Wellsprings of Knowledge: Building and Sustaining the Sources of Innovation

By Dorothy Leonard-Barton

Leonard-Barton, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, asks why some companies are better than others at successfully developing new products.

To answer that question, she interviewed managers in various manufacturing industries who have been successful--and others who have not. The result is an understanding of the process of how better to manage a firm's "knowledge assets." Important is her discovery that a company's core competency can become a "core rigidity."

Doing one thing well to the exclusion of anything else stifles creativity. Or, when the competitive environment changes, companies that continue only with what has worked in the past are often put at a disadvantage. She also examines four activities she found to be involved in the innovation process: integrated problem solving, implementation of new methodologies, experimentation, and the importing of know-how. Wellsprings is designed in part for use by academics in training managers, but its practical insights will be helpful to practitioners as well. David Rouse

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