Organization & Processes

The Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH) conducts research on how labs operate, including the process researchers take in developing new products and ideas and how best to capitalize on successes and bring solutions out of the lab and into commercial use.

Key Questions

Question

What are the drivers of productivity in science and engineering laboratories?

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How can crowds be integrated with traditional R&D functions in companies and academic labs?

Question

What are the biases in the processes of evaluating innovative ideas? How can they be overcome?

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What are the predictors of breakthrough success for innovative scientific ideas?

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How can technology commercialization be accelerated from academic and government labs?

 

Projects in this research track are most directly associated with the Managing R&D Labs & Organizations and Technology Translation areas of application, which include experiments around grant applications and scientific awards, the development of a massive open online course on technology translation, and the integration of crowds into academic labs. See below for more information on each of the individual projects in this research track.

Related Publications

Kevin J. Boudreau, Eva C. Guinan, Karim R. Lakhani, and Christoph Riedl. 2016. “Looking Across and Looking Beyond the Knowledge Frontier: Intellectual Distance, Novelty, and Resource Allocation in Science.” Management Science, 62, 10, Pp. 2765-2783. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Selecting among alternative projects is a core management task in all innovating organizations. In this paper, we focus on the evaluation of frontier scientific research projects. We argue that the “intellectual distance” between the knowledge embodied in research proposals and an evaluator’s own expertise systematically relates to the evaluations given. To estimate relationships, we designed and executed a grant proposal process at a leading research university in which we randomized the assignment of evaluators and proposals to generate 2,130 evaluator–proposal pairs. We find that evaluators systematically give lower scores to research proposals that are closer to their own areas of expertise and to those that are highly novel. The patterns are consistent with biases associated with boundedly rational evaluation of new ideas. The patterns are inconsistent with intellectual distance simply contributing “noise” or being associated with private interests of evaluators. We discuss implications for policy, managerial intervention, and allocation of resources in the ongoing accumulation of scientific knowledge.

Dietmar Harhoff and Karim R. Lakhani. 2016. Revolutionizing Innovation: Users, Communities, and Open Innovation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The last two decades have witnessed an extraordinary growth of new models of managing and organizing the innovation process, which emphasize users over producers. Large parts of the knowledge economy now routinely rely on users, communities, and open innovation approaches to solve important technological and organizational problems. This view of innovation, pioneered by the economist Eric von Hippel, counters the dominant paradigm, which casts the profit-seeking incentives of firms as the main driver of technical change. In a series of influential writings, von Hippel and colleagues found empirical evidence that flatly contradicted the producer-centered model of innovation. Since then, the study of user-driven innovation has continued and expanded, with further empirical exploration of a distributed model of innovation that includes communities and platforms in a variety of contexts and with the development of theory to explain the economic underpinnings of this still emerging paradigm. This volume provides a comprehensive and multidisciplinary view of the field of user and open innovation, reflecting advances in the field over the last several decades.

The contributors—including many colleagues of Eric von Hippel—offer both theoretical and empirical perspectives from such diverse fields as economics, the history of science and technology, law, management, and policy. The empirical contexts for their studies range from household goods to financial services. After discussing the fundamentals of user innovation, the contributors cover communities and innovation; legal aspects of user and community innovation; new roles for user innovators; user interactions with firms; and user innovation in practice, describing experiments, toolkits, and crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.

Karim R. Lakhani and Greta Friar. 2015. Nivea (A) and (B). Harvard Business School Teaching Notes. Harvard Business School. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Teaching Note for HBS Cases 614-042 and 614-043.

The first case describes the efforts of Beiersdorf, a worldwide leader in the cosmetics and skin care industries, to generate and commercialize new R&D through open innovation using external crowds and "netnographic" analysis. Beiersdorf, best known for its consumer brand Nivea, has a rigorous R&D process that has led to many successful product launches, but are there areas of customer need that are undervalued by the traditional process? A novel online customer analysis approach suggests untapped opportunities for innovation, but can the company justify a launch based on this new model of research?
The supplementary case follows up on an innovative R&D approach by Beiersdorf, a skin care and cosmetics company. The case relates what happened to the product launched by Beiersdorf, to its Nivea line, following the events of the first case, and how the commercial success of the product informed thinking by leaders in R&D for the future.

Karim R. Lakhani, Johann Fuller, Volker Bilgram, and Greta Friar. 2014. Nivea (B). Harvard Business School Case Supplement. Harvard Business School. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This supplementary case follows up on an innovative R&D approach by Beiersdorf,a skin care and cosmetics company. The case relates what happened to the product launched by Beiersdorf, to its Nivea line, following the events of the A case, and how the commercial success of the product informed thinking by leaders in R&D for the future.

Karim R. Lakhani, Johann Fuller, Volker Bilgram, and Greta Friar. 2014. Nivea (A). Harvard Business School Case. Harvard Business School. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The case describes the efforts of Beiersdorf, a worldwide leader in the cosmetics and skin care industries, to generate and commercialize new R&D through open innovation using external crowds and "netnographic" analysis. Beiersdorf, best known for its consumer brand Nivea, has a rigorous R&D process that has led to many successful product launches, but are there areas of customer need that are undervalued by the traditional process? A novel online customer analysis approach suggests untapped opportunities for innovation, but can the company justify a launch based on this new model of research?

Michael L. Tushman, Hila Lifshitz-Assaf, and Kerry Herman. 2014. Houston, We Have a Problem: NASA and Open Innovation (B). Harvard Business School Case. Harvard Business School. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Jeff Davis, director of Space Life Sciences Directorate at NASA, has been working for several years to raise awareness amongst scientists and researchers in his organizations of the benefits of open innovation as a successful and efficient way to collaborate on difficult research problems regarding health and space travel. Despite a number of initiatives, SLSD members have been skeptical about incorporating the approach into their day-to-day research and work, and have resisted Davis's and his strategy team's efforts. The (A) case outlines these efforts and the organization members' reactions. The (B) case details what Davis and the SLSD strategy team learned, and how they adapted their efforts to successfully incorporate open innovation as one of many tools used in collaborative research at NASA.