IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/inm/ormnsc/v56y2010i1p41-56.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Lone Inventors as Sources of Breakthroughs: Myth or Reality?

Author

Listed:
  • Jasjit Singh

    (INSEAD, Singapore 138676, Singapore)

  • Lee Fleming

    (Harvard Business School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts 02163)

Abstract

Are lone inventors more or less likely to invent breakthroughs? Recent research has attempted to resolve this question by considering the variance of creative outcome distributions. It has implicitly assumed a symmetric thickening or thinning of both tails, i.e., that a greater probability of breakthroughs comes at the cost of a greater probability of failures. In contrast, we propose that collaboration can have opposite effects at the two extremes: it reduces the probability of very poor outcomes--because of more rigorous selection processes--while simultaneously increasing the probability of extremely successful outcomes--because of greater recombinant opportunity in creative search. Analysis of over half a million patented inventions supports these arguments: Individuals working alone, especially those without affiliation to organizations, are less likely to achieve breakthroughs and more likely to invent particularly poor outcomes. Quantile regressions demonstrate that the effect is more than an upward mean shift. We find partial mediation of the effect of collaboration on extreme outcomes by the diversity of technical experience of team members and by the size of team members' external collaboration networks. Supporting our meta-argument for the importance of examining each tail of the distribution separately, experience diversity helps trim poor outcomes significantly more than it helps create breakthroughs, relative to the effect of external networks.

Suggested Citation

  • Jasjit Singh & Lee Fleming, 2010. "Lone Inventors as Sources of Breakthroughs: Myth or Reality?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(1), pages 41-56, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:56:y:2010:i:1:p:41-56
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.1090.1072
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1090.1072
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1287/mnsc.1090.1072?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kristina Dahlin & Margaret Taylor & Mark Fichman, 2004. "Today's Edisons or Weekend Hobbyists: Technical Merit and Success of Inventions by Independent Inventors," Post-Print hal-00480420, HAL.
    2. Manuel Trajtenberg, 1990. "A Penny for Your Quotes: Patent Citations and the Value of Innovations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 172-187, Spring.
    3. Bronwyn H. Hall & Adam Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2005. "Market Value and Patent Citations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(1), pages 16-38, Spring.
    4. Jasjit Singh, 2005. "Collaborative Networks as Determinants of Knowledge Diffusion Patterns," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(5), pages 756-770, May.
    5. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
    6. Singh, Jasjit, 2008. "Distributed R&D, cross-regional knowledge integration and quality of innovative output," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 77-96, February.
    7. Albert, M. B. & Avery, D. & Narin, F. & McAllister, P., 1991. "Direct validation of citation counts as indicators of industrially important patents," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 251-259, June.
    8. Dietmar Harhoff & Francis Narin & F. M. Scherer & Katrin Vopel, 1999. "Citation Frequency And The Value Of Patented Inventions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 511-515, August.
    9. Ely Dahan & Haim Mendelson, 2001. "An Extreme-Value Model of Concept Testing," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(1), pages 102-116, January.
    10. Dahlin, Kristina & Taylor, Margaret & Fichman, Mark, 2004. "Today's Edisons or weekend hobbyists: technical merit and success of inventions by independent inventors," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1167-1183, October.
    11. Jasjit Singh, 2007. "Asymmetry of knowledge spillovers between MNCs and host country firms," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 38(5), pages 764-786, September.
    12. Lee Fleming, 2001. "Recombinant Uncertainty in Technological Search," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(1), pages 117-132, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Mahmoud Ibrahim Fallatah, 2021. "Innovating in the Desert: a Network Perspective on Knowledge Creation in Developing Countries," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 12(3), pages 1533-1551, September.
    2. Ren, Haiying & Zhao, Yuhui, 2021. "Technology opportunity discovery based on constructing, evaluating, and searching knowledge networks," Technovation, Elsevier, vol. 101(C).
    3. Antonio Messeni Petruzzelli & Daniele Rotolo & Vito Albino, 2014. "Determinants of Patent Citations in Biotechnology: An Analysis of Patent Influence Across the Industrial and Organizational Boundaries," SPRU Working Paper Series 2014-05, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.
    4. Sarah Kaplan & Keyvan Vakili, 2015. "The double-edged sword of recombination in breakthrough innovation," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(10), pages 1435-1457, October.
    5. Singh, Jasjit, 2008. "Distributed R&D, cross-regional knowledge integration and quality of innovative output," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 77-96, February.
    6. Blomkvist, Katarina & Kappen, Philip & Zander, Ivo, 2014. "Superstar inventors—Towards a people-centric perspective on the geography of technological renewal in the multinational corporation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 669-682.
    7. Harpreet Singh & David Kryscynski & Xinxin Li & Ram Gopal, 2016. "Pipes, pools, and filters: How collaboration networks affect innovative performance," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(8), pages 1649-1666, August.
    8. Pierre-Alexandre Balland & David L. Rigby, 2015. "The geography and evolution of complex knowledge," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1502, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jan 2015.
    9. Anindya Ghosh & Xavier Martin & Johannes M. Pennings & Filippo Carlo Wezel, 2014. "Ambition Is Nothing Without Focus: Compensating for Negative Transfer of Experience in R&D," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(2), pages 572-590, April.
    10. Kolja Hesse & Dirk Fornahl, 2020. "Essential ingredients for radical innovations? The role of (un‐)related variety and external linkages in Germany," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 99(5), pages 1165-1183, October.
    11. Neil Gandal & Michal Shur-Ofry & Michael Crystal & Royee Shilony, 2021. "Out of sight: patents that have never been cited," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 126(4), pages 2903-2929, April.
    12. Burak Dindaroglu, 2010. "Intra-Industry Knowledge Spillovers and Scientific Labor Mobility," Discussion Papers 10-01, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
    13. Keijl, S. & Gilsing, V.A. & Knoben, J. & Duysters, G., 2016. "The two faces of inventions: The relationship between recombination and impact in pharmaceutical biotechnology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(5), pages 1061-1074.
    14. Aaron K. Chatterji & Kira Fabrizio, 2012. "How Do Product Users Influence Corporate Invention?," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 23(4), pages 971-987, August.
    15. Klaus Marhold & Marco Jinhwan Kim & Jina Kang, 2017. "The Effects Of Alliance Portfolio Diversity On Innovation Performance: A Study Of Partner And Alliance Characteristics In The Bio-Pharmaceutical Industry," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 21(01), pages 1-24, January.
    16. Jee, Su Jung & Kwon, Minji & Ha, Jung Moon & Sohn, So Young, 2019. "Exploring the forward citation patterns of patents based on the evolution of technology fields," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 13(4).
    17. Sam Arts & Francesco Paolo Appio & Bart Looy, 2013. "Inventions shaping technological trajectories: do existing patent indicators provide a comprehensive picture?," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 97(2), pages 397-419, November.
    18. Avimanyu Datta, 2016. "Antecedents To Radical Innovations: A Longitudinal Look At Firms In The Information Technology Industry By Aggregation Of Patents," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 20(07), pages 1-31, October.
    19. Boeker, Warren & Howard, Michael D. & Basu, Sandip & Sahaym, Arvin, 2021. "Interpersonal relationships, digital technologies, and innovation in entrepreneurial ventures," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 495-507.
    20. Forman, Chris & van Zeebroeck, Nicolas, 2019. "Digital technology adoption and knowledge flows within firms: Can the Internet overcome geographic and technological distance?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(8), pages 1-1.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:56:y:2010:i:1:p:41-56. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/inforea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Matthew Walls (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/inforea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.