Wellsprings of Knowledge: Building and Sustaining the Sources of Innovation. Dorothy Leonard-Barton, D. Leonard-Barton. Harvard Business School Press.

Wellsprings of Knowledge: Building and Sustaining the Sources of Innovation Book Cover Wellsprings of Knowledge: Building and Sustaining the Sources of Innovation
Dorothy Leonard-Barton, D. Leonard-Barton
Harvard Business School Press
January 15, 1995

Why are some companies better and innovation than others?

Drawing on the candid reflections of managers at leading technology-based companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Chaparral Steel, Microsoft, and Motorola, Wellsprings of Knowledge shows that the successful innovators are companies that build and manage knowledge effectively. The book reveals lessons for creating, nurturing, and growing the experience and accumulated knowledge of the organization into renewable assets and competitive advantage.

Leonard-Barton illustrates the dimensions of the core capabilities along which all organizations must innovate: skills and knowledge base, physical systems, managerial systems, and values and norms of behavior. However, these capabilities can function as “core rigidities” if not constantly assessed. Managers must design capabilities as evolving, organic reservoirs.

Using examples of both successes and failures in new product development – and introducing new concepts such as creative abrasion, empathic design, and failing forwardWellsprings of Knowledge reveals the key knowledge-building activities that managers need to guide, control, and inspire:

  • developing shared problem-solving skills
  • experimenting
  • integrating information across functional and project boundaries
  • importing expertise from outside the firm

Wellsprings of Knowledge will help managers understand the long-term systemic, and people-based nature of technological advantage and inspire them to think constantly about the potential knowledge-building import of every technology-related decision they make.

Dorothy Leonard-Barton is the William J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.