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. edX: Strategies for Higher Education

    In May 2012, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) founded edX, a new non-profit joint venture that would provide a platform for massive open online courses (MOOCs). edX did not produce original courses or instructional content—it made a web platform through which Harvard and MIT, and subsequently dozens more "partner" universities, could offer their lecture courses as MOOCs.
    While the future role of MOOCs in higher education remained a topic of public debate, edX needed to answer concrete managerial and strategic questions. For example, what should edX's scope be? Should edX try to develop a consumer brand of its own, or rely on the brands of its partners? And how could edX monetize its services to recoup Harvard and MIT's investments and reward participating universities? This case presented the history of edX and the online education market as background for a discussion about edX's strategic choices.

    Keywords: MOOCS; edX; online platforms; online education; Harvard University; MIT; Execution; monetization; brand management; Higher Education; Technology; Strategy; Disruptive Innovation; Education Industry;


    Collis, David, Matthew Shaffer, and Ashley Hartman. "edX: Strategies for Higher Education." Harvard Business School Case 715-413, September 2014. View Details
  2. Cree Inc.: Introducing the LED Light Bulb

    Cree, a North Carolina-based maker of light emitting diodes (LEDs), has just introduced its first consumer product—an LED light bulb. It is designed as an energy efficient replacement for the ubiquitous incandescent light bulb. But given that it is an unfamiliar technology and that it costs ten times what an incandescent bulb costs, there are questions about how best to promote adoption and what sales level might be expected.

    Keywords: marketing; innovation; product adoption; Technological Innovation; Technology Adoption; Energy Conservation; Product Launch; Consumer Products Industry; North Carolina;


    Gourville, John, and Michael Norris. "Cree Inc.: Introducing the LED Light Bulb." Harvard Business School Case 515-026, September 2014. View Details
  3. Netflix in 2011

    Reed Hastings founded Netflix to provide a home movie service that would do a better job satisfying customers than the traditional retail rental model. But as it encountered challenges it underwent several major strategy shifts, ultimately developing a business model and an operational strategy that were highly disruptive to retail video rental chains. The combination of a large national inventory, a recommendation system that drove viewership across a broad catalog, and a large customer base made Netflix a force to be reckoned with, especially as a distribution channel for lower-profile and independent films. Blockbuster, the nation's largest retail video rental firm, was initially slow to respond, but ultimately rolled out a hybrid retail/online response in the form of Blockbuster Online. Aggressive pricing pulled in subscribers, but at a price to both it and Netflix. But a new challenge was on the horizon—the rapid growth of the company's online streaming service, which had a very different business model. Hastings' efforts to separate the activity into two separate companies met with strong pushback from consumers and the press. What was the best path forward?

    Keywords: Netflix; DVD; DVD-by-mail; streaming; online entertainment; online video; Disruptive Innovation; Innovation and Management; Innovation Strategy; Business Model; Disruption; Operations; Service Operations; Entertainment; Film Entertainment; Television Entertainment; Media; Strategy; Business or Company Management; Competitive Strategy; Competitive Advantage; Corporate Strategy; Expansion; Technology; Technology Adoption; Technology Platform; Web; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; United States;


    Shih, Willy, and Stephen Kaufman. "Netflix in 2011." Harvard Business School Case 615-007, August 2014. View Details
  4. Four Products: Predicting Diffusion (2014)

    An updated "Four Products" case. This 2014 version includes: raw lobster meat, electric-powered Formula One race cars, a 3D printer for cosmetics, and a "smart" tennis racket. These four products form the basis to assess the drivers of new product adoption. In particular, one of the critical tasks in the marketing of new innovations is predicting demand and rates of diffusion for those products. And while one can speculate on the scope and rate of diffusion for any given product, it's helpful to compare and contrast diffusion across products. Doing so allows one to focus on the drivers or product characteristics that influence product diffusion, making one product a star and another a dog. Specifically, looking across products allows one to pick up on things that get lost in discussing a single product.

    Note that this case often gets used with HBS Note #505-075, "Note on Innovation Diffusion: Rogers' Five Factors," which either can be distributed along with the case or after the case has been taught.

    Keywords: Innovation and Invention; Product Launch; Marketing; Demand and Consumers; Technology Adoption;


    Gourville, John. "Four Products: Predicting Diffusion (2014)." Harvard Business School Case 515-023, August 2014. View Details
  5. GE and the Industrial Internet

    CEO Jeff Immelt considers whether GE is moving fast enough on its new Industrial Internet initiative. The undertaking includes building out an Industrial Internet, connecting machines and devices, collecting their data and operations, and providing services to clients based on analytics of this data and information. The case considers the implications of such an initiative across all 6 of GE's business units, and how best and how quickly to execute the strategy. The firm has committed $1b in investment, building out a new software center in California, and a commercial sales function at headquarters to deploy the new products and services.

    Keywords: technology; operations management; strategy; big data; Business analysis; corporate strategy; Digital technology; Digital Innovation; general management; general strategy; Global Competitiveness; global strategy; innovation; Innovation and Management; industrial internet; GE; Innovation and Invention; Technology; Air Transportation Industry; Energy Industry; Health Industry; Industrial Products Industry; Information Technology Industry; Manufacturing Industry; Medical Devices and Supplies Industry; Rail Industry; Transportation Industry; Technology Industry; North and Central America; Asia; Europe; Middle East; Latin America;


    Lakhani, Karim R., Marco Iansiti, and Kerry Herman. "GE and the Industrial Internet." Harvard Business School Case 614-032, April 2014. (Revised June 2014.) View Details
  6. 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. (Revised August 2014.) View Details
  7. 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.) View Details
  8. 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 in which Zhang himself had invested two decades of his professional career? 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. View Details
  9. 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. View Details
  10. 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.) View Details
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