Open Innovation and Organizational Boundaries: The Impact of Task Decomposition and Knowledge Distribution on the Locus of Innovation

42 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2012 Last revised: 12 Jun 2014

See all articles by Karim R. Lakhani

Karim R. Lakhani

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group; Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Hila Lifshitz-Assaf

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business; Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Michael Tushman

Harvard University - Organizational Behavior Unit

Date Written: May 2, 2012

Abstract

This paper contrasts traditional, organization-centered models of innovation with more recent work on open innovation. These fundamentally different and inconsistent innovation logics are associated with contrasting organizational boundaries and organizational designs. We suggest that when critical tasks can be modularized and when problem-solving knowledge is widely distributed and available, open innovation complements traditional innovation logics. We induce these ideas from the literature and with extended examples from Apple, NASA, and LEGO. We suggest that task decomposition and problem-solving knowledge distribution are not deterministic but are strategic choices. If dynamic capabilities are associated with innovation streams, and if different innovation types are rooted in contrasting innovation logics, there are important implications for firm boundaries, design, and identity.

Suggested Citation

Lakhani, Karim R. and Lifshitz-Assaf, Hila and Tushman, Michael, Open Innovation and Organizational Boundaries: The Impact of Task Decomposition and Knowledge Distribution on the Locus of Innovation (May 2, 2012). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 12-57; Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Working Paper No. 12-057. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1980118 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1980118

Karim R. Lakhani (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6741 (Phone)

Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Hila Lifshitz-Assaf

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business ( email )

44 West 4th Street
Suite 9-160
New York, NY NY 10012
United States

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Cotting House 321A
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Michael Tushman

Harvard University - Organizational Behavior Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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