Unleash your inner Elon

in Entrepreneur, February 13th, 2018

In Brief: Elon Musk has famously said, “I think ordinary people can choose to be extraordinary.” Of course, Musk is not ordinary. He is exceptionally intelligent. But, genius is neither a required nor guaranteed ingredient for making profoundly important breakthrough innovations. A close examination of Musk’s life — as well as the lives of other significant serial breakthrough innovators — reveals some key strategies he uses, and you can use, to become a breakthrough innovator yourself.

What’s your best innovation bet?

July-August, 2017, Harvard Business Review

In Brief: Whether you make cars or mattresses, operate a hospital or a grocery store, or are in some other business, successful innovation depends on understanding what’s driving the technological changes in your industry and anticipating what product and service features consumers will value in the future. This article provides a three-step system for gaining those vital insights.

Three reasons why Tesla shareholders shouldn’t be scandalized by Musk’s pursuit of his idealistic goals

in Inc, March 20, 2018

Musk wants to achieve very big things at Tesla. Does that mean that he’s taking unfair advantage of the company’s shareholders? No, and here’s why.

How to partner with outside innovators in health care

in Harvard Business Review, March 6, 2018

In Brief: Breakthrough innovation often comes from outsiders. To accelerate innovation in healthcare technology we need to give creative people who don’t have traditional health science backgrounds more opportunities to participate.

The trait that made Elon Musk and Steve Jobs fearless — and how to cultivate it

In Inc., January 17, 2018

In Brief: One of the most important traits Elon Musk, Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs, Dean Kamen, and others share is an intense faith in their own ability to overcome obstacles and achieve their objectives. This is known by psychologists as “self-efficacy”–a form of task-specific confidence. A person with extremely high self-efficacy may take on projects other people think are impossible, and stick with them tenaciously, even in the face of adversity or criticism. The article explains how we can increase self-efficacy in ourselves and others.

Mapping the technological landscape: Measuring technology distance, technological footprints, and technology evolution

With Barak Aharonson, in Research Policy, Volume 45, pp. 81–96, 2016

In Brief: How can we assess how far apart two technologies are, or the breadth of a firm’s technology footprint? This article introduces a method of making fine-grained measures of technology distance that can be used to map whether firms are in overlapping “technological space,” the degree to which two or more firms are following a similar technology path, the identification of “outlier” patents, and more. Numerous examples are provided.

Two big problems with generic-drug substitution

CNBC, June 23rd 2015

In Brief: There is a widespread belief that generics are always better for consumers, and, in most states, pharmacists are allowed to automatically substitute a generic drug for a patient’s branded prescription. But this is a naïve and dangerous assumption. This article outlines two big problems with the current automatic substitution system and what we should do about them.

Why women are rarely serial innovators.

In the Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2018

In Brief: Why are there so few women on lists of “most famous innovators”? Studying the lives of women like Marie Curie and Grace Hopper show us why. In addition to barriers to access to science and education, a single-minded life of invention is hard to combine with family obligations. One solution: nonlinear careers.

Technology shocks, technological collaboration, and innovation outcomes

Organization Science, Volume 26: 668-686.

In Brief: Technology shocks can simultaneously unleash significant innovation opportunities while creating great uncertainty in the economic environment. This paper shows how the rise of the internet changed alliance behavior, and sparked the emergence of a giant cluster of firms connected around the world. It then shows how innovation outcomes can be attributed to the individual alliances, the change in network structure, and the underlying technological shock. It also shows that the IT bubble of the late 1990s could have been predicted five years earlier by monitoring alliance activity!

Embrace weirdness and creativity may flourish

in Globe and Mail, March 1, 2018

What do Elon Musk, Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and Pierre and Marie Curie have in common? They all demonstrate the value of being unconventional.

Potential sources of value from mergers and their indicators

in Antitrust Bulletin, April 2018

Research shows that most mergers and acquisitions fail to create value. This article outlines the major sources of potential value in mergers, and indicators you can use to tell the difference between star deals and disasters in the making.