Member Summit 2014- Keynote: Is the Lab your World

Keynote: Is the Lab your World or is the World your Lab?
Hila Lifshitz-Assaf, PhD, Assistant Professor, NYU Stern School of Business 

The capacity to innovate has always been the Holy Grail for R&D organizations. Recently scholars have argued for shifting the locus of knowledge creation and innovation outside the boundaries of the traditional processes; naming this approach “open,” “peer production” or “distributed” innovation. Organizations are experimenting with these approaches yet there is little research on how organizational members open these boundaries; shift the locus of innovation and the ensuing impact. Prior literature on knowledge, identity and professionalism predicts a fierce rejection of this approach. 

Through an in depth longitudinal field study of NASA’s experimentation with opening knowledge boundaries, Hila developed the concept of “knowledge boundary work,” capturing the change in R&D work, and illustrating the mechanism of shifting the locus of innovation as a co-evolution of knowledge boundary work and professional identity work. She finds that organizational members who dismantled their knowledge boundaries expanded and even reconstructed their professional identity from “problem solvers” to “solutions seekers.” This entailed a significant transformation both in the R&D knowledge creation process and the members’ professional identity and capabilities. In turn, this enabled further boundary dismantling. She suggests future research directions and discusses the theoretical contributions of these findings on innovation and knowledge, identity, and technology, work and organizations.