Karim R. Lakhani

17 Results


Sharpening Your Skills: Managing Innovation

Sharpening Your Skills curates a wide range of Harvard Business School's research and ideas around vital topics in business management. Closed for comment; 0 Comments posted.

From Crowds to Collaborators: Initiating Effort and Catalyzing Interactions Among Online Creative Workers

Online "organizations" are becoming a major engine for knowledge development in a variety of domains such as Wikipedia and open source software development. Many online platforms involve collaboration and coordination among members to reach common goals. In this sense, they are collaborative communities. This paper asks: What factors most inspire online teams to begin to collaborate and to do so creatively and effectively? The authors analyze a 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 cash incentives. Findings showed that although cash incentives stimulated a significant boost of effort per se, cash incentives did not transform the nature of the work process or affect the level of collaboration. In addition, at a basic yet striking level, the likelihood that an individual chooses to participate depended on whether teammates were themselves active. Moreover, communications among teammates led to more communications, and communications among teammates also stimulated greater continuous levels of effort. Overall, the study sheds light on how perspectives on incentives, predominant in economics, and perspectives on social processes and interactions, predominant in research on organizational behavior and teams, can be better understood. Read More

Performance Responses to Competition Across Skill-Levels in Rank Order Tournaments: Field Evidence and Implications for Tournament Design

Tournaments and other rank-order incentive mechanisms have been used to model a wide range of settings: executive placement, elections, research and development and innovation contests, sports tournaments, and variable sales compensation: situations in which placing at the top of the performance rank-order leads to out-sized payoffs. This article analyzes how the level of competition and size of a tournament affects performance as a result of how strategic interactions affect contestants' incentives to exert high levels of effort. The authors estimate relationships between performance in these contests and competition levels across the full distribution of skill levels. They do this by studying data on software algorithm programming contests in which fine-grained data are available on contestant ability levels and performance over a large number of comparable contests. Findings show that while aggregate and average patterns of performance and effort may decline with increased competition, performance and effort may in fact increase among the highest-skilled contestants. The paper provides guidance to designers of innovation and crowdsourcing tournaments. Read More

Cumulative Innovation & Open Disclosure of Intermediate Results: Evidence from a Policy Experiment in Bioinformatics

The practice of opening intermediate works such as early results, algorithms, materials, data, and techniques—and disclosing and granting access to them for reuse by others—has been observed in many areas of innovation. In this paper, Kevin J. Boudreau and Karim Lakhani devise an experimental approach in order to investigate effects of an open regime on a challenging problem in bioinformatics that was amenable to cumulative innovation. The authors compared outcomes in this open regime with those in a closed regime in which no solutions were disclosed until the end of the experiment. Results suggest important trade-offs related to incentives, participation, and learning. For example, freer disclosures coincided with drops in participation and development activity, consistent with longstanding theories of economic incentives to make investments in innovation. Particularly striking is the magnitude of drops in incentives and participation. Even so, positive effects on learning outweighed the negative effects on incentives. Overall, the study contributes to analysis of the effect of supporting institutions on cumulative innovation. It also raises important questions for policy makers responsible for innovation. Read More

Faculty Symposium Showcases Breadth of Research

Faculty present their latest research on the human tendency toward dishonesty, the use of crowdsourcing to solve major scientific problems, and the impact of private equity investments. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

The Novelty Paradox & Bias for Normal Science: Evidence from Randomized Medical Grant Proposal Evaluations

A key task for executives and managers involved with innovation is to evaluate new ideas and proposals. In the sciences, one longstanding hypothesis contends that research ideas outside the mainstream are susceptible to being discounted, rejected, or ignored. These days, expert peer review in academic science is the approach most relied upon for enabling research agendas and providing research funds. Are novel research projects—those deviating from existing research paradigms—treated with a negative bias in expert evaluations? In this paper, the authors investigate how nascent scientific hypotheses are evaluated, specifically looking at the process by which medical research grant proposals are assessed by "gatekeepers": in this case, elite researchers from a leading medical school. Innovation requires novelty—but novelty, as this paper shows, is not appreciated and is in fact penalized. These findings help explain concerns about incrementalism in science and also point at the challenge that most organizations face when dealing with novel topics Read More

Colocation and Scientific Collaboration: Evidence from a Field Experiment

In recent years there has been considerable interest in the policy arena on fostering collaborative and especially interdisciplinary collaborations. Yet there is scant evidence on how to do this in practice. To learn how team members find each other in the scientific community and decide to collaborate, the authors designed and carried out an experiment involving Harvard University and its affiliated hospitals. Results suggest that matching between scientists may be subject to considerable frictions, even among scientists in relatively close geographic proximity and in the same organizational system. However, even a brief and focused event facilitating face-to-face interactions can be useful for the formation of new scientific collaborations. Read More

Field Evidence on Individual Behavior & Performance in Rank-Order Tournaments

Contests abound in everything from amateur and professional sports to arts, architecture, manual labor, and engineering. Just as large-scale online contest platforms that provide ongoing tournament-based work and compensation have emerged, large industrial companies increasingly use them as a complement to in-house research and development. What difference does increased competition make to individual participants? This paper analyzes data from algorithmic programming contests to shed light on the mechanisms that underlie changes in performance in reaction to increased competition. Three mechanisms may account for a performance decline: reduction in effort, increased risk taking, and deterioration in cognitive processing. The study also shows how the ability of competitors affects their reactions to increased competition. Overall, results suggest that a better understanding of behavioral responses in contests can aid both public policy and contest designers. Read More

Getting to Eureka!: How Companies Can Promote Creativity

As global competition intensifies, it's more important than ever that companies figure out how to innovate if they are going to maintain their edge, or maintain their existence at all. Six Harvard Business School faculty share insights on the best ways to develop creative workers. Closed for comment; 20 Comments posted.

The Contingent Effect of Absorptive Capacity: An Open Innovation Analysis

Does experience with adopting technology improve a person's capacity for inventing better technology? On the other hand, does invention experience increase the capacity for adoption? This paper explores how adoption and invention affect each other, using data from several programming competitions sponsored by The MathWorks Corporation. Research was conducted by Andrew A. King of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and Karim R. Lakhani at Harvard Business School. Read More

Data.gov: Matching Government Data with Rapid Innovation

Data.gov is a young initiative of President Barack Obama for making raw data available on the Web. In an HBS executive education class for technology specialists, professor Karim Lakhani and the US Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, sparked dialogue about new routes to innovation. Read More

The Determinants of Individual Performance and Collective Value in Private-Collective Software Innovation

Why do people expend personal time and effort toward creating a public good? Over the past decade, collaborative, community-based approaches to developing knowledge-intensive products like encyclopediae, music, and software have gained prominence in both practice and scholarly analysis. "Open source software development," for example, is distinguished by self-selection of distributed participants into tasks, free revealing of knowledge, collective creation of shared software artifacts, and participants' ability to generate new innovations by reinterpreting and repurposing knowledge and artifacts created by others. The MathWorks' Ned Gulley and HBS professor Karim R. Lakhani study the determinants of individual performance and collective value in software innovation by analyzing 11 programming competitions that mimic the working of the open source software community. Read More

Markets or Communities? The Best Ways to Manage Outside Innovation

No one organization can monopolize knowledge in any given field. That's why modern companies must develop a new expertise: the ability to attract novel solutions to difficult or unanticipated problems from outside sources around the world. A conversation with Harvard Business School professor Karim R. Lakhani on the keys to managing distributed innovation. Read More

Parallel Search, Incentives and Problem Type: Revisiting the Competition and Innovation Link

The innovation process is fraught with uncertainty. Managers often do not know ahead of time the ideal mix of individuals and skills needed to solve innovation-related problems. One way around this uncertainty is to have multiple paths, approaches, or designs explored at once. The "parallel search" principle can be used inside the firm just as it may be used more generally by pursuing "open innovation". However, having too many searchers attempting to solve the same problem can undercut the benefits if it leads to less effort and investment. The authors study the outcomes of 645 software development contests, conducted by a software outsourcing vendor, involving over 9,000 coders, to understand the relationship between parallel search and increasing competition and innovation. Read More

HBS Cases: How Wikipedia Works (or Doesn’t)

For HBS professor Andrew McAfee, Wikipedia is a surprisingly high-quality product. But when his concept of "Enterprise 2.0" turned up on the online encyclopedia one day—and was recommended for deletion—McAfee and colleague Karim R. Lakhani knew they had the makings of an insightful case study on collaboration and governance in the digital world. Read More

The Value of Openness in Scientific Problem Solving

Scientists are generally rewarded for discoveries they make as individuals or in small teams. While the sharing of information in science is an ideal, it is seldom practiced. In this research, Lakhani et al. used an approach common to open source software communities—which rely intensely on collaboration—and opened up a set of 166 scientific problems from the research laboratories of twenty-six firms to over 80,000 independent scientists. The outside scientists were able to solve one-third of the problems that the research laboratories were unable to solve internally. Read More

Open Source Science: A New Model for Innovation

Borrowing a practice that is common in the open source software community, HBS professor Karim R. Lakhani and colleagues decided to see how "broadcasting" might work among scientists trying to solve scientific problems. The results? Promising for many types of innovation, as he explains in this Q&A. Read More