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Pyramiding: Efficient search for rare subjects

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  • von Hippel, Eric
  • Franke, Nikolaus
  • Prügl, Reinhard

Abstract

The need to economically identify rare subjects within large, poorly mapped search spaces is a frequently encountered problem for social scientists and managers. It is notoriously difficult, for example, to identify "the best new CEO for our company," or the "best three lead users to participate in our product development project." Mass screening of entire populations or samples becomes steadily more expensive as the number of acceptable solutions within the search space becomes rarer. The search strategy of "pyramiding" is a potential solution to this problem under many conditions. Pyramiding is a search process based upon the idea that people with a strong interest in a topic or field tend to know people more expert than themselves. In this paper we report upon four experiments empirically exploring the efficiency of pyramiding searches relative to mass screening. We find that pyramiding on average identified the most expert individual in a group on a specific topic with only 28.4% of the group interviewed - a great efficiency gain relative to mass screening. Further, pyramiding identified one of the top 3 experts in a population after interviewing only 15.9% of the group on average. We discuss conditions under which the pyramiding search method is likely to be efficient relative to screening.

Suggested Citation

  • von Hippel, Eric & Franke, Nikolaus & Prügl, Reinhard, 2009. "Pyramiding: Efficient search for rare subjects," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 1397-1406, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:38:y:2009:i:9:p:1397-1406
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stephen P. Borgatti & Rob Cross, 2003. "A Relational View of Information Seeking and Learning in Social Networks," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(4), pages 432-445, April.
    2. Gary L. Lilien & Pamela D. Morrison & Kathleen Searls & Mary Sonnack & Eric von Hippel, 2002. "Performance Assessment of the Lead User Idea-Generation Process for New Product Development," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(8), pages 1042-1059, August.
    3. Christoph H. Loch & Christian Terwiesch & Stefan Thomke, 2001. "Parallel and Sequential Testing of Design Alternatives," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(5), pages 663-678, May.
    4. Thomke, Stefan & von Hippel, Eric & Franke, Roland, 1998. "Modes of experimentation: an innovation process--and competitive--variable," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 315-332, July.
    5. Ray Reagans & Linda Argote & Daria Brooks, 2005. "Individual Experience and Experience Working Together: Predicting Learning Rates from Knowing Who Knows What and Knowing How to Work Together," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(6), pages 869-881, June.
    6. Yuqing Ren & Kathleen M. Carley & Linda Argote, 2006. "The Contingent Effects of Transactive Memory: When Is It More Beneficial to Know What Others Know?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(5), pages 671-682, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Salle, Isabelle & Seppecher, Pascal, 2016. "Social Learning About Consumption," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, pages 1795-1825.
    2. Lehnen, Jens & Ehls, Daniel & Herstatt, Cornelius, 2014. "Implementation of lead users into management practice: A literature review of publications in business press," Working Papers 78, Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Institute for Technology and Innovation Management.
    3. Schweisfurth, Tim G., 2017. "Comparing internal and external lead users as sources of innovation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 238-248.
    4. repec:wsi:ijitmx:v:14:y:2017:i:04:n:s0219877017500225 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Matthias R. Guertler & Udo Lindemann, 2016. "Identifying Open Innovation Partners: A Methodology For Strategic Partner Selection," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 20(05), pages 1-20, June.
    6. Stockstrom, Christoph S. & Goduscheit, René Chester & Lüthje, Christian & Jørgensen, Jacob Høj, 2016. "Identifying valuable users as informants for innovation processes: Comparing the search efficiency of pyramiding and screening," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 507-516.
    7. Xie, Zongjie & Hall, Jeremy & McCarthy, Ian P. & Skitmore, Martin & Shen, Liyin, 2016. "Standardization efforts: The relationship between knowledge dimensions, search processes and innovation outcomes," Technovation, Elsevier, vol. 48, pages 69-78.
    8. Linda Hamdi-Kidar & Cyrielle Vellera, 2012. "What drives lead users to become users entrepreneurs ? an exploratory study of motivations," Post-Print halshs-00851319, HAL.

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