Seminar Series

Fall 2006 Schedule





Noam Wasserman (HBS)

Rich vs. King: Strategic Choice and the Entrepreneur


Jim Utterback (MIT)

Design-Inspired Innovation


Rebecca Henderson (MIT)

Making Waves: The Interplay between Market Incentives and Organizational Capabilities in the Evolution of Industries


JoAnne Yates (MIT)
From Setting National Standards to Coordinating International Standards: The Formation of the ISO


Ajay Agarwal (Toronto)

Birds of a Feather Better Together? How Co-Ethnicity and Co-Location Influence Knowledge Flow Patterns


Anita McGahan (BU)


Yasheng Huang (MIT)
What is Wrong with Shanghai?


Steve Kahl (MIT)

Utilizing Use: The Effect of Customer Learning and Evaluation on Technology and Industry Evolution


Spring 2007 Schedule




April 2

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, VP,  Technology and Strategy,  IBM

Advanced Technologies, Business Transformation and Innovation


This talk will discuss how to leverage major technology advances to significantly transform a business in the marketplace, by examining the concrete experiences of IBM’s major transformation in the second half of the 1990s, when it aggressively embraced the Internet and came up with its e-business strategy.  The Internet and e-business played a key role in helping IBM survive the near-death experience that it went through in the early 1990s, reinvent just about all aspects of the company including organizational and cultural aspects, and once more become a leader in the IT industry.


By placing a special emphasis on transformations that are caused by highly complex, advanced technologies like the Internet, we will discuss how such transformations require that managers have a very strong “systems” and technical intuition to enable them to make major organizational or marketing decisions.  We will also explore how the kind of “holistic” thinking that you would expect from good engineers might translate into a business advantage in formulating and executing market strategies.

April 9

Thomas Hughes, UPenn

Feedback Controls and Dynamic Systems: The Art Of Invention


Biographies of inventors often trivialize their creativity by attributing it to an ineffable quality called genius.  To explore inventive creativity more deeply and complexly, I focus on two leading inventor-entrepreneurs, Elmer Sperry from the period 1870 to 1920, when independent inventor-entrepreneurs flourished, and Jay Forrester, from the decades after World War II, when inventor-entrepreneurs in universities flourished.  I will explore their creativity as manifest by the problems they chose and the approaches they took to choose and to solve problems.

April 23

Roger Bohn, UCSD

From Art to Science in Manufacturing: The Evolution of Technological Knowledge


This talk will trace the development of one technology over 200 years, and from there generalize about the nature of technology and its progress. Rather than trace how manufacturing methods changed, I will  examine the underlying knowledge.  I propose a  model of knowledge as a directed graph of causal relationships: what affects what. New technology corresponds to growth in the knowledge graph, enabling new and better methods as well as new outcomes. There are many patterns in the evolution of knowledge, such as growing "backwards" (from effects, to causes) and the fundamental role of knowledge about how to measure. If there is time, I will discuss how societies manage complex knowledge by partitioning it among organizations, and by "encapsulating" it into devices.

April 30

Christopher Magee, MIT

A functional approach for studying technological progress:

Application to information technology


This paper develops and assesses a broad functional category approach to arriving at metrics for assessing technological progress. The approach is applied to three functional categories of information technology— storage, transportation and transformation by first building a 100 plus year database for each of the three functional categories. The results indicate generally continuous progress for each functional category independent of the specific underlying technological artifacts dominating at different times. Thus, the empirical results reported in this study indicate that the functional category approach offers a more stable and reliable methodology for assessing longer time technological progress trends. Therefore, this approach offers the promise of being more useful in technological forecasting for large-scale change even as its ability to forecast specific dominant technological trajectories has been compromised.

May 7

Lori Rosenkopf, UPenn

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot…? The Reverse Transfer of Knowledge through Mobility Ties


A host of studies have demonstrated that the mobility of technical employees among firms is associated with some transfer of knowledge from their previous firms to their new employers.  To separate the human and social capital mechanisms in this process, we distinguish the “ inbound mobility” generated by hiring from the “outbound mobility” generated by an employee leaving a firm.  In contrast to most studies on mobility’s effect on knowledge transfer, we focus on whether outbound mobility, rather than hiring, is associated with knowledge transfer to firms losing employees.  In this situation, a social capital approach would predict that the firm losing an employee would gain access to the new employer’s knowledge, while a human capital approach would not. 


We examine these phenomena in 154 semiconductor firms between 1980 and 1995.  Results demonstrate that a firm experiencing outbound mobility is more likely to cite the firm receiving the mobile employee even after controlling for alternative mechanisms for knowledge transfer, such as alliances.  This effect is driven by geographically distant firms, suggesting that the communication channels formed are more valuable when they provide access to distant, presumably non-redundant knowledge.  These results demonstrate the validity of a social capital approach to knowledge transfer and call into question the conventional wisdom that losing employees means losing knowledge.

May 14

Siobahn O’Mahony, HBS

The Selective Synthesis of Competing Logics


Prior social movement and organizational research has shown the difficulty of maintaining participatory processes or social movement agendas as organizations scale and mature.  But when it comes to creating a formal organization, little research has examined how such groups select organizing practices, given competing logics about how to organize.  With ethnographic studies, we compare how the Burning Man and Open Source production communities addressed two competing logics of production and expression.  By tracing the organizing practices that these communities integrated, rejected, and contested, we show how competing logics were selectively synthesized to support rather than impede organizing efforts.  This research shows how the presence of co-existing but competing logics helps members to mindfully select organizing practices that avoid either extreme.


Click here for details on Speakers in Fall 2005

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