Myunghwan Lee (2023) “Three Essays on AI Strategies and Innovation”, Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal, University of British Columbia
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, along with the explosive growth of digitized data, are transforming many industries and our society. While both academia and industry consider AI closely intertwined with innovation, we still have limited knowledge of the business and economic values of AI on innovation. This three-essay dissertation seeks to address this gap (i) by proposing a novel firm-level measure to identify strategically innovative firms; (ii) by examining how firm-level AI capabilities affect knowledge innovation; and (iii) by investigating the impact of robotics, embodied AI with a physical presence, on operational innovation.
In the first essay, we propose a novel firm-level measure, Strategic Competitive Positioning (SCP), to identify distinctive strategic positioning (i.e., first-movers, second-movers) and competition relationships. Drawing on network theory, we develop a structural hole-based, dynamic, and firm-specific SCP measure. Notably, this SCP measure is constructed using unsupervised machine-learning and network analytics approaches with minimal human intervention. Using a large dataset of 10-K annual reports from 13,476 public firms in the U.S., we demonstrate the value of the proposed measure by examining the impact of SCP on subsequent IPO performance.
In the second essay, we study the impact of firm-level AI capabilities on exploratory innovation to determine how AI’s value-creation process can facilitate knowledge innovation. Drawing on March and Simon (1958), we theorize how AI capabilities can help firms overcome bounded rationality and pursue exploratory innovation. We compiled a unique dataset consisting of 54,649 AI conference publications, 3 million patent filings, and 1.9 million inter-firm transactions to test the hypotheses. The findings show that a firm’s AI capabilities have a positive impact on exploratory innovation, and interestingly that conventional exploratory innovation-seeking approaches (e.g., traditional data management capabilities and inter-firm technology collaborations) negatively moderate the positive impact of AI capabilities on exploratory innovation.
The impact of AI technologies can be beyond knowledge innovation. Embodied AI technologies, specifically robotics, are driving operational innovation in manufacturing and service industries. While industrial robots designed for pre-defined tasks in controlled environments are extensively studied, little is known about the impact of AI-based service robots designed for customer-facing dynamic environments. In the third essay, we seek to examine how service robots can affect operational efficiency and service quality using the case of the hospitality industry. The preliminary results from a difference-in-differences model using a dataset of 4,610 restaurants in Singapore demonstrate that service robot adoption increases customer satisfaction, specifically through perceived service quality. To validate the initial result and further explore underlying mechanisms, we plan to collect additional datasets from different geographic areas and industries.