SONALI K. SHAH
Charlene M. & Arthur Buerk Fellow ○ Sloan Industry Studies Fellow
University of Washington
Her research examines how managers can harness the power and creativity of innovation communities to increase their organization’s chances of commercializing highly profitable and breakthrough products. Innovation communities are composed of individuals who voluntarily come together to create new products and services outside the walls of firms and research institutions. They are the source of important and frequent innovations in a number of industries - ranging from automobiles to software and medical devices to sports equipment. She is currently studying the processes by which new products, markets, and industries emerge. Her research is supported by grants from the Ewing Marion Kauffman and Alfred P. Sloan Foundations.
Dr. Shah has received numerous awards for her research, most notably an Alfred P. Sloan Industry Studies Foundation Fellowship (2008-2010), the Thought Leader Award from the Academy of Management (2008 and 2010), a Best Paper Award from the Kauffman Foundation (2010) and the Best Paper Prize from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (2006). Her research has been published in Management Science, Organization Science, Research Policy, The Academy of Management Journal, and other journals.
She designed the course “Innovation Strategy.” The course attracts business, engineering, science, and medical students from across the university who are interested in tapping the numerous sources of innovation located outside of the firm. She also teaches the capstone Strategy course in the undergraduate curriculum. She previously taught courses in Organization Design and Technology Strategy.
Dr. Shah received her Ph.D. from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prior to completing graduate school, she worked
with technology clients at Morgan
My research examines the social structures that support innovation and entrepreneurship. My primary work examines the creation and maintenance of innovation communities that support the development and diffusion of new technologies in fields ranging from software to sports equipment to medical imaging devices; and the process by which innovations developed by users are commercialized. I am also investigating the processes underlying the formation of new industries and product markets.
I am particularly interested in the process by which individuals outside of firms and research institutions access the resources and information they need to develop innovative ideas. The assumption that for-profit firms and entrepreneurially-minded individuals are the primary sources of innovation runs deep. However, as a key assumption, it limits our exploration and understanding of the innovation process. Individuals outside of firms innovate frequently and are the source of important innovations in several product categories studied to date. These individuals often work collaboratively in innovation communities, where they prototype novel products and receive assistance in developing their innovations from fellow community members. Innovation-related information and assistance, as well as the innovations themselves, are freely shared within these communities. Moreover, the actions of these innovators and their communities have seeded new firms and sometimes even new industries.
The goal of my research is to better understand (1) the complex motivations of the individuals involved in innovation communities,
(2) the nature of the collective processes they use to coordinate their actions and obtain resources, (3) how for-profit firms can work with and within innovation communities, and (4) the implications of community forms of innovation for intellectual property rights. Such an understanding is critical to firms interested in tapping into external sources of new product ideas and to policy-makers seeking to support innovative activity.
Industries Studied: open source software, sporting goods, medical devices, agricultural biotechnology, disk drives
JOURNAL ARTICLES , BOOK CHAPTERS & REPORTS
Creating a Context for Entrepreneurship: Examining How Users’ Technological & Organizational Innovations Set the Stage for Entrepreneurial Activity (with Cyrus C.M. Mody). Cultural Commons. Editors: Brett Frischmann, Michael Madison and Katherine Strandburg. Oxford University Press. 2013
Do Innovative Users Generate More Useful Insights? An Analysis of CVC Investments in the Medical Device Industry (with Sheryl Winston Smith). Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal. Forthcoming June 2013 (accepted May 2012)
When Do User Innovators Start Firms? A Theory of User Entrepreneurship (with Mary Tripsas). Revolutionizing Innovation: Users, Communities and Open Innovation. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. 2012
Who are User Entrepreneurs? Findings on Innovation, Founder Characteristics & Firm Characteristics (with Sheryl Winston Smith & E.J. Reedy). Kauffman Foundation Report. Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City, MO. February 2012
Individual & Opportunity Factors Influencing Job Creation in New Firms (with John Dencker and Marc Gruber). Academy of Management Journal. 52(6), pp. 1125-1147. 2009
• Carolyn Dexter Award Finalist, Academy of Management. 2008
• Thought Leader Award, Academy of Management. 2010
The Accidental Entrepreneur: The Emergent & Collective Process of User Entrepreneurship (with Mary Tripsas). Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal. 1(1), pp. 123-140. 2007
• Thought Leader Award, Academy of Management. 2008
Motivation, Governance, and the Viability of Hybrid Forms in Open Source Software Development. Management Science. 52(7), pp. 1000-1014. 2006
• Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Industry Studies Best Paper Prize. 2006
• William H. Newman Award Finalist, Academy of Management. 2004
Building Better Theory by Bridging the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide (with Kevin Corley). Journal of Management Studies. 43(8), pp. 1821-1835. 2006
Open Beyond Software. Open Sources 2, edited by Chris Dibona, Danese Cooper and Mark Stone. O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA. pp. 339-360. 2005. This paper discusses many examples of community-based innovations other than open source software development.
How Communities Support Innovative Activities: An Exploration of Assistance and Sharing Among End-Users (with Nikolaus Franke). Research Policy. 32(1), pp. 157-178. 2003
From Innovation to Firm Formation: Contributions by Sports Enthusiasts to the Windsurfing, Snowboarding & Skateboarding Industries. Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Meeting of the International Sports Engineering Association. 2006
Understanding the Nature of Participation & Coordination in Open and Gated Source Software Development Communities. Proceedings of the Sixty-third Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (CD), ISSN 1543-8643. 2004
Effort of the Edge, Part 1: Does the JCP Adequately Balance Innovation with the Maintenance of Java's Standards? (with Frank Sommers). JavaWorld, November 2002
Effort on the Edge, Part 2: A Fact-Based Analysis of the JCP's Effectiveness (with Frank Sommers). JavaWorld, January 2003
Article Summary: Open Source Software as Lead Users Make or Buy Decision: A Study of Open and Closed Source Quality. Technological Innovation & Intellectual Property Newsletter, Fall 2002, issue 3
Jim Herbsleb, Carnegie Mellon University
Cyrus Mody, Rice University
Mary Tripsas, Harvard Business School
Eric von Hippel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Patrick Wagstrom, Carnegie Mellon
MY FAVORITE RACES (For Runners!)Boston & New England
Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon (perfect for runners who adore food and wine - a beautiful and fun course run right before Halloween!)