CPA Innovation Centre

Minimal and Adaptive Coordination: How Hackathons’ Projects Accelerate Innovation without Killing it


Seminar: 9.30 am – 11.00 am PST (60 minutes for the talk and up to 30 minutes for questions)
Session with PhD students: 11.30 am – 12.30 pm PST

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Speaker: Professor Hila Lifshitz-Assaf

Title: Minimal and Adaptive Coordination: How Hackathons’ Projects Accelerate Innovation without Killing it

Abstract: The innovation journey of new product development processes often spans weeks or months. Recently, hackathons have turned the journey into an ad hoc sprint of only a couple of days using new tools and technologies. Existing research predicts such conditions would result in failure to produce new working products, yet hackathons often lead to functioning innovative products. To investigate this puzzle, we closely studied the product development process of 13 comparable projects in assistive technology hackathons. We find that accelerating innovation created temporal ambiguity, as it was unclear how to coordinate the challenging work within such an extremely limited and ad hoc time frame. Multiple projects worked to reduce this ambiguity, importing temporal structures from organizational innovation processes and compressing them to fit the extremely limited and ad-hoc time frame. They worked in full coordination to build a new product. They all failed. Only projects that sustained the temporal ambiguity – by working with merely a minimal basis for coordination and let new temporal structures emerge - were able to produce functioning new products under the intense time pressure. This study contributes to theories on innovation processes, coordination, and temporality.

Bio: Hila Lifshitz-Assaf is an Associate Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences atNew York University Stern School of Business. She is also a faculty associate at Harvard University, at the Lab for innovation Science. Her research focuses on developing an in-depth empirical and theoretical understanding of the micro-foundations of scientific and technological innovation and knowledge creation processes in the digital age. She explores how the ability to innovate is being transformed, as well as the challenges and opportunities the transformation means for R&D organizations, professionals and their work. She conducted an in-depth 3-year longitudinal field study of NASA’s experimentation with open innovation online platforms and communities, resulting in a scientific breakthrough. This study received the best dissertation Grigor McClelland Award at the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) 2015, Best Administrative Science Quarterly (ASQ) paper based on dissertation (2018) and Best published paper elected by organizational communication and information systems division of Academy of Management (2018). She also investigates new forms of organizing for the production of scientific and technological innovation such as crowdsourcing, open source, open online innovation communities, Wikipedia, hackathons, makeathons, etc. Her work received the prestigious INSPIRE grant from the National Science Foundation and has been presented and taught at a variety of institutions including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, INSEAD, Wharton, London Business School, Bocconi, IESE, UCL, UT Austin, Columbia and Carnegie Mellon. Her work was recognized to have a strong impact on the industry; She received the Industry Studies Association Frank Giarrantani Rising Star award and the Industry Research Institute grant for research on R&D.

Prior to academia, Professor Lifshitz-Assaf worked as a strategy consultant for seven years, specializing in growth and innovation strategy in telecommunications, consumer goods and finance. She earned a doctorate from Harvard Business School, an MBA from Tel Aviv University, magna cum laude, a BA in Management and an LLB in Law from Tel Aviv University, Israel, both magna cum laude.