At the heart of any innovation process lies a fundamental practice: the way people create ideas and solve problems. This “decision making” side of innovation is what scholars and practitioners refer to as “design”. Decisions in innovation processes have so far been taken by humans. What happens when they can be substituted by machines? Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings data and algorithms to the core of innovation processes. What are the implications of this diffusion of AI for our understanding of design and innovation? Is AI just another digital technology that, akin to many others, will not significantly question what we know about design? Or will it create transformations in design that current theoretical frameworks cannot capture?
This article proposes a framework for understanding design and innovation in the age of AI. We discuss the implications for design and innovation theory. Specifically, we observe that, as creative problem solving is significantly conducted by algorithms, human design increasingly becomes an activity of sense making, i.e. understanding which problems should or could be addressed. This shift in focus calls for new theories and brings design closer to leadership, which is, inherently, an activity of sense making.
Our insights are derived from and illustrated with two cases at the frontier of AI ‐‐ Netflix and AirBnB (complemented with analyses in Microsoft and Tesla) ‐‐, which point to two directions for the evolution of design and innovation in firms. First, AI enables an organization to overcome many past limitations of human‐intensive design processes, by improving the scalability of the process, broadening its scope across traditional boundaries, and enhancing its ability to learn and adapt on the fly. Second, and maybe more surprising, while removing these limitations, AI also appears to deeply enact several popular design principles. AI thus reinforces the principles of Design Thinking, namely: being people‐centered, abductive, and iterative. In fact, AI enables the creation of solutions that are more highly user‐centered than human‐based approaches (i.e., to an extreme level of granularity, designed for every single person); that are potentially more creative; and that are continuously updated through learning iterations across the entire product life cycle.
In sum, while AI does not undermine the basic principles of design, it profoundly changes the practice of design. Problem solving tasks, traditionally carried out by designers, are now automated into learning loops that operate without limitations of volume and speed. The algorithms embedded in these loops think in a radically different way than a designer who handles complex problems holistically with a systemic perspective. Algorithms instead handle complexity through very simple tasks, which are iterated continuously. This article discusses the implications of these insights for design and innovation management scholars and practitioners.
The “self-organizing” of online crowds — or workers, more generally — into teams is a non-trivial problem of coordination and matching, in a context in which other parties are simultaneously competing for partners. Here, we experimentally investigate the capacity for workers in online crowds to self-organize into teams, within a scientific crowdsourcing contest. We compare matching outcomes and performance to those in a comparison group in which we eliminate the coordination and matching problem altogether (by directly assigning individuals to Pareto efficient teams). Online crowd members do remarkably well relative to the benchmark achieving 13% more functioning teams. Teams also tended to be more effective, by several measures. (We found no evidence these levels depending on the size of the self-organizing pool of workers.) Conditional on having formed, the self-organizing teams also benefit from several advantages in performance.
Platforms have evolved beyond just being organized as multi-sided markets with complementors selling to users. Complementors are often unpaid, working outside of a price system and driven by heterogeneous sources of motivation—which should affect how they respond to platform growth. Does reliance on network effects and strategies to attract large numbers of complementors remain advisable in such contexts? We test hypotheses related to these issues using data from 85 online multi-player game platforms with unpaid complementors. We find that complementor development responds to platform growth even without sales incentives, but that attracting complementors has a net zero effect on on-going development and fails to stimulate network effects. We discuss conditions under which a strategy of using unpaid crowd complementors remains advantageous.
Metrology plays a key role in the manufacture of mechanical components. Traditionally it is used extensively in a pre-process stage where a manufacturer does process planning, design, and ramp-up, and in post-process off-line inspection to establish proof of quality. The area that is seeing a lot of growth is the in-process stage of volume manufacturing, where feedback control can help ensure that parts are made to specification. The Industrial Metrology Group at Carl Zeiss AG had its traditional strength in high precision coordinate measuring machines, a universal measuring tool that had been widely used since its introduction in the mid-1970s. The market faced a complex diversification of competition as metrology manufacturers introduced new sensor and measurement technologies, and as some of their customers moved towards a different style of measurement mandating speed and integration with production systems. The case discusses the threat of new in-line metrology systems to the core business as well as the arising new opportunities.
This paper provides a basic conceptual framework for interpreting non-price instruments used by multi-sided platforms (MSPs) by analogizing MSPs as "private regulators" who regulate access to and interactions around the platform. We present evidence on Facebook, TopCoder, Roppongi Hills and Harvard Business School to document the "regulatory" role played by MSPs. We find MSPs use nuanced combinations of legal, technological, informational and other instruments (including price-setting) to implement desired outcomes. Non-price instruments were very much at the core of MSP strategies.
The purpose of this article is to suggest a (preliminary) taxonomy and research agenda for the topic of “firms, crowds, and innovation” and to provide an introduction to the associated special issue. We specifically discuss how various crowd-related phenomena and practices—for example, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, user innovation, and peer production—relate to theories of the firm, with particular attention on “sociality” in firms and markets. We first briefly review extant theories of the firm and then discuss three theoretical aspects of sociality related to crowds in the context of strategy, organizations, and innovation: (1) the functions of sociality (sociality as extension of rationality, sociality as sensing and signaling, sociality as matching and identity); (2) the forms of sociality (independent/aggregate and interacting/emergent forms of sociality); and (3) the failures of sociality (misattribution and misapplication). We conclude with an outline of future research directions and introduce the special issue papers and essays.