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How hidden patterns of knowledge accumulation affect emergence of innovative solutions

07 Jul 2020 - 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Based on her recently released book, Unleashing the Crowds: Open Strategizing with Wicked Business and Societal Problems, Ann Majchrzak will talk about the hidden patterns of knowledge accumulation affecting the emergence of innovation in open fluid innovation collectives. Since innovative problem-solving is an ill-structured process. There is no single right answer, there are many options to pursue, the problem cuts across multiple domains of knowledge, the feasibility of the solution must be integrated with the solution itself, and there are no clear criteria for deciding if the solution is correct. Examples of such types of ill-structured problems include open strategy, disruptive technology, identifying solutions to previously unsolved problems in OSS, resolving disagreements about an article’s content in WP, Thingiverse, collaboratories like covid-19 vaccine research. Developing innovative solutions to ill-structured problems is increasingly occurring in highly fluid and online contexts (e.g., multi-membership virtual teams, open innovation challenges). In such contexts, knowledge is not discussed and negotiated as in traditional contexts (e.g., Carlile, Toukas) but rather contributed to a central online platform (sharepoint, trading zones, slack, discussion forum, Wikipedia talk page, innovation challenge website, reddit) (Kellogg et al, others) within a lean social context. On this platform, viewed by participants fluidly going and coming, knowledge accumulates as it is contributed by participants. How Hidden Patterns of Knowledge Accumulation Affect Emergence of Innovative Solutions is the question we address. This has been little researched in large part because researchers have not been able to study patterns in the knowledge accumulated, instead assuming that, in such a lean social context, innovative solutions must emerge from an individual with the right skills. However, understanding these hidden patterns can help us to determine if there are ways to elicit more innovative solutions from a collective, and to learn how to empower collectives to develop their own innovative solutions. This can be important for everything from citizen empowerment to ocean plastics and climate change problems.

The talk will briefly present data describing these hidden patterns that immediately precede the emergence of innovative ideas from the crowd. The data come from 25 innovation challenges conducted by the authors in collaboration with a business or NGO sponsor.

Ann Majchrzak, is The Associates of USC’s Endowed Chair of Business Administration and Professor of Digital Innovation, Department of Data Sciences and Operations, at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. She is a Senior Scholar and Fellow of the Association for Information Systems, awarded for “making an outstanding contribution to the I.S. discipline in research, teaching, and service”. She has been a member of 3 National Research Council Committees. She publishes in top academic (Management Science, Organization Science, Information Systems Research, MIS Quarterly) as well as top practitioner journals (Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, California Management Review). She has held concurrent appointments as a research mentor and visiting professor at Esade Business School, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona; Department of Business and Management at LUISS University, Rome in the areas of Innovation and Organization; and Stevens Institute of Technology. She is also an external expert for the Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management at the London School of Economics. She has received funding from National Science Foundation and a range of other agencies. She has published several books, including Human Side of Factory Automation, Human Side of CAD, Methods for Policy Research and most recently (2020) Unleashing the Crowds.

Her research interests have always been informed by ways to improve TOP-integration (where TOP stands for Technology-Organization-People Integration). She is the founder of TOP Integration, Inc and TOP-Modeler, a decision support tool to help firms design and implement new manufacturing technologies in their facilities. She partners with organizations for all of her research, with digital technologies of particular focus as presenting challenges to TOP integration. She has studied TOP integration for flexible manufacturing cells, computer-aided design, virtual collaboration for innovation, blockchain, and crowd-based collaboration for innovation with a range of companies including Boeing, Rocketdyne, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc., Digital Equipment Corporation, General Motors, Optum, JPL, HP, Cummins, etc.

Her current research interest is focused on Large Scale Collaborative Problem-Solving: Managing the Inherent Paradox Between Structure Provision and Organic Collision of Perspectives to foster Co-creation in Crowds, with implications for new theory on the dynamics between structure and behavior for innovative co-creation in the absence of any forms of traditional social capital.

She teaches 2 classes which require continuous change: Business Process Redesign for Digital Transformation, as well as a class on Foundations of Digital Innovation


07 Jul 2020
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
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Zoom Meeting


Name (Seminar)
Ann Majchrzak
Link Name (Seminar)
Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California
Zoom Meeting*
Oliver Alexy
Host Link


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