What do Neil H. Borden, who published The Concept of the Marketing Mix (1964), Philip Kotler, who co-authered Broadening the Concept of Marketing (1969), and Theodore Levitt, who wrote about The Globalization of Markets (1983) have in common? They all studied and/or teached at Harvard, the world’s most prestigious business school. Their works are milestones in modern marketing theory, and we thought that having a look at current research of Harvard Fellows would be insightful for everyone interested in marketing, innovation and value co-creation. Interestingly, a lot of recent Harvard research focuses on innovation. Last year, the Dean of Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohria, named innovation, globalization and business ethics, as crucial focuses of the school for the 21st century. Here’s a brief state of the art of Harvard’s top researchers in innovation and creativity.
Theresa Amabile, an eminent researcher in creativity, has just released a book called The Progress Principle, in which she shares insights about people’s motivations in working and contributing to projects. She found that people are often naturally motivated to be creative, often because they see it as a way to improve their creativity (progress) or their work. When it comes to innovation, however, clear objectives and measurable incentives are additionally important. This suggests that people need to be passionate and autonomous in how they achieve their goals, innovations will follow. The importance of choice regarding participation has also been highlighted by Karim R. Lakhani, who found that people perform better when they can choose how and with whom they to work, they call it Fit. Interestingly, « this effect is as strong as paying them for their work« , Lakhani and Boudreau notice, which indicates that setting up good collaboration conditions is at least as important as incentivizing with money!
It seems that competitions spur innovation, but it’s not only the case because of the advent of the internet and competitive (or collaborative) innovation platforms… Harvard researcher Josh Lerner showed that this was also true in the last century. By analyzing UK patent data from over 100 years, they found that prizes have not only encouraged activity, but also spurred innovation. They also found that prizes had a low impact, which suggests that prestige alone was sufficient for participants. Today, Lehrer says, similar patterns are found within creatives, computer programmers or bloggers. That’s why he thinks that « more work must be done to determine the best ways to develop prize competitions to maximize participation »
But Harvard’s research does not only focus on innovation competitions or the importance of prizes. Carliss Baldwin, who recently co-authored an article with lead user-specialist Eric Von Hippel, also explores spontaneous user innovation. According to her, you need both a passionate community and low costs to see the emergence of user innovation. in other words; the cheaper design, work, production and distribution costs are for passionate user, the more likely will innovation appear. She insists on the fact that « mainstream companies are just learning to incorporate users in a way that benefits everyone » and predicts that « companies will use many iterations to combine producer- and user-created elements […] in an effort to find the right balance« .
Baldwin studied the sport of rodeo kayaking, in which enthusiasts developped and used specialized material to perform stunts. Enjoy the video!
Another popular research direction is the investigation of cultural differences in creativity and innovation. Roy Chua‘s most recent research shows that when you have a multicultural social network, you are more likely to receive different ideas. While this seems rather intuitive, they also find that ideas are more creative when a question adresses a global context than a local context. Chua speculates that those with greater multicultural networks will win in terms of innovation that matter in the global marketplace, but he also underlines that « if you want to harness the power of creativity in a global multicultural context, you need to think about how to connect with people from other cultures« .
A step back: where does that leave us?
These findings indicate that finding ways to promote creativity is crucial for companies in order to facilitate innovation. Looking at the last publications of these authors gives us an idea of where research goes: understanding how different people (from different parts of the world) perceive creativity, and how these differences can be effectively leveraged to feed innovation. This is a passionating field of research, stay tuned on eYeka’s Co-Creation blog to grasp some information in forthcoming posts. Regarding academic research, we already blogged about:
- The first time a study quantifies consumer innovation
- Companies’ possible attitudes towards consumer creativity
- ‘Emergent customer’s, who have better ideas than lead users
- The dual value of crowdsourcing: authenticity and innovation
More to come…