Michael L. Tushman

12 Results


Innovating Without Information Constraints: Organizations, Communities, and Innovation When Information Costs Approach Zero

Information is expensive to process, store, and communicate. At least, this has been the prevailing assumption upon which most of our organizational theories rely. Yet we now live in a world where information is no longer prohibitively expensive. Thus there is tension between logics focused on hierarchy and control and more open and community-centric logics. This calls into question many of the assumptions underlying the strategic and organizational research that has been treated as foundational wisdom in management scholarship. In this paper, the authors explore the implications for managing innovation as information processing, storage, and communication costs approach zero. Overall, they argue that when information constraints drop dramatically and the locus of innovation shifts from residing solely within the hierarchical firm to also encompassing the larger community, there are profound challenges to the received theory of the firm and to theories of organizations and innovation. The authors conclude with thoughts for how these changes present opportunities for research on innovation and organizations. Read More

Discretion Within the Constraints of Opportunity: Gender Homophily and Structure in a Formal Organization

Research has demonstrated that people associate most with others who are similar to themselves, including others of the same sex. What are the implications of such patterns for organizations? This study, written by Adam M. Kleinbaum, Toby E. Stuart, and Michael L. Tushman, offers evidence of how and by whom formal lateral structures serve to link together an otherwise siloed organization. Analyzing millions of e-mail interactions among tens of thousands of employees of a single large firm, the researchers find that it is women more than men who tend to bridge formal structural boundaries in organizations. Thus women play a potentially valuable role in creating ties throughout an otherwise siloed multidivisional corporation. Despite the influence of a firm's formal organizational structure, people often have plenty of discretion to exercise choice. Same-sex interaction results from discretionary choice within the boundaries of the firm's opportunity structure. These results suggest (but do not prove) that same-sex interaction especially by woman can help to span formal organizational boundaries that are otherwise difficult to traverse. The findings raise questions for future research about whether conventional wisdoms regarding gender differences in social network structure remain accurate in current-day organizations. Read More

A Dynamic Perspective on Ambidexterity: Structural Differentiation and Boundary Activities

Firms renew themselves by exploring new business models even as they exploit existing ones. But to conduct "explore and exploit" simultaneously, organizations must reconcile associated internal tensions and conflicting demands. Sebastian Raisch and Michael L. Tushman explore the shifting nature of differentiation and integration in organizations attempting to explore and exploit. Read More

Embracing Paradox

CEOs are often innovation cheerleaders, hoping that new ventures will eventually help reshape the industry for the better. But in tough economic times, the other senior company executives often choose to ignore innovative ventures and focus instead on the traditional core business, which reliably generate cash flow. This leads to a situation in which the CEO turns into more of a broker than a leader—trying to negotiate deals between the heads of the core units and the new units. That's a recipe for failure, according to Michael L. Tushman, Wendy K. Smith, and Andy Binns, who argue that firms can thrive only if the whole senior management team can embrace the tensions between the new and the old. In this paper, they introduce three guiding principles to help executives grow their core businesses while still nurturing their new ones. Read More

The Silo Lives! Analyzing Coordination and Communication in Multiunit Companies

A new Harvard Business School working paper looks inside the communications "black box" of a large company to understand who talks to whom, and finds the corporate silo as impenetrable as ever. Q&A with professor Toby E. Stuart. Read More

Wellsprings of Creation: Perturbation and the Paradox of the Highly Disciplined Organization

Many organizations struggle to balance the conflicting demands of efficiency and innovation. Organizations can become more efficient in the short run by replacing costly, unpredictable problem solving activity with consistent, streamlined routines. However, this efficiency often comes at the cost of long-run adaptability. The more organizational activity is dominated by stable routines, the less the organization learns, and the more rigid and inflexible it becomes. To escape this fate, the authors of this working paper theorize that highly disciplined organizations must actively engage in strategic and selective perturbation of established routines. A perturbation interrupts an established routine and creates an opportunity to innovate and learn. Using illustrations from Toyota, the authors investigate the conditions under which perturbations can sustain exploration in highly disciplined organizations. Read More

Communication (and Coordination?) in a Modern, Complex Organization

Coordination, and the communication it implies, is central to the very existence of organizations. Despite their fundamental role in the purpose of organizations, scholars have little understanding of actual interaction patterns in modern, complex, multiunit firms. To open the proverbial "black box" and begin to reveal the internal wiring of the firm, this paper presents a detailed, descriptive analysis of the network of communications among members of a large, structurally, functionally, geographically, and strategically diverse firm. The full data set comprises more than 100 million electronic mail messages and over 60 million electronic calendar entries for a sample of more 30,000 employees over a three-month period in 2006. Read More

Organizational Designs and Innovation Streams

Ambidextrous organizational designs are those that sustain current success while simultaneously building new products, services, or processes. This research looks at a sample of 13 business units and describes the relations between alternative organizational designs and innovation streams. These business units used 4 distinct organizational designs in service of innovating and improving existing products: functional, cross-functional, spinouts, and ambidextrous. The researchers also used longitudinal data in order to explore how designs evolve over time and how design transitions affect innovation success. Read More

Ambidexterity as a Dynamic Capability: Resolving the Innovator’s Dilemma

Can organizations adapt and change—and if so, how does this occur? There are two major camps in the research on organizational change: those that argue for adaptation, and those that argue that as environments shift, inert organizations are replaced by new forms that better fit the changed context. There are data to support both arguments. This paper discusses the idea and practicality of ambidexterity and shows how the ability to simultaneously pursue emerging and mature strategies is a key element of long-term success. Read More

Balancing the Future Against Today’s Needs

It's hard to dream five years out when your organization is doing all it can to take care of the here and now. This article from Harvard Management Update offers a new lens for positioning growth efforts within your company while staying focused on your core strengths today. Read More

A Clear Eye for Innovation

How did a weakening contact-lens company set its sights on a series of breakthroughs? A Harvard Business Review excerpt by Charles A. O’Reilly III and HBS professor Michael L. Tushman. Read More

Leading Change and Organizational Renewal

A critical question confronting organizations today is not whether to change in response to their swiftly changing environment, but precisely how to manage that change. In this interview, HBS Professors Michael Tushman and Charles O'Reilly, developers of the Executive Education program Leading Change and Organizational Renewal, describe their thinking about the impact of rapid-fire change on contemporary organizations, and what managers must do to effectively lead the change process. Read More