Opening Knowledge Boundaries Transforms Organizational Identity

Opening Knowledge Boundaries Transforms Organizational Identity


How to Turn Problem Solvers into Solution Seekers by Dismantling Boundaries at Work

Denver, CO (October 15, 2014)—Despite the growing pressure to adopt open, distributed models of innovation, very little research exists into how organizations actually open their boundaries to allow such models to emerge. Through an in-depth, longitudinal field study of NASA’s experimentation with opening knowledge boundaries, Dr. Hila Lifshitz-Assaf developed the concept of “knowledge boundary work,” and explored its implications today at the 2014 IRI Member Summit, “Climbing to New Peaks in Innovation Performance.”

“Open innovation is a powerful tool for R&D organizations when utilized properly,” said Dan Abramowicz, IRI Chair and Executive Vice President of Technology and Regulatory Affairs at Crown Holdings Inc. “But convincing your organization’s leadership, which makes a living protecting know-how and trade secrets, to open its borders and let the public in may not be an easy sell, especially when the implementation and impact of the proposed open model is unclear.”

In her keynote, Dr. Lifshitz-Assaf explained that organizational members who dismantled their knowledge boundaries expanded, even reconstructed, their professional identity from “problem solvers” to “solution seekers.” The resulting culture change was transformative for the organization’s R&D knowledge creation process and for its members’ professional identity and capabilities, which in turn facilitated even further boundary dismantling.

“IRI members have been struggling with the transition from “Not Invented Here” to a more distributed model for more than 10 years,” said Ed Bernstein, IRI president. “Dr. Lifshitz-Assaf’s research is extremely helpful in that she has applied scientific methodology toward breaking down a management barrier thereby helping industry to realize the potential that open innovation presents to many companies.”

About the Industrial Research Institute
The Industrial Research Institute (IRI) is an organization of 200+ industrial and service companies having a common interest in the effective management of technological innovation. IRI member companies span diverse industries and represent a substantial portion of our nation’s gross domestic product. IRI is the only cross-industry organization creating innovation leadership solutions and best practices in innovation management developed through collaborative knowledge creation. For more information, call 703-647-2580 or visit