Business History: Innovation History

21 Results

 

Excerpt: ’Fortune Tellers’

An excerpt from Walter A. Friedman's book, Fortune Tellers: The Story of America's Economic Forecasters. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

The Entrepreneurs Who Invented Economic Forecasting

The new book Fortune Tellers investigates the history of economic forecasting and its roots in the turbulent nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Read an interview with author Walter A. Friedman and an excerpt. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Lessons from Running GM’s OnStar

Before teaching at Harvard Business School, Chet Huber ran the General Motors telematics subsidiary OnStar. Huber discusses how the lessons he learned in the field mesh with the lessons he teaches to students. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

The Spatial Diffusion of Technology

Technology disparities are critical for explaining cross-country differences in per capita income. Despite being non-rival in nature and involving no direct transport costs, technology diffuses slowly both across and within countries. Even when a technology has arrived in a country, it takes years and even decades before it has diffused to the point of having a significant impact on productivity. Why does technology diffuse slowly? How do we explain cross-country differences in its speed of diffusion? In this paper, the authors study the diffusion over time and space of 20 major technologies in 161 countries over the last 140 years. The spatial effects they identify for technologies vanish over time. For most technologies, this implies that the effect of geography is initially strong, decays over time, and eventually disappears. This is the first paper to document these patterns in adoption rates for a large number of technologies and countries. Estimates provided of structural parameters can be used to inform spatial theories of growth. Closed for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Culture Changers: Managing High-Impact Entrepreneurs

In her new Harvard Business School course, Creative High-Impact Ventures: Entrepreneurs Who Changed the World, professor Mukti Khaire looks at ways managers can team with creative talent in six "culture industries": publishing, fashion, art-design, film, music, and food. Closed for comment; 13 Comments posted.

How Technology Adoption Affects Global Economies

In a series of research papers, Associate Professor Diego A. Comin and colleagues investigated the relationship between technology adoption and per capita income. They found that the rate at which nations adopted new tools hundreds of years ago strongly affects whether those nations are rich or poor today. Closed for comment; 11 Comments posted.

Historical Trajectories and Corporate Competences in Wind Energy

Analyzing developments in the wind turbine business over more than a century, Geoffrey Jones and Loubna Bouamane argue that public policy has been a key variable in the spread of wind energy since the 1980s, but that public policy was more of a problem than a facilitator in the earlier history of the industry. Geography has mattered to some extent, also: Both in the United States and Denmark, the existence of rural areas not supplied by electricity provided the initial stimulus to entrepreneurs and innovators. Building firm-level capabilities has been essential in an industry which has been both technically difficult and vulnerable to policy shifts. Read More

The Untold Story of ‘Green’ Entrepreneurs

The history of entrepreneurs in green industries is largely unwritten, a fact that Harvard Business School business historian Geoffrey Jones is trying to remedy. In a new paper, Jones explores the edge-of-society pioneers who created the wind turbine industry. Open for comment; 16 Comments posted.

The Consequences of Financial Innovation: A Counterfactual Research Agenda

While financial innovation is often praised as a positive force for societal growth, it also takes much of the blame for the recent global financial crisis. In this paper, Harvard Business School professors Josh Lerner and Peter Tufano explore financial innovation and discuss how it differs from other types of innovation. Read More

How to Speed Up Energy Innovation

We know the grand challenge posed by shifting away from dirty energy sources. The good news, says Harvard Business School professor Rebecca Henderson, is that we have seen such change before in fields including agriculture and biotech, giving us a clearer pathway to what it will take. Read More

GM: What Went Wrong and What’s Next

For decades, General Motors reigned as the king of automakers. What went wrong? We asked HBS faculty to reflect on the wrong turns and missed opportunities of the former industry leader, and to suggest ideas for recovery. Read More

Kind of Blue: Pushing Boundaries with Miles Davis

Since it hit the airwaves half a century ago, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis has influenced the hearts and minds of jazz fans everywhere. Its songs became instant classics, and it has also converted many a nonfan to appreciate the music's subtlety and complexity. In a new business case, HBS professor Robert D. Austin and Carl Størmer highlight the takeaways for thoughtful managers and executives from this story of creation and innovation. Read More

Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 B.C.?

To the extent that history is discussed at all in economic development, it is usually either the divergence associated with the Industrial Revolution or the effects of colonial regimes. Is it possible that precolonial, preindustrial history also matters significantly for today's national economic development? The authors find that technology adoption circa 1500 A.D., prior to the era of colonization and extensive European contacts, predicts approximately 50 percent of cross-country differences in both current per capita income and technology in a large cross-section of countries. When exploring the causes of this extreme persistence in technology, they find evidence in favor of the importance of the effect of current adoption on subsequent adoption as the main driver. This leaves a limited role to country-specific factors such as institutions, geography, or genes to explain the persistence of technology. Read More

The Agglomeration of U.S. Ethnic Inventors

The higher concentration of immigrants in certain cities and occupations has long been noted. There has been very little theoretical or empirical work to date, however, on the particular agglomeration of U.S. immigrant scientists and engineers. This scarcity is disappointing given the scale of these ethnic contributions and the importance of innovation to regional economic growth. William R. Kerr's study contributes to our empirical understanding of agglomeration and innovation by documenting patterns in the city-level agglomeration of ethnic inventors (e.g., Chinese, Indian) within the United States from 1975 through 2007. It is hoped that the empirical platform developed in this study provides a foothold for furthering such analyses. Read More

The Truck Driver Who Reinvented Shipping

Malcolm P. McLean (1914-2001) hit on an idea to dramatically reduce labor and dock servicing time. An excerpt from In Their Time: The Greatest Business Leaders of the Twentieth Century by Harvard Business School's Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria. Read More

Gaps in the Historical Record: Development of the Electronics Industry

There is plenty of history to be written about the birth of consumer electronics and the computer, says HBS professor emeritus Alfred D. Chandler Jr. Read More

XTV: Xerox’s Attempted Recovery From “Fumbling the Future”

Following failures to capitalize on its own innovation, Xerox formed Xerox Technology Ventures to look for spin-off opportunities. Professor Henry Chesbrough outlines the history of XTV in this Business History Review excerpt. Read More

Unilever—A Case Study

As one of the oldest and largest foreign multinationals doing business in the U.S., the history of Unilever's investment in the United States offers a unique opportunity to understand the significant problems encountered by foreign firms. Harvard Business School professor Geoffrey Jones has done extensive research on Unilever, based on full access to restricted corporate records. This recent article from Business History Review is the first publication resulting from that research. Read More

Alfred Chandler on the Electronic Century

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alfred D. Chandler Jr. examines the development of two pivotal industries in post-World War II America—the consumer electronics and computer industries. Read More

The Dynamics of Standing Still: Firestone Tire & Rubber and the Radial Revolution

In the late 1960s, Firestone was perhaps the best managed company in its industry. But when Michelin introduced the radial tire and shook up the U.S. market, writes HBS professor Donald Sull, Firestone's historical success proved its own worst enemy. Read More

Cable TV: From Community Antennas to Wired Cities

The cable television industry has long outgrown its roots as a source of better TV reception to achieve its present place as a key player in the emerging telecommunications infrastructure. That change, writes HBS Professor Thomas R. Eisenmann in Business History Review, amid different managerial respondes to the twin—and sometimes competing—objectives of stabilty and growth. In this excerpt, Eisenmann looks at the formative years of the industry, from 1948 to 1975. Read More