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Professor Christoph Hienerth Guests at MIT Innovation Lab
05/31/2024

Professor Christoph Hienerth Guests at MIT Innovation Lab

Professor Hienerth visits MIT Sloan School of Management to discuss the importance of human activity for innovation

A surgeon’s expert medical training, based on years of research and practice, is impressive. But would most people consider new surgical techniques to be truly “innovative”? Perhaps not as innovative as when used in conjunction with new, life-saving surgical equipment. But there lies the problem: Downplaying the value of human action can hinder innovation—and lead to a delay in the discovery and implementation of novel techniques of great benefit to society. 

According to Professor Christoph Hienerth of the Chair of Entrepreneurship and Creativity at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, this is just one of many scenarios where the value of human-performed tasks is misunderstood. And now, he has taken this research to the MIT Innovation Lab at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge (USA), one of the world’s most prominent business institutions.

In presenting “How users innovate: Examining the complementarity of novelty in use and novelty in product via a process-based modular analysis,” a work co-authored by doctoral student Samina Khan-Sherwani, Professor Hienerth shed more light on this phenomenon. For this study, Khan-Sherwani analyzed YouTube’s most popular cooking channels to identify how humans employ novel techniques to create wholly original dishes. The results show that these new techniques lead to new production processes and, in turn, an innovative outcome.

Invited by MIT’s Professor Eric von Hippel, one of the world’s leading scholars on the topic of user and behavioral innovation, Professor Hienerth underscored how important human activity and techniques are for driving change forward. Whether in medicine, the sports industry, the arts, construction, or academia, there is a wealth of innovative techniques to be found across all disciplines. From his perspective, studying the role that human-performed techniques play helps us better understand innovation at its very core.

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