategy is working, the potential revenue growth for BandPage and all of its partners is massive.

    Keywords: Music industry; Digital Innovation; digital music; digital marketing; mobile marketing; Technological Innovation; Marketing Communications; Music Entertainment; Mobile Technology; Music Industry;


    Lakhani, Karim R., Colin Maclay, and Greta Friar. "BandPage (A)." Harvard Business School Case 616-015, October 2015. View Details
  8. How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Companies

    Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann

    The evolution of products into intelligent, connected devices is revolutionizing business. In a November 2014 article, "How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition," Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter and PTC president and CEO James Heppelmann looked at how this shift is changing the structure of industries and forcing firms to rethink their strategies. In this companion article, the authors look at the effects inside firms, examining the impact that smart, connected products have on operations and organizational structure. The new capabilities and vast quantities of data that smart, connected products offer are redefining the activities of the core functions of companies—sometimes radically. As software and cloud-based operating systems become integral to products, new product-development principles emerge, manufacturing components and processes change, and IT security becomes the job of every function. Companies need different skills and expertise, which creates new imperatives for HR. In the marketing function, the ability to track a product's condition and use shifts the focus to maximizing the product's value to the customer over time. Customer relationships become continuous and open-ended, service becomes more efficient and proactive, and new business models are enabled. The rich data on location and environment that products provide take logistics to a whole new level. Smart, connected products also alter interactions between functions, in ways that hold major implications for organizational structure. Intense, ongoing coordination becomes necessary across multiple functions, including design, operations, sales, service, and IT. Functional roles overlap and blur. Entirely new functions—unified data organizations, dev-ops, and customer success management—begin to emerge. What is under way is the most substantial change in the manufacturing firm since the Second Industrial Revolution, and the effects are spreading to other industries, like services, as well.

    Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Technological Innovation; Information Technology; Organizational Structure; Operations; Business Strategy;


    Porter, Michael E., and James E. Heppelmann. "How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Companies." Harvard Business Review 93, no. 10 (October 2015): 97–114. View Details
  9. Yabbly and the Anthology MVP (A)

    Shikhar Ghosh and Christopher Payton

    In July 2014, after 18 months and eight unsuccessful product launches, the CEO of Yabbly has agreed to sell his company to a larger, well-funded startup, providing a return of capital for his investors and a home for his team. Two weeks prior to the scheduled closing, the team launches a final experiment based on the results of a customer interview. After creating a quick landing page and announcing the product launch through social media channels, the company finds significant customer interest. With only two weeks of promising data, the CEO must decide whether or not to abandon the planned sale to pursue the new product, and if so, what terms he should offer new and existing investors to finance the next phase of product development.

    Keywords: Mergers & Acquisitions; Business Startups; business model; entrepreneurship; Business Model; Business Plan; Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Innovation Strategy; Mobile Technology; Online Technology; Mergers and Acquisitions; Business Exit or Shutdown; Fairness; Valuation; Technology Industry; Consumer Products Industry; North America; United States; Seattle;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, and Christopher Payton. "Yabbly and the Anthology MVP (A)." Harvard Business School Case 816-032, August 2015. View Details
  10. Yabbly (A)

    Shikhar Ghosh and Christopher Payton

    In November 2013, with less than 10 months of cash on hand, Tom Leung, the founder and CEO of Yabbly, must decide where to focus his resources. His startup, a question-and-answer application for shopping decisions, had benefited from a strong showing at the SXSW Accelerator competition and had a dedicated and engaged user base. However, Leung knew that the current growth trajectory would not lead them to the milestones needed to receive an additional round of financing. Leung must decide whether to continue pursuing user acquisition experiments, explore other product ideas, or begin searching for a potential acquirer to achieve a "soft landing" for his team and his investors.

    Keywords: Business Plan; Startup; mobile; online product reviews; consumer products; Business Model; Business Plan; Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Innovation Strategy; Mobile Technology; Online Technology; North America; United States; Washington (state, US); Seattle;


    Ghosh, Shikhar, and Christopher Payton. "Yabbly (A)." Harvard Business School Case 816-030, August 2015. View Details
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